Talks from 28 April 2019

PRESENTATION OF THE HOLY BIBLE

IT IS MY PRIVILEGE TO PRESENT TO YOU A COPY OF THE ‘HOLY BIBLE’ WHICH IS THE GREATEST BOOK EVER

THIS BOOK WAS OVER 1500 YEARS IN THE MAKING AND THERE WAS A PERIOD OF SOME 400 YEARS BETWEEN THE HISTORY OF THE LAST BOOK OF THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE FIRST OF THE NEW.

SUBSEQUENTLY TEN CENTURIES PASSED BEFORE THE FIRST CRUDE AND PARTIAL TRANSLATION IN ENGLISH APPEARED, WHICH RESULTED IN OUR FIRST AUTHORISED VERSION IN THE REIGN OF KING JAMES IN (ANNO DOMINI 1611) 

THE HOLY-BIBLE CONTAINS LAW, HISTORY, POETRY, PROPHECY, LETTER, MORALS, PHILOSOPHY, MEDICINE, DIVINE LIGHT AND TRUTH.

ITS AUTHORSHIP IS NO LESS VARIED. AMONGST ITS CONTRIBUTORS-WERE LAWYERS, HISTORIANS, POETS, PROPHETS, TEACHERS, MYSTICS, KINGS, SHEPHERDS AND FISHERMEN.

AS SILVER THREADS GLEAM IN DARKER FABRIC SO FLASHES OF LIGHT ARISE FROM ITS PAGES, REFLECTING THE CHARACTER OF ‘GOD’ AND HIS LOVE FOR MANKIND.

EVERYTHING THAT COULD BE DONE HAS BEEN DONE IN THE AGE OF INTOLERANCE TO DESTROY THIS BOOK. MEN HAVE BEEN IMPRISONED, TORTURED AND BURNED AT THE STAKE FOR DEFENDING ITS TEACHINGS.

ITS PAGES HAVE BEEN MOISTENED THESE HUNDRED OF YEARS BY TEARS OF JOY AND OF SORROW.

THEY HAVE BEEN THUMBED AND SOILED BY THE FINGERS OF KINGS AND PRISONERS IN THEIR CELLS

MONARCH AND PEASANT ALIKE HAVE FOUND IT A SOURCE OF CONSOLATION, STRENGTH, COURAGE AND HOPE.

ON PRESENTING YOU WITH THIS BOOK I WOULD LIKE YOU TO READ IT FREQUENTLY 

NOT WITH YOUR EYES ALONE BUT ALSO WITH YOUR HEART.

AS YOU GROW FAMILIAR WITH ITS CONTENTS SO SO WILL IT BE AS A LAMP UNTO YOUR PATH AND AN EVER READY LANDMARK IN YOUR FUTURE LIFE  

David’s Sermon:

  In Psalm 118 we have read:

“The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation”

Encouraging words from a Psalm rejoicing in the security and mercy given by God to his people.

Salvation – such a big word – and it has echoes for us in the evangelist’s call – “Come to Jesus and you will be saved”.    But sometimes we find it difficult to comprehend – Saved from what?, Saved for what?

What is God saying when he offers salvation?

Think of a swimmer getting into difficulties – flailing and panicking – sinking, drowning – and the lifeguard swims out and pulls him ashore – on to the security of land, out of the enveloping water.  The lifeguard has saved him – but what happens next.   Does the swimmer say – thanks very much I am saved, so I will go back into the sea now – I am not any different than I was before?  Possibly.

 Or does he say – I am saved, I value my life more, I am going to live differently – stop swimming, or learn to swim safely, or teach others to swim well?    Whatever he does – he is on his own, the lifeguard has walked away and getting on with saving others.

Is that our understanding of salvation? – help out of difficulties and then left to get on with it on our own again?    

I want to look a bit more closely at the words and actions of Jesus which we read about in John chapter 20.    

Those who at Kilmory Chapel on Easter Morning ,may remember we looked at this reading, and  how the disciples in their despair and confusion over Jesus death, their anxiety over the missing body of Jesus, and their perplexity over Mary’s claim to have seen Jesus, suddenly had Jesus beside them saying – “Peace, I give you”.    Peace, you can almost hear them shouting – Peace, how can you expect us to have peace after all we have been through!   – but that is what they needed, and that is what Jesus gave them – Peace – slowing down their racing minds, giving sense out of their confusion, soothing their anxieties.   Saving them from their fears.   

The risen Jesus gives peace into our troubled lives – He stands with us and brings peace.

So we could say that Jesus has become my salvation because he has brought me peace.

But Jesus does not leave it at that – he doesn’t say – “Peace be with you” and then leave, – there is more he has to say, to offer in His visit.

Look at verse 21:

“Peace be with you.   As the Father has sent me, I also send you”

“As the Father has sent me, I send you”    Jesus is saying – this is not the  finished, it is only the start – 

The Father sent me to “ bring good news to the poor, to release the captives, bring sight to the blind, set prisoners free.”  

He sent me to show people how the Father would want us to live, to behave.   He sent me to challenge injustice, and to shine light into dark places, He sent me to defeat evil and corruption and to show people the Kingdom of God, to bring life, reality, truth.

Jesus said –“ I am the way, the truth and the life – no-one comes to the Father but by me”

Jesus said – “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life”

“As the Father sent me, so I send you”   I have given you peace – now I give you direction. – GO

You have a purpose –“ I have not suffered and died, and overcome death so you can go on living as you have been.   No, I am giving you a new purpose – a new way of living, a new direction – as I have been sent – so I send you!”   To live following my way – tyo live as i have shown you – to live as the Father has made you!

And this is all very well and good.   We are sitting on the beach having been pulled out the water – our lungs are emptied and we can breath again.  We are recovered, and the lifeguard can say to us – “Relax now, be at peace you are safe”

And “so…you are alive, you could have drowned, what are you going to do with your life now?  Will you live differently?”

Good advice, but that is all it is, it doesn’t help you change anything.   You can still be anxious and the peace alludes you, you can decide to change your life style – but can you do it on your own?

What Jesus says next is the clincher – what Jesus says next changes everything, this moves this whole episode from being a quiet motivational discussion into a cosmic earthquake – a shaking of tectonic plates, the shuddering of the universe.

Jesus breathes on them and says “Receive the Holy Spirit”.   He says -Here is the Holy Spirit – I am giving you God.   

Now the Triune nature of God is a mystery.   The idea of the Trinity can make you brain hurt.  But none the less we worship God who is three in one – three beings one.   Separate yet combined.     A mystery well beyond our comprehension, but that does not make it impossible.

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

And Jesus says to His followers “I am giving you one part of God – the Holy Spirit – here he is – receive Him”

Now, with the Pentecostal and the Charismatic movements of recent times we are quite familiar with this idea of the Holy Spirit being with us, and guiding and helping us pray – and we also have all the stories in Acts and the teaching in the New Testament letters about the Holy Spirit, but at that time the Holy Spirit was rarely referred to – To these disciples – He is God hovering over the waters at the very start of creation, he guides Moses to free Israel from Egypt, the boy David is anointed with the Holy Spirit to lead Israel to security and prosperity.   Elijah, Elisha, Ezekial, Isaiah are all inspired by the Holy Spirit.   This is God working alongside his special people, and Jesus says to His followers – here he is – a gift – Receive the holy spirit.  They are being given the very presence of God.

We are saved through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.   We are saved through submitting to Him as Son of God.  

In that salvation he gives us peace, and direction, purpose  – and in this third gift He gives the presence of God to empower us, to enable us to know the reality of His peace, and then to be able to take on the task of Going – of being sent – of following His way. 

We, as disciples, as followers of Jesus, are being given God’s presence.    Just ponder that for a moment.  Jesus says – “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus doesn’t just give us kind words, or comforting sayings;  He doesn’t give us a set of instructions, or rules to follow so we will be all right.    He stands beside us and he gives us the presence of God – God’s Holy spirit to infuse our lives, to be part of our beings – so we are different from who we were before we knew Him, before we accepted His gift of salvation, before we accepted him as “the Way, the truth and the life.”

So never underestimate what God can do in our lives, with our lives.   Never underestimate what God can do with us as individuals, and as a church.

As we remember the resurrected Christ visiting His disciples – remember too, that His promise is for all His followers:

PDP

Peace:   calmness, contentment, security, 

Direction:  purpose, assurance, confidence

and above all – Presence -The Holy spirit, the presence of God – infusing and completing our life – and with whom all things are possible.

Amen

Kirk session agenda 29 April 2019

  1. Opening Prayer and Worship
  2. Sederunt
  3. Apologies
  4. Minutes of meetings of the 23rd March 2019 and 18th April 2019.
  5. Matters arising from the above minutes.
  6. Session Administration
    1. Review of Stated Annual Meeting 7.4.19
    2. Service calendar after closure of Inverlussa.
    3. Congregational Office Bearers:
      • Health and Safety Co-ordinator
      • GDPR co-ordinator.
  7. Worship and Mission:
    1. Messy Church
    2. Alpha  Next.
  8.     Presbytery Planning Meeting.
  9. Reports:
    1. Interim Moderator  – 
    2. Stewardship  
    3. Safeguarding
    4. Notifiable events 
    5. Treasurer and Finance Committee
    6. Fabric  

10. Correspondence 

  •   Inverlussa Church Building
  • Any other correspondence

11. Date of next meeting

12.Close with prayer

Easter at Kilmory

Worshippers arriving at Kilmory Chapel Then as Peter, and John, went in and did not find the body of Jesus, they were greatly perplexed – and two men standing there said to them – “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
“Jesus is not here – he is risen!”

Welcome this Easter Morning! Jesus Christ is risen – He is risen indeed!
Let us pray:
Risen Lord, on this day we praise You, on this day we worship You, on this day we draw close to You, and rejoice that You come to us still, out of darkness into light, out of grief into joy, out of fear into hope. Rejoicing in the presence of our living Saviour, we are bold to come close and be glad that in this life, we are not alone; in this life, there is someone we can trust; in this life the promise becomes reality because of You, Lord Jesus Christ, as we stand in Your resurrection light. – Amen

David leading the worship

Hymn 410 – Jesus Christ is risen today.
Reading: John 20 vs 1 – 9 NIV Mystery and confusion:
“Early, on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdaline went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him’
So Peter and the other disciple started to the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and looked at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived, and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes.”
It is the morning after the Sabbath day’s rest. Two days since they had watched in horror as their leader, their guide and teacher, their friend was crucified as a criminal
They had had one day – one day to try understand – what had gone wrong – to try to re-orientate their lives now Jesus was no more than a dead rebel. This man who had offered so much was lying dead in a cave. But now they could go and bury him properly and get on with their lives. But the confusion continues, the roller coaster of emotion and the whole mystery around Jesus just gets worse – His body is gone! Where is it – who has taken it – why! why! It is all going wrong again.
Can we identify a little with their anguish? Can we get beside Peter, and say – hold on, it will all turn out OK. Can we sit with Mary in the garden weeping her heart out because none of this makes sense and Jesus is dead. Can we say – trust in Jesus, trust in God – but would that really have meant anything at all to these, his distraught grieving friends?
Darkness before dawn, light in a tunnel, new shoots from dry seeds.
Would these pictures have meant anything at all to them on that morning – at that time of sorrow and confusion?

Worshippers inside Kilmory ChapelReading: John 20 vs 11 – 18, NIV Seeking, pleading……. Hope, transformation.
“…but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look in the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head, and the other at the foot.
They asked her ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’
‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said ‘and I don’t know where they have put Him’. At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.
‘Woman,’ He said ‘why are you weeping? Who is it that you are looking for?’
Thinking He was the gardener, she said ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.’
Jesus said to her ‘Mary’
She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni’, which means Teacher.
Jesus said ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that she had said these things to her.”
John and Peter have gone home, Mary stays on crying her eyes out – sorrow upon sorrow, and through her tears she sees two people sitting in the tomb – white, like angels.
Why are you weeping? Why are you weeping?
Because He is gone! All is gone – Jesus the Messiah is gone, Jesus the teacher is gone, Jesus our friend has gone – even His body has gone. Mary is bereft, empty –
And now Jesus too asks “Why are you weeping”
Indeed Mary – why are you weeping? – Jesus is there, Jesus is beside her. Jesus the Messiah is standing alive, Jesus the teacher is bringing her comfort, Jesus the man is standing – no longer a dead body – but a living being, – no longer gone – but here! and so Mary – “Why are you weeping?”
Dawn is breaking, the dark tunnel of anguish is being slowly lit up, the new shoots are growing from the seed. A new day, a new era, a new life is beginning
Go and tell the others. Go and tell them you have seen me – go and tell them their despair is over, go and tell them the darkness is past – I am not dead – but alive.
Sometimes we enter the darkness of despair, sometimes our expectations crumble to dust. Sometimes our hopes fall flat and circumstances change to snuff out our optimism, our joy. Sometimes our best intentions get distorted and cause more harm than good.
Then Jesus asks us – “Why are you weeping”. The light is coming – I am not dead but live. Then we can reach out, we can cry out, I am weeping because you are gone! But Jesus is not gone he is standing there beside you – look at him.
In these times when we need comfort, assurance, light – we can cry out – Lord hear my needs – understand my position, know my pain – Hear my prayer ! and he does, because He is alive – he waits beside us.
We are going to sing this together now – “O Lord hear my prayer, listen to me!” this is a simple song from the Taize community in France and I think it helps us all to bring our selves to our Lord.

Jesus is King flag outside the chapel
“O Lord hear my prayer”
Reading John 20 vs 19 – 23 Confirmation, commission, enabling.
“On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. After He had said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said ‘Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, I am sending you’. And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’” John Ch 20 vs 19 – 23 NIV
Jesus sends Mary home to the other disciples
Mary tells them that she has seen Jesus alive – Astounding news, desperate news – wild news – was there hope, was there doubt, minds racing and in turmoil.
And then Jesus stands among them – “Peace”. Peace is what they sorely needed. Peace from the anguish and confusion and loss. Peace from the failure and danger, from the crowds and from the horror of the cross. Jesus brings them peace – calm, assurance, certainty, clarity – “see my hands and side”
Jesus stands among us and brings us peace. Jesus stands among us to show us his wounds – it is he, he is alive, he is with us. In all the turmoil and doubt, the anguish and pain, the sorrow and the joy – he stands beside us – and gives us peace.
Jesus did not stay dead – He is risen! Jesus is not in a tomb – he is with us – and he asks us:
Why are you weeping – Receive the Holy Spirit – Why are you weeping” the turmoil is over, here is my peace. Why are you weeping! I am telling you so that you can tell others. I am here, beside you, to bring life, to bring joy, to bring meaning to life – life in all its fullness.
Jesus is not in the tomb – He is risen – He is risen indeed. Here I am beside you.
Amen
Prayer: shared
Loving Heavenly Father,
Today is the most special of days –
A day of victory, celebration and praise!
A day on which we remember your great triumph –
The defeat of evil, suffering and death.
A day on which we recall the transformation you have brought –
Joy after sorrow, hope after despair, faith after doubt.
A day on which we give thanks for all you have given us –
Love, laughter and life!
Speak to us through this joyful season,
And fill us with greater trust and deeper faith.
So may we live not just this day but every day
As your Easter people
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen.
Hymn 419 Thine be the Glory
Christ was raised from the dead
By the glorious power of the Father.
Set out then, on a new life with Christ,
And the blessing of God almighty,
Father Son and Holy Spirit
Be with us all,
Now and always.
Amen

Worshippers chatting outside after the service
.

Stated Annual Meeting (AGM)

Stated Annual Meeting of the Congregation of

North Knapdale Parish Church on the 7th April 2019 11.15am

Minute

The meeting was opened with prayer by the Session clerk.

1 Appointment of Chair:    In the absence of the Interim Moderator the Session clerk asked the meeting to appoint a chair.   Mrs Catherine Paterson was appointed unanimously.

2 Sederunt:    Mrs Catherine Paterson, Chair, Mr Nick Smith, Mrs Courtney Smith, Mrs Rachel Walker, Mr Nick Walker, Mrs Kim Ritchie, Ms Ealasaid Mackay, Mr James Goodman, Mrs Mary Maclaughlan, Ms Carolyn , Mrs Libby MacDonald, Mrs Norma Kelly, Mrs Louise Logue, Mr David Logue. 

3         Apologies:     Apologies were received from Mr Chris Tabraham, Mrs Mary Gauld, Mr Russell Anderson, Mrs Heather Anderson.

4 The minutes of the meeting of the 18th March 2018, were read to the meeting and approved.   Proposed by Mrs Logue and seconded by Mrs Kelly.

5 Interim Moderator Report:    In the absence of the Moderator, Mr Logue intimated that Rev Hilda Smith had stepped down as Interim Moderator in March 2108 and Mrs Hay had been appointed from that date.   Mr Logue expressed the thanks of the congregation to Rev Smith for her advice and support as Interim Moderator from October 2018 to March 2019.

6 Session Clerk Report:    Mr Logue, presented a report as session clerk.(Appendix 1).    There were no questions or comments from the congregation

7        Treasurer Report:   Mrs Logue presented a report on the Church finances for 2018. ( Appendix 2).   There were no questions or comments from the congregation.

8 Fabric convenor report:   Mr Anderson, the Fabric convenor, had submitted a written report which Mr Logue read to the congregation. (Appendix 3).     There were no questions or comments from the congregation.

9 Stewardship Convenor Report:   Mrs Kelly informed the meeting of the very successful collection for Christian Aid in 2018.  £640 plus Gift Aid was given through door to door collection throughout the Parish on May and a special Harvest Appeal in the Autumn raised £171.50, which was then multiplied by five by Government Aid.   Thanks to all who assisted with this.

Arrangements are in place for the 2019 appeal in May.

The World Mission Council ask congregations to save stamps the money from which last year was used for training future ministers in South Sudan.   This year the funds will be used to support the Chigodi Women’s centre in Blantyre, Malawi which provides skills training to assist women set up and manage businesses and the congregation is asked to leave stamps in the church vestibule or give them to Mrs Kelly.   

This year the World Mission Council is celebrating 50 years of the Stamp Appeal.

10 Safeguarding Report:   Mr Logue confirmed that the church has a responsibility to ensure that vulnerable adults and children are provided with a safe and supportive environment within all church activities.   There had been no incidents or concerns in relation to safeguarding during 2018.

A question was asked on the position of the church on GDPR legislation and procedures.  Mr Logue answered that this was being looked into and that progress would be made in the near future.  He asked if there was anyone present who would volunteer to take on the role of GDPR co-ordinator.  

11 Discussion on pattern of Sunday worship services following the closure of Inverlussa.

Mr Logue reported that it was likely that the Inverlussa building would be sold by the end of May 2019, with a closing service planned for the 12th May.

The views of the congregation were sought as to the preferred pattern of Sunday Worship venues following the closure of Inverlussa.

Mr Logue suggested two possible alternatives –

  1. Continue with the current pattern but meet in Achnamara Hall in place of Inverlussa.
  2. Meet alternate Sundays in Bellanoch and Tayvallich and cease Sunday Morning Worship in the Achamara area.

During discussion the following points were made:

There should be an increased number of joint services between North Knapdale and Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford Parishes.

In view of the continuing presence in Achnamara through Cafe Connect, services at Bellanoch and Tayvallich only would be acceptable.

It would be helpful to take the views of more of the congregation and also of those in Achnamara through Cafe Connect, at the Church Coffee Morning and at the Easter services.

It was agreed that a short “flier” would be prepared and circulated at these events asking for views.

Close of Meeting.

The meeting was closed with prayer by the Chair.


David’s talks from 17 March

Changing Church

So we now have a new Interim Moderator.  Alison Hay has at least 15 parishes to administer as IM.  The Church of Scotland is changing as society and culture has changed around it over the last 50 years.    The drift of society into secularism has finally caught up with the church in Argyll.  There are no longer enough ministers for the existing structure of parishes to continue.  In Scotland there are currently 300 vacant churches and this year 30 ministers will be ordained.   In Argyll by the end of this year three quarters of churches will not have a minister.    Next month, after Ken Ross leaves Netherlorn there will be no minister between Lochgilphead and Oban, nor between Ardrishaig and Saddel and Southend – Inveraray will be vacant from June. 

So this could be a difficult time for us as we adapt to our new situation of being a church without a dedicated minister – but also an exciting and challenging time as we work together here – to continue to be a community of faith who want to share worship, spread God’s love, and follow Jesus,  – with one another and with our local communities.

We have started to recognise the value and encouragement we gain, as people from our own congregation help us in worship, sharing experiences, and in prayer.    We have valuable support from others such as Robert Macleod and Jenni, who will continue to encourage and grow our faith.

We are a congregation who are intent on following Jesus and caring for one another and our communities.  We will lose this building (Inverlussa) very soon – so let’s think about what can we do to continue to bring God’s love and celebration in worship to this community?

We are holding our congregational meeting – our ASM on the 7th April, and I hope we can have a good discussion on this then.   We will also be asked by Presbytery soon to draft a  forward plan for the Parish – looking ahead 10 to 20 years.   We need to start thinking and praying about how we see the church operating in 20 years!    That is a bit like planting saplings to grow to a mature forest –  after many of us will have all moved on to our new life with Jesus.   

Lots to think about, discuss together, chat and contemplate – imagine and dream – and above all pray about.

Talking of prayer – last week Catherine led us in a prayer for reconciliation of families – and 

She was told during the week that a son phoned his mother (they’ve not spoken for years) on Sunday afternoon and spent nearly 2 hours talking to each other. Also, another person has asked for prayer that two sons who have not spoken to each other in years might come together for a family celebration.

Our God is a great God who wants answer our prayers – and so we pray this healing will continue.

We have lots to pray about and lots to celebrate and be thankful for – so lets go on in our journey together.

What will God say to us today?

What can God possibly have to say to us today – from this reading from Genesis?   Abraham complaining he does not have a son and then the vision of Abraham with animals being cut up and left out in the field. The bible is fascinating but sometimes it just seems to be out of touch with us here and now.   So much which just does not connect with our day and age, our culture and way of doing things.

Here we have a story of the father of the nation of Israel – Abraham – having a vision and then going and getting together – a three year old heifer, a three year old goat, a three year old ram – these were pretty big animals, a dove and a pigeon.

And then to slaughter them, cut the big animals in half, and place them all in a row – halves opposite halves – and he kept watch over them and chased the vultures away.    Why???

Abraham had been talking to God – and saying, look God I am following your directions and you have given me great blessings – but I have no offspring – I don’t have an heir – really what is the point in all this following you, what is the point in you blessing me if there is no one coming after me to inherit this?

And God gives this amazing promise to him – You will have a son, you will have descendants, in fact come outside and look up at the stars – you are going to have as many descendants as there are stars up there – more than you can count.   

And the crucial bit of the story is – Abraham believed God.   

A childless man, getting on in years, being told his descendants would outnumber the stars!

What would we have said – “Aye Right!”   – tell me another.    

I think we often miss God’s guidance because His words, his promises just seem too big, and too unlikely, so we dismiss them.   God created the whole universe – and more and more beyond our imagination – why do we doubt or limit what we think He can do?   Did Mother Theresa decide that Calcutta was just too big for her to minister to the sick and dying?   Did Jackie Pullinger decide that the Forbidden city in Hongkong was too riddled with vice and drug abuse for her to follow God’s leading there?    No, they embraced the fact that God is big enough to cope!  

What is he saying to us about North Knapdale?   Let’s be careful not to limit our plans to what we think is possible?   What are our dreams for North Knapdale?   Why not plan to have a growing church which people from our community all come to hear the Gospel of Christ – to celebrate that life has meaning and purpose and they are loved and valued.    Why not have a vision that North Knapdale is a centre for sending missionaries out to other places to spread the gospel?    Why should North Knapdale not be a place where people come from all over to see a church alive and thriving in the West Coast of Scotland.  

If God can give a childless old man a vision of descendants like stars –  we should be going outside at night  and crying out – what is your promise for us today God.    Open our minds to what God can do – let us not be limited to what we think we might manage.   Open our minds to what God can do –

So, returning to the dead animals.    Abraham says to God, –  Ok I believe you but give me a bit more assurance.   Now this whole slaughtered animal thing might seem grotesque to us today – but to Abraham this was normal.   In that area 4,000 years or so ago – if you were making a solemn promise or oath to another person then this is what you did. – you slaughtered one of your herd, cut it in two, and you walked between the halves to confirm that the oath was sealed with the blood of the animal.    God was talking to Abraham in a way which was culturally normal, like us shaking hands, or signing a contract, or posting it on Facebook – and so actually, this was an understandable and easily acceptable confirmation to him.   

 God showed Abraham, in a way he easily understood, that His promise of being the father of a nation was absolutely complete and trustworthy.

Now, if you have a dream or a vision where you believe that God is telling you to go and cut up animals – then I would be a bit wary of taking that as being clear guidance from God. – because,   why would God speak to us in ways which were relevant to a place thousands of miles away and a culture of thousands of years ago.   No, I believe that God does guide us, and give us ideas, and gives us vision for the future – but He will give us those in ways that are relevant and culturally normal to us today, here.

If you think of other times in the bible when God gives vision or guidance:

Moses and the burning bush – now, I understand that in that area of desert where Moses was, burning bushes are not unusual – because of the temperature and the lack of moisture – shepherds out there would not be phased by a burning bush.   What got Moses attention was the fact it did not burn out – God got Moses attention by a normal event which was intriguing – and then he could speak to him.   God’s visions for Elisha and Elijah are full of chariots and soldiers – normal sights at that time, Daniel sees huge statues of Kings – standard decoration for Babylon at that time.   

Jesus takes visual aids from his surroundings – farming and fishing,   Peter is shown a range of food – kosher and non-kosher, you see what I mean?   Biblically God guides his people with contemporary and normal things around them.   We should really try to be alert to pick up what God has to say to us today, in our culture, and what is normal for us.   Don’t be dismissive of coincidence – seeing the same words or phrases in different places, having the same topics coming up in conversation or on TV programmes – is God trying to get your attention? – not with a dead cow, or a burning bush – but with a phrase in a book, a verse in the bible, a conversation with a friend – or maybe even a dream or an imagined event.

Pete Greig, who started the 24-7 prayer events across the world, as a young student was praying and imagined he was surrounded by a host of hundreds of other young men and women – normal looking young adults,  – and he held on to this vision as encouragement as he saw the wee prayer group he started in Chichester spread across England, Britain and the world with thousands of young people getting together to pray and serve others to show God’s love.   I wonder if he had seen a vision of Roman soldiers, or Celtic saints, or the statues of Babylon, if he would have given it any credence in the same way.   But God showed him normal up to date people and backed it up in conversations, other events, and bible readings

We here are God’s church, in North Knapdale – what is our vision for this year, for the next ten years, twenty years?

I think we each one of us need to consider our lives to discover our own purposes and objectives as we gather here as His people.    Why are we here, what are our expectations, what are our needs, what can we give, how can we serve,  what do we think our church should look like?      We really need guidance for our future – let’s ask God and expect answers!    Lets ask God to speak to us – and lets talk to each other about what we hear.

Sometimes, as a church we can feel childless – like Abraham, we are getting on in years and who will be our heirs?    Let’s ask God if He will show us the stars – show us what He has for us – and then let us have the faith of Abraham to believe in the promises He gives us. 

Amen.