One of our neighbouring ministers, Rev Scott Burton, has made this encouraging video and allowed us to share it on our site. You can link to his church’s website here. Scott will be using YouTube for his Sunday worship. Here he explains how to let another without internet access join in.
These are not easy times. With the latest guidelines from the Government regarding church services and other related activities we are now facing an unprecedented challenge. No one I have spoken to recently can ever recall a time when they were not able to attend a church service on a Sunday morning or visit a needy neighbour in their Elders District. Some folks I have spoken to have made comparison to wartime experiences and the kind of fear that invoked in people. For the Christian community this is a serious challenge to our faith but one that we should be well equipped to rise above.
I was preaching last weekend and heard about a local initiative being set up in Furnace on the shores of Loch Fyne that would ensure that no one would go without and I am sure there are many other examples throughout Argyll. The local church needs to be at the forefront of this serious challenge and we all need to play our part, however small this might seem. There are guidelines being issued on a regular basis as the situation unfolds and it is important we all adhere to the latest version of these. However, there is something more the church needs to consider and which I put to you now. We need to generate a groundswell of prayer and I am proposing that at 12 noon every Wednesday starting from the 25th March that everyone stop and have a moment of prayer. Prayer points will be emailed to all on the Presbytery mailing list immediately prior to each prayer time and I hope you will join me at that time. Of course, if the timing doesn’t suit please feel free to use the prayer points at another time.
The Moderator of the General Assembly has called for this Sunday to be a National Day of Prayer and I commend this to you. As an Interim Moderator of a vacant parish I am planning to send a short message and prayer to my congregation each week and invite them to consider this at the regular worship time on Sunday. If anyone would like a copy of this do let me know and I will happily share.
We all need to place our trust in God at this time and positively look forward to the time when the virus is defeated and we can retake our seats in the churches we love so much and to share fellowship with those whom we have missed. With God’s care and our concerns rooted in prayer that time will come, and all will be well again.
With every blessing
The moderator of the General Assembly, Colin Sinclair has joined with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and other church leaders to call for a national day of prayer on Sunday 22 March, Mothering Sunday.
The call to prayer asks everyone to light a candle at 7pm on Sunday as ‘a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer.’
Here is some good advice for those volunteering to help their neighbours.
Here is the Church of Scotland – Covid-19 Briefing 17th March 2020 – Cancellation of Services and other information
The Church’s Covid-19 Task Group met this morning, and considered the most recent advice from the Scottish Government, issued on the evening of Monday 16th March, available here. This information from the Scottish Government takes precedence over the briefing note issued by myself at 17:53 on 16th March 2020.
The Scottish Government advised that people should minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings, including religious congregations, and smaller gatherings, listing areas which were of concern.
Worship – Cancellation of Worship Services
In the light of the above, the Church of Scotland Task Group has agreed to ask, in the strongest terms, that all gatherings for worship should cease until further notice, with effect from Wednesday 17th March 2020, or earlier if possible. Other Scottish Churches are taking similar actions. This obviously includes Easter services. Some Presbyteries have already instructed this action. This will include, but not be restricted to, housegroups, meetings for youth work, and church cafes. It will still be possible for an individual to offer a livestreaming of a sermon and prayers. Sunday broadcasts of a weekly service take place on Radio 4, and also on Radio Scotland; other radio stations are available.
Church buildings can be kept open as a place for people to come and pray. Notices should be clearly displayed asking that visitors observe robust hand hygiene, including washing their hands on entry to the church.
The Moderator, the Right Reverend Colin Sinclair, has, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and other church leaders, have issued a call for a National Day of Prayer.
The Task Group is aware that closing down worship services will impact on congregational income, and we’d want to encourage people to continue contributing financially as far as possible, and to encourage the increased use of standing orders as an expression of ongoing stewardship.
Funerals The key phrase here is to minimise social contact. Sensitive conversations will need to take place with families and mourners ahead of funeral ceremonies, and to consider the size of groups gathering for funerals. It may be necessary in the future to consider whether funerals should be restricted exclusively to minister, immediate family, and funeral directors. In addition, local guidance from funeral directors and crematorium staff will be critical here. It should be noted that many crematoria have the facility to livestream services and to host a recording of services for a period of time after the cremation service.
For weddings, the advice offered in the briefing note of 12th March 2020 remains unchanged; certain venues will be restricting attendance, and it may be that couples have to work through what changes have to made, including in some cases rearranging. Travel restrictions on travel into the UK will also have an effect on guests at weddings. Again, sensitive conversations will be the order of the day.
The decision has been taken in the light of Scottish Government advice to cancel the General Assembly of May 2020. The Office of the General Assembly will be in touch with commissioners separately.
The above is offered in the light of current information, and is of course subject to further public health guidance and directives from the Scottish Government.
Genesis Chapter 12 vs 1 – 4
John Chapter 3 vs 1 – 17
It is singularly obvious truth that the longest journey begins with a single step – any journey, whether long or short, to the kitchen or to Australia begins with a single step – the first step which you take in order to get towards where you want to go. To make a cup of tea, or to visit distant relatives, the first step indicates that you are changing your position, doing something new, making something happen, indicating that you plan to make your life different – either by creating a hot cup of tea, or by hugging your Australian cousins.
Our lives are a series or a tapestry of interwoven journeys taking us on to new experiences and new environments.
Our first reading was about Abram. He had been taken by his father from their home town of Ur, near the Persian Gulf, way north to Haran, in Syria near to the border with present day Turkey.
But Abram wasn’t settled, his journeying was not complete, he heard a leading, he sensed a call to do more, to go on, to develop his life further. He understood this as the call of God to move on to take another step, and he trusted that call, he responded to that call, and he understood that in this journey he would find a greater purpose and a blessing in his life.
Abram chose to step out – trusting in the call God had shown him. And God told him that from his descendents a great nation would be formed
Now, one of these descendents was Nicodemus – a true blooded Hebrew, a leader of the Jews, a Pharisee, an outstanding example as a descendent of Abraham. One of God’s chosen nation, one of Abraham’s blessings. A lot of history has passed by, possibly 20 centuries, and in this reading we hear of Nicodemus’ journey – not so far this time, Nicodemus sets out on a journey at night, from his home, through the dark streets, to a meeting with Jesus. It is not clear what prompted this journey, why he chose to go to talk with Jesus, but he was prompted by something – was it curiosity about this new preacher who worked miracles, and claimed to be God, – did he want to challenge Jesus about his blasphemous talk about being God, or did he want to trust Him and so be drawn closer to God?
Whatever drew him on his journey, Jesus knew the question really on Nicodemus heart. – “How can I enter the Kingdom of God?”
As a Jew, he would have assumed that his Hebrew lineage, his status as a Pharisee, his following of the Jewish traditions, the feasts and fasts of the Hebrew calendar, would have assured him of his place in God’s Kingdom. But he must have been unsettled, unsure, shaken by Jesus teaching and actions.
Jesus strikes right at the heart of the question – to enter the Kingdom you must be born again. Be born again, start again – All your life before, all your lineage, your following the rules, your sacred practices, your upright behaviour, your attendance each Sabbath, counts for nothing, forget it, all irrelevant – you need to start again in a new way.
Jesus says – Be born of water and spirit. – Water and spirit – now a good Pharisee like Nicodemus would immediately recognise that reference – EZ 36 vs 25 – 27, where God says:
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean, I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from your idols
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you, I will take the heart of stone out of you and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgements and do them”
Jesus is saying – to be a part of my Kingdom – you must allow God to cleanse you – to get rid of sin, get rid of all the false gods in your life, you must choose to allow God to wash you, and you have to choose to reject the idols in your life which you put in place of God.
Then – you will be transformed – the heart of stone – frozen and immobile, will become a heart of flesh – of life, of compassion for others in need, of concern for justice, in essence – of love for God, others and yourself.
And, you will receive the Holy Spirit, to give you the will to follow God’s way of life.
That is some promise: your sins forgiven, your life transformed, and you will want to follow God’s way of living.
Now stand in Nicodemus shoes for a moment he must have been absolutely shocked
Jesus words must have been like having a bucket of cold water thrown over them – a cold and sudden shock.
He was being told that his religious life, his legal obedience, his rules and regulations, his weekly worship – none of that brought him into the Kingdom of God. None of it. He needed to make a new start, a new life, a new way of living – a new journey to begin. He needed to choose a new life –
Jesus sets it all out simply before him:
“For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but will have everlasting life.”
Listen – God, the living God who you are trying to serve, the God of Abraham and Moses, has given His Son to live here with you, to teach and to demonstrate and to proclaim His Kingdom, and if you believe in Him – if you accept Him as God’s Son, if you listen to His teaching and follow his ways, if you choose to believe in Him – then you enter the Kingdom – you are given this gift of eternal life, starting now.
This phrase “believe in Him” is a bit empty I think as a translation – it sounds a bit glib – “Yes, I believe in Jesus”.
But behind this word “believe” in verse 16 – is a more challenging meaning – believe and listen to, trust in, hold on tightly to, depend on, lean on.
What Jesus is saying in this verse is:
Your life following laws, of attending weekly worship, of reading scriptures and living respectfully is past – it counts for nothing – that’s your old journey, to enter the Kingdom, to have eternal life with God, you need to set out on a new journey and the first step is to choose to follow God’s Son – and Jesus is the Son.
Nicodemus was face with a choice,
Trust in his history, his religious practices, his rules and activities as the way to enter God’s kingdom –
OR – believe this man Jesus – believe in Him. Choose to discard the religiosity, the rule keeping, the status,
and trust Jesus, listen to him, depend on him, hold on to Him follow Him – believe in Him
We don’t know which way Nicodemus chose – but we each one of us are also faced with that choice – we have to decide, – to trust in our selves, in our past behaviour, in our Sunday worship, in our being good citizens in the hope of entering God’s kingdom
Or choose to trust what Jesus says – believe in me – listen to me, follow me.
That is what he is saying to us now: Choose to believe in me and you will have eternal life:
Don’t depend on religious practices, on your nationality, or your moral lifestyle – that is past – you need to choose to start a new life to enter God’s kingdom – a life trusting in what Jesus says – a life accepting God’s gift of forgiveness, a life where the Holy Spirit gives us the will and the desire to follow Him.
Choose to believe in Him, trust, depend, cling to, listen to Him.
We have to tell Jesus that we choose to follow Him. That is our first step into our new life with Him.
Click here to access a pdf file of the 2019 accounts
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”
When we pray these words we are asking God to protect us and keep us on his safe path when the devil comes and tempts us.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to be the first and only person on earth. It’s one thing for us to be lonely it was another for Adam who had never known another human being. How much he must have missed no childhood, no parents no friends.
He was the first person made in the image of God and the first human to have a personal relationship with God. Fortunately, God didn’t let him wait too long before he presented him with an ideal companion Eve
As Adams descendants we all reflect to some degree the image of God as our life and worth comes from Gods Spirit.
In reality our worth comes not from our achievements but from the God of the universe who chooses to give us the mysterious and miraculous gift of life. Value it as he does.
In the garden there were two tree the Tree of Life which represents immortality, eternal youthfulness and the Tree of knowledge which represents mortality and the knowledge of good and evil – a tree of conscience
God gave Adam the responsibility for the garden and told him not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Why would God place a tree in the garden and then forbid Adam to eat from it?
Rather than physically preventing him from eating from it he gave Adam the freedom to choose and thus the possibility of choosing wrongly.
God gives us choices and we too can choose wrongly. These wrong choices may cause pain, but they can help us learn and grow. Living with the consequences of our choices teaches us to think and chose more carefully
Obviously, Adam explained the rules of the garden to Eve when she joined him and how the Tree of Knowledge was off limits.
Disguised as a shrewd serpent Satan came to tempt Eve by making her think that sin is good, pleasant and desirable. However, she decided it looked so delicious and as the serpent persuaded her by saying that the minute, she ate it she too would be like God knowing good from evil. She looked, she took, and she ate. The battle is often lost with the first look as temptation often begins by seeing something you want. To make herself feel less guilty she involved Adam in her wrongdoing. Sadly, Adam didn’t think of the consequences and in one small act of rebellion he went ahead and ate it.
In that moment something large, beautiful and free was shattered and sin was brought into the world.
The Biblical meaning of Temptation is a ‘trial’ in which man has a free choice of being faithful or unfaithful to God.
Temptation is not a sin as we have not sinned until we give into temptation.
Temptation is Satan’s invitation to give into his kind of life and give up on gods kind of life.
In Mathew 4 verses 1-11 it tells us how he even tempted Jesus who did not sin.
The Biblical definition of sin becomes important because the scriptures define the boundaries and standards which God has set for us.
However, the definition of sin in the Bible is not a test of arbitrary do’s and don’ts. Instead they show us the way God lives. They show the spiritual principles by which he lives, the same standard of conduct he expects his human creations to live by.
SIN CAN BE WHAT WE DON’T DO
Christ’s teaching helps us to understand why it is sin not to do what we know we should do. It boils down to who’s will is more important in our lives. Is it our will to do what we want to do or is it Gods will doing what he thinks is most important which shapes our actions?
It is through action-through works, through doing good that we know we ought to be doing that God builds his nature and character within us. If we want to get rid of our sinful nature, we have to replace it with something else. We don’t magically get rid of it we have to replace it with God’s nature, his thoughts his ways.
True faith transforms our conduct as well as our thoughts as faith without godly works Is useless, worthless. Such faith is of no lasting value as it doesn’t change the person, nor does it help others to hear the words “Be warm and filled” when they’re cold and hungry.
God of mercy guide us through this season minister to us in the wilderness of our temptation that we who have been set free from sin by Christ May serve you well into life everlasting.
Today is the first Sunday in Lent.
Lent is the six week period leading up to Easter. It’s one of the most important times of year for many Christians around the world, particularly those within the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
Lent is seen as a time of solemn observance and preparation for the remembrance of the death and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. From its start on Ash Wednesday until its conclusion on Easter Sunday, Lent has been a traditional time for fasting or giving something up or abstinence. Fasting reminds us of the 40 day fast Jesus had before he started his ministry. Catherine mentioned this in her talk. Jesus fasted in the desert in preparation for his life’s work and the devil came and tested him.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is always held 46 days (40 fasting days and 6 Sundays) before Easter Sunday.
Ash Wednesday is the day after Shrove Tuesday, which in the UK is more commonly known as Pancake Day, that was last week. Did you have pancakes?
These days, Christians around the world observe Lent in different ways. Many from more orthodox and traditional denominations will still observe the fast strictly, beginning with the wearing of ashes on Ash Wednesday and abstinence of meat, fish, eggs and fats until Easter Sunday.
Others will choose to give up just one item for Lent, more commonly a ‘luxury’ such as chocolate, meat, alcohol or cake. It is also becoming increasingly common for people to give up other things such as watching TV or using social media. The time gained from missing out on these activities is spent in meditation, Bible study, prayer or doing something practical to help others. There are many devotional resources available such as Lent Bible studies – there is a practical booklet in this months life and work produced by Christian aid which gives topics for prayer and practical things to do to help alleviate the climate crisis in Kenya.
One thing we could focus on in our lent practices is forgiveness, asking God to forgive us the things we do wrong, the things we don’t do that we should, and also forgiving those who have hurt us. We need to forgive others in order for God to forgive us. We could spend our lent time thinking of the ways others have hurt us and letting go of the hurts and forgiving them. Spending time in god’s presence, meditating on his word will help us to do this. Meditation will also help god speak into our hearts and heal the hurts, and also show us where we have done wrong. We must ask god for his forgiveness and sometimes we have to ask others too.
Psalm 32 is all about forgiveness and the blessings of being forgiven.
When we know we’re in the wrong and try to hide it or blame another, not even admitting it to ourselves that is when we feel our bones wasting away, God’s hand heavy on us, or just our conscience pricking us. We know we need to ask God for forgiveness but we sometimes don’t want to admit we are wrong. The thing is, once we admit it and ask for forgiveness, we can feel overjoyed at his response. He always forgives us when we come to him with a sorrowful heart, and a determination to be a true follower. Not only does he forgive us but he miraculously forgets.
At the beginning of Lent as a season of preparation and self-examination, what do we need to confess individually and corporately in order to receive the blessings that our sins are forgiven, our debt is covered, and no record of wrongs is kept?