Category Archives: Sermons

David’s talk 2 June 2019

Last chapter of Deuteronomy:

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
Joshua
Joshua Installed as Leader
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them —to the Israelites.

The king is dead, long live the king. – that is the cry from the royal court when  a monarch dies and the heir to the throne takes over his or her mantle.   It is a cry which speaks of continuity, of stability, of “no change” here – life will go on as it is – no upset, no crisis.    To give assurance to the people that they will not be disturbed by this change.

But…That is not what is being presented in this reading here.     We are going to look at how the death of Moses heralds a tumultuous sea change for the people of Israel.   It marks a profound alteration in their lifestyle, in their working, in their worship and in their relationship with God.    

 The church here and across Scotland is being urged, encouraged, coaxed and cajoled into assessing how to change, how to recapture our Mission – how to demonstrate the Kingdom of God, to make disciples of Jesus Christ, to seek out what is the Church of Christ in 2021, and how does it connect with our society and community.  

As in the time of Moses death – this is not a time for continuity, for stability, for “no change” here.  

So how does this transition from Moses to Joshua guide us at this time we are in now?

Moses is the hero of the Jews, he led them out of slavery and through the desert.   They were rebellious, they wanted to go back to the “comfort” and security of slavery, they complained about food, about water, about travelling, about God’s guidance, about God’s laws.    They sloped off to find other gods, they were frightened, confused, and they moaned a lot – and Moses held them together as they circled around the Desert     

But Moses was the right man to keep them going – and God looked after them  – he really spoilt them in the desert.   He led them clearly where to go and when to stop.   Cloud and fire went before them.  Moses could go and talk to Him –   They didn’t have any doubts about the direction they were going.   He fed them with Manna- every day, he gave them a treat like the flock of Quaill when they moaned about the Manna.      They were looked after, they knew what was expected of them, they were in a routine which did not challenge them to change – merely to keep going as they were.  Moses’ task was to keep them moving along with God until he had a people who were ready and able to change – to actually go into their promised land.

Moses took them to the start of a new stage in the life of their community – to the edge of a new adventure, a new way of living.     Moses looked after them in the continuity of the desert – but Joshua would take them into uncertainty, conflict, danger and yet ultimately into triumph.   Joshua led them into battles, into strife and discomfort, but ultimately into the land promised by God.   

The pillar of fire and cloud were gone – they had to look to find what God wanted, they had to plan and think, they had to trust that God was with them – that was no longer obvious.    The manna was gone, they had to hunt and forage and barter and steal food from the countryside – they had to work at living as God’s people.

They had to learn to listen to God, to be alert to His guidance.    And when they did  – they had tremendous successes and blessings – think of the walls of Jericho, of the amazing victories against much bigger armies – but when they tried to do things without God, they had disasters and defeats, setbacks and confusions.  

 God was teaching them a new type of dependence on Him.    God was still with them but He wanted them to listen out for His guidance,  to be trusting that He was there, even when they couldn’t see Him,  and he wanted them to live and move forward in His way – not in their in own strength, but in His power, not with their own agendas, but with His.

The Israelites were learning a new, stronger relationship with God, built on trust and understanding, on seeking and action, not on the cloud and fire presence of God in the desert, showing them exactly what to do, and where to go, but on living out plans and actions  – seeking out and then trusting in His will.

I think that the church in Scotland, in Mid Argyll, is being moved by God into a new phase  – a new way of trusting God.   As the Israelites were taken out of the comfort and routine  of the desert into the uncertainty and challenges of a campaign of invasion, so our churches are being moved by God out of the routine and tradition of Sunday worship for the few, out of the certainty of regular meetings, out of depending on a parish minister to look after all our spiritual needs,  out of waiting for people to choose to come and join us – into a new way of being church – a way which has uncertainty at its core, a way that requires us to seek and to search out God’s guidance,  – a way that drives us to trust Him as he asks us to take on novel or uncomfortable projects, or coaxes us to welcome new and unexpected neighbours.   

The people under Joshua grew into a new relationship with God – a relationship based on Trust during uncertainty, based on assurance during adversity, and based on seeking His guidance when they were at a loss what to do.     All this drew them closer to God as they sought out the promised land.  

The church in Scotland has the same challenge and the same opportunity  – to grow into a new relationship with God, as we seek to trust Him as we try to plan for the future of the Gospel in our communities,  as we get to know the assurance of His presence when we struggle for ways of introducing Jesus to the next generations, as we pray and ask for guidance as to how to connect into our communities, to share the Gospel with people who have no idea what the church is about.   The time in the desert is passed – we are being led into new territories, a new landscape and we need to be going into this unknown landscape seeking out God’s plans and seeking the ways forward for His Kingdom.

Maundy Thursday talk


Having loved his own – John 13:1
His love was particular – loved his own – those the father had given him
First notice whom we loves: “Having loved his own… he loved them to
the end.”

“He calls his own sheep by name and they follow him.” “The good
shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:3, 15, 27).

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for
his friends” (John 15:13).

“I do not pray for these only but for all who will believe on me
through their word” (John 17:1).

“His own.” “His sheep.” “His friends.” “Believers.”

Here is something very precious and powerful and life-changing.

The love of Jesus for his own, for his sheep, for his friends, for
believers is more than the love held out to the world—the compassion
that fed the hungry and healed the sick and preached good news to the
poor.

And in this verse, John wants those of us who are “His own,” his
sheep, his friends to hear something uniquely for us.

It is not by accident that Jesus’ love for the church is compared to
the love of a husband for his wife in Ephesians 5.

There is a kind of love I can have for all women and men, but when I
have vowed in solemn covenant to forsake all others and cleave to Jean
alone and to love her and cherish her for richer for poorer, for better
for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part, our love
becomes a slight reflection of what it means for Jesus to love his own,
his sheep, his friends, his bride.

Think of the love that takes captive and cleaves and unites and
cherishes and defends.

His love was protective – in the world

The world of the flesh, tempation, trial and testing.

Having willingly set aside the glory that was rightfully His, and in
spite of the disciples’ appalling selfishness, Jesus’ main concern
that night was to demonstrate His personal love to the twelve so that
they might be secure in it.

John 13:1 says, “having loved His own who were in the world, He
loved them to the end.”  “To the end” in the Greek text is eis
telos, meaning, literally, that He loved them to perfection. He loved
them to the uttermost. He loved them with total fullness of love.

His love was permanent – to the end – no end.

He loved us in life and he loved us in death. Having loved us in the
easiest times he loved us in the hardest times. Having loved us with
words and bread and touch he loved us with blood and pain and death.
Having loved us extensively over years he loved us intensively to the
depths. Eternally – lead them, surely goodness and mercy follow us –
glory of perfection.

We are moved to believe that someone loves us when two things
appear—they stick with us over time, and they stick with us when it is
costly.

And the word tells us, “having loved his own who were in the world, he
loved them to the end.” It went long and it went deep.

O, may God give us the power to comprehend with all the saints what is
the height and depth and length and breadth and to know the love of
Christ which passes knowledge that we might be filled with all the
fullness of God.”Having loved his own.” Those four words are a brief but
complete summary of the Savior’s conduct towards his disciples.

Talks from 5 May 2019

Today’s service was brought to you by our new Local Worship Leaders!

Mark 5 v 22 – 43

 GIFT OF TOUCH

Dr Fritz Talbot conducted a scientific study in the 1940’s regarding the effects of touch in babies and established a conclusive connection between touch and infants ability to thrive.

The importance of eye contact and a  loving touch with babies has a special significance in early attachment and plays an important part in the process of a baby feeling secure and a sense of connection.

From when we are born we are wrapped up to make us feel secure move on to teddies, touch toys, the comforting feel of some types of material all of which make us feel loved and secure which lots of people take into adulthood and evokes memories of the love and security they felt as children.

This is the feeling when you have faith in God and feel the connection. It is sad that there are lots of people who don’t ever get to feel this connection and we should pray to God for guidance.

Importance of touch Jesus touched everyone to heal he  didn’t just stand at the edge of the crowd and say you are all healed  

Jesus gift of touch provides healing connection and can warm even the coldest heart

In what way can you be the hands of Jesus and show the gift of touch to someone who may need love and compassion.

Gods hands will constantly guide you if you seek him and welcome his involvement in your life

Gods hands of intervention and comfort is available to those who seek a close relationship with him.

Gods physical touch is one of the first things you may feel when he begins to draw you towards him and you feel the connection. It is one of the most comforting things you can ever experience. It is life changing.

My story is i  had been to an Alpha meeting and after it had finished had gone for a walk to think about God and religion. I sat on a bench beside a loch and for no reason tears were running down my cheeks they were not sad tears as I felt at peace and I realised that was Gods way of connecting with me. We must be willing to reach out and touch him and if we do we will recognise that here stands the one who will reach out and touch our lives with that touch brings wholeness

The word of God always encounters us and challenges us and asks what about you? 

WHAT IS YOUR STORY

Connection is something every human being longs for, was designed for and needs. There are so many lonely people who don’t have the opportunity perhaps through illness, shyness or no family near them to have the daily contact of touch. 

There are also people who perhaps in their childhood through circumstances don’t feel touch or hugs in a kind way which we all have to be aware off. 

In today’s world we now have to be aware of the power of touch and how it may offend people which is sad as all through the scripture we read about Jesus healing people by laying his hands on the sick who had faith in him and were healed.  The security we reach for as infants, on in to adulthood to me is  the same as the security we feel in Gods love and the ability to grow.

Jesus said that children and young people are not the church of the future but the church of today. The kingdom of God belongs to them.

Children tend to be receptive, open, humbling and forgiving.

You become childlike when you share your honest feelings. Acknowledge how vulnerable you are and how much you need God and other people.

Respond instinctively like a child to feel and express our love and joy, rush in explore, probe and discover things for yourself.

Sense the presence of God know his security and protection.

The lord goes before you and he will be with you. He will never leave you. 

The church is an important part of the community as worship brings people together. Louise and I were standing talking with our coffee after church and all the congregation were sitting with their tea/coffee chatting to each other and laughing and it was lovely to see. What a difference it would make to more people if they could experience the warmth, welcome and compassion which is felt through everyone’s love of God who promises to give you grace, blessing and honour.

Proverbs 2 v 1 – 11. Ephesians 4 v 1 – 16

Mission

David has already mentioned the interesting meeting we had in Ardrishaig on Thursday. There were elders from the five Mid Argyll churches – Lochgilphead, Ardrishaig, South Knapdale, Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford and of course North Knapdale. David Mitchell, who has four churches in Cowal is the Convener of the Presbytery Planning Committee and outlined the case for improvement very well. 

Not only are there not enough ministers to go round the current number of posts, but also there is not enough money in the coffers in Edinburgh to pay their wages if we had all the posts filled.

This leaves us with a little bit of a dilemma if we wish to continue our traditional church in the traditional manner on the traditional Sunday morning with a traditional minister.

Reading between the lines it would seem that there is only enough money available to pay for 2 salaried ministers for our area. 

But, and it’s a big but! This brings a very exciting opportunity for every one of us to be involved in shaping the future of our denomination for the next 10 to 20 years. And I am quoting here from David Mitchell’s own words “it’s not about bums on seats on a Sunday morning!”.

Our reading from Proverbs is all about wisdom

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding —
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

God is not going to leave us to flounder in ignorance, we must search for wisdom from him in this situation that we find ourselves in. How are we going to do this? Thinking of what Catherine has shared with us, do we need to be open to feeling the touch of God? Of letting his spirit dwell in us and guide our footsteps?

Some of us will want to have some quiet reflection alone with our Heavenly Father, maybe reading some passages of scripture, searching for some continuity in the outward expression of our faith. Others will want to talk and discuss and argue their points. Others may dream dreams. I know some people who will walk and pray and listen to God. Whatever our preferred method we must share our thoughts with each other in love and gentleness, listening first to understand their point of view before giving our own. Our future is so important that we should be talking about it at coffee time as well as when we meet each other in the co-op or at the lunch club. 

Deuteronomy 6 is talking about God’s laws here “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” I’m not saying this discussion is as important as God’s laws, but it’s a good principle to talk about what you find important and try to share it with others.

What sort of wisdom are we looking for?

David Mitchell impressed upon us that we must set aside all our buildings in our minds, then come up with a mission plan. And we must do this together with the other four parishes, not separately, you in your small corner, and I in mine, but all of us together creating a mission plan for the whole of Mid Argyll. How easy is that going to be? 

Have you heard the term Blue Sky Thinking? It’s a lovely expression. Anything goes. Wonderful, amazing, outrageous, no budget constraints, considerate discussions, with God’s guidance, we will be able to do this. And once we have a mission plan, then we can see if our current buildings can play a part in that plan. And if not, then more blue sky thinking, what if we sell everything and build new purposebuilt whatevers? Some areas have achieved this. What if we already have a purposebuilt premisis? Great! we’re ahead of the game. What we shouldn’t do is build our mission plan around the only buildings we own.

Now I hear some of you thinking, mission plan, mission plan, mission is the minister’s job, surely. 

Let us look again at the passage in Ephesians. If you’ve got a bible beside you, have a look. Chapter 4 v 1 on page          .

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 

No arguing with the other parishes, no us and them, take unity seriously. Be humble and gentle!

Reading from verse 7

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”

Then at verse 11…

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

So Jesus has instigated the offices of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher and his Holy Spirit will have given the people the gifts necessary to carry out these offices. The next part of the sentence is crucial v 12 to equip his people for works of service. Are we his people? Do we feel equipped for works of service? Look at the end of verse 8. He gives gifts to his people. So he has given us gifts in order to carry out our calling, our works of service. The apostles prophets evangelist pastors and teachers are there to equip us to use our gifts, to carry out our works of service. 

Just an aside …. and not being personal… many of us have seen ministers come and go in this parish. Some have inspired us, some have made us think outside the box. Our expectations may or may not have been met, but did you feel as if you were being trained and equipped for works of service? Did you even think that you should be? 

Times are changing, minister numbers are declining, we can no longer afford to be the recipients only, of pastoral care and biblical teaching. It’s time for each one of us to stand up and be counted. To be prepared, to be discipled or apprenticed if you like, in order to take the Good News of Jesus into our communities. Many of us have already started on this exciting journey. Can we as the body of Christ in this place do our part for our neighbours?

There is hope for us all in this upheaval, quoting again from the passage in proverbs

He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

Such comforting words for the days and discussions ahead. Remember, our God holds us in the palm of his hand.

Amen.

The next step in the process is for all five congregations to meet together with David Mitchell so that he can explain the project we must undertake and answer any questions. There is a deadline. The Presbytery would like to be able to sign off on our plan in their September meeting. In order to achieve this we need everyone to be involved. We’ll let you know as soon as we receive it, the time and place of the meeting.












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

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
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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.


Catherine and Louise’s talks 10 March

Talk 1

In the Epistle to the Romans  chapter 10 verses 8-13 it is written 

But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,  and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation

For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth in him shall not be ashamed

For there is no reason between the Jew and  the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call on him

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved

Prayer is a key way to develop a love relationship with God.

The gift of prayer is that we learn to receive, experience and return his love

Prayer is one place where god can get to us,  speak to us and minister to us.

Seldom do we get closer to god than in prayer

Christianity is a relationship

We have to remember that Jesus had to suffer and die on the cross to make it possible for us to approach god to worship and pray we must remember to thank god as he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life

The heart of what prayer is not just about asking for things it is also about seeking God’s face, listening to him, spending time in his presence and enjoying communication with him and getting to know him better. He welcomes everyone there is no distinction all you need is your faith in god and he promises you grace, honour and blessing

Whether you are walking (that’s when I do a lot of praying I always think about the hymn How Great thou art – oh Lord my God when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hand hath made) I feel really close to God and feel at peace. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing anyone can pray. I am sure everyone at times if they are  faced with a difficult situations they have a silent prayer. Oh God help me or Why me god and your faith is tested because you cannot believe that god has allowed this to happen to you but sometimes he takes us on a longer and more difficult path to prepare us for the battles ahead – learn to rely on Gods strength and guidance.

 sometimes your plea is answered but sometimes not but whatever the outcome is he is with you, you are never alone, never be afraid – believe,  because you are loved by God

The strength of our faith  not the length of our prayer is all we need  as he knows what our needs are even before we ask.. At other times you may not be sure in whatever situation you can add YOUR WILL BE DONE

Jesus said ask and it will be given to you the starting power of an answered prayer is asking

When we ask god for something as he listens to all our prayers  the response will be YES NO OR WAIT

Forgiveness can be a barrier to prayer also praying with wrong motives

If you hold anything against anyone forgive them so that your father in heaven may forgive your sins. 

If we pray to gain glory and power or perhaps win the lottery then they are not good in themselves or not good for us or others. Then the answer would be no

Sometimes Satan without us realising is tempting us but Jesus prays to God on our behalf and helps us to walk wisely and play a part in gods call. That is why we sometimes have to wait before our prayer is answered.

Prayer is not just about asking god to forgive our sins we must also thank god for the wonderful things we have in our life and the wonder of all that he created and no matter who you are respond to what Jesus did for you.

Jesus taught the disciples the Lords Prayer to teach them to pray and I would like us all to join together in the Lords Prayer

Our father which art in heaven…..

Talk 2 

In Deuteronomy 26 the Israelites are being encouraged to remember how the Lord protected them and brought them out of bondage in Egypt into the promised land where harvests were plentiful. When they bring the firstfruits to the priests as an offering to God they are to remember their history. Remember how God saved them as a family by bringing them under Joseph’s protection in Egypt. Remember when they had grown to such numbers that Pharoah saw them as an immigrant threat.  Remember that Pharoah had made them slaves. Remember how Moses led them out of Egypt and eventually into the promised land. How good it must have felt with that history to be bringing your firstfruits to the priest as an offering to God. The God who had multiplied their blessings.

In Psalm 91 we learn that if we give ourselves to God he will protect us. The psalmist is encouraging the Israelites to trust in God. If only they will trust in him He will look after them as a nation, delivering them from deadly pestilence, what a peculiar expression. Delivering them from fear, from war, from wild animals, from poisonous snakes. He will shelter them under his wings.

Shelter them under his wings, What a comfortable place to be – it sounds to me like hiding from the world, wrapped in a duvet on your sofa. But as we all know that is ok for a day but not for a lifetime.

It is good for us to look back on our history as a church, as individuals and remember how God has multiplied our blessings. And that doesn’t mean we brush under the carpet any hurts and disappointments, illness and deaths that have been part of our story. Often it’s the difficult times that help us to grow.

Catherine has talked about knowing God, being in the presence of God, talking with God.

When you have put your whole life into God’s hands and trust him, then as well as happy blessings and good times, like the psalmist you can know that God is with you in times of trouble. 

Looking back at our church history, we see fewer and fewer people attending church services. But what else do we see, we see faithful members loving and serving their community, sharing God’s love with their friends and neighbours. Helping the poor, visiting the sick. Multiplying God’s blessings in and around us. 

We’ve been asking two questions at messy church, to a different team member each month. When did you first become aware of God? And what does God mean to you? 

If you look back at your own history, you can be encouraged by asking similar questions. When did you become a Christian, give your heart to the Lord, get saved, or whichever way you describe your coming to faith in God. Each story is unique and exciting. 

Each story contains multiplied blessings and some hard times. We should share our stories over coffee more often and encourage each other with the ways God has blessed us and carried us through the hard times.

And if you haven’t yet taken that step of putting your whole self into God’s hands and letting him direct your path of life, I’d encourage you to think about it. There’s no safer place to be than in the centre of God’s will.

As Jesus talking to Martha is quoted in Johns gospel ch11 v 25:

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Amen


Sermon 24 February

When I was first at Kilmartin I mentioned that it was just after the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity (18th – 25th Jan.), that is ‘unity’ rather than ‘uniformity’, and after recent events, I can’t help but reflect that others within these islands would have benefited from taking note of that week! For we seem to live at a time of dis-unity, wherever we look: left; right and centre, as it were.
So it is with some relief that I come here today, having reflected on the excitement and joy that shouts out from the passage in Genesis, when Joseph recognises his brothers (or half-brothers) but they don’t recognise him. This despite the treatment they gave him, which resulted in him ending up in Egypt. How would I react I wondered, especially as the last time I saw my twin brother via Skype (he’s in Singapore – no I didn’t sell him) it appeared that he had a halo around his head! The wonders of modern technology! I digress.
To return to matters much more significant, Joseph knew what it was to have faith in God and the peace (rather than resentment), that forgiveness brings. What followed shows the triumph of grace over judgment. Words of forgiveness and reconciliation come from Joseph’s lips. He calls them closer and adds to his opening words the word “brother”. He re-establishes the bond their betrayal had broken. Joseph’s story shows his profound understanding of God’s providence and how God used their wickedness for good. Although twice he says, “You sold me,” (v. 4, 5) three times he says, “God sent me ahead of you” (v. 5, 7, 8). Joseph doesn’t ignore their actions, he seeks to make sense of them, ascribing ultimate responsibility for the outcome to God, such is his faithfulness!
Their abandoned brother had become governor and he would ensure many, who otherwise would have died, would survive the famine. He has been sent “to save lives” (v. 5, 7). Instead of rejecting or punishing them he extends a hand to them and tells to bring his father down to Egypt to see out the famine years. Greeting Benjamin first, he embraced all his family and tears fell freely. Such is the wonder of forgiveness, of mercy and of grace. Healing and restoration comes, after all these years. The alternative? Thoughts of bitterness, greed and suffering come to mind.
The readings for last Sunday introduce those for today and when I was preaching with reference to the passage from Luke’s Gospel (6:17–26) I noted that it is no accident that part of the passage, termed the ‘Sermon on the Plain’ because of it’s similarity to the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ contained in the Gospel of Matthew, is followed by a passage headed ‘Love for Enemies’ (N.I.V.). Luke tells us earlier in the chapter that this was after a night of prayer.

Jesus is challenging those present to see themselves as God/He sees them and/or will see them when the time for judgement comes. Challenging them (and us), as the prophets did, to repent and put love/desire for those things that are material to our lives well behind a faith that brings hope through love. The blessings he refers to are not particularly difficult to appreciate but given the context of the time (under Roman occupation etc.) they were very challenging and necessitated a change in action/lifestyle for all who heard them. They are still challenging to all cultures, however described. Easy to say but difficult to do!
The call to love God, to love our neighbour and to love one another is added to with one final call, to love our enemies. To love those who are different from us, to love those who disagree with us, to love those who are difficult and demanding and delight to do us down is asking too much, surely! The Greek word written down is ‘agapan’ (Prof. Wm. Barclay) which he translates as an ‘active feeling of benevolence towards other people’. We are instructed to do good to our enemies and to be merciful to them. These are wilful; positive acts, not negative such as withholding punishment. The teaching is positive towards our fellow human; doing that little bit extra brings greater reward, long-term.
The very fact that we have those we might regard and describe as “enemies”, serves to illustrate how difficult an ask this is. I tend to think of ‘agapan’ as attempting to cure the cause that produces “enemies” rather than repairing the hatred that results from having such “enemies”.
Jesus is very practical and pragmatic in the examples he uses by way of application. Whatever we feel, our actions should do good to all. As the former Anglican Priest, the Rev. John Stott said: “Love is not a victim of our emotions but a servant of our will”. Our attitude should be one of blessing not cursing, of prayer not provocation. Instead of retaliation, vulnerability; where exploited be generous in response; let loans become gifts and follow the Golden Rule. This countercultural way of grace marks the Christian community out from others. Jesus makes the point by showing how the default position of the world is self- interest. We love because we are loved. We do good to those who return the favour. We lend where repayment is guaranteed. But go to a different gear, operate on a different level and you will show the world the Christian family to which you belong.
Think back to Joseph and how you might feel if you suffered a similar experience. Not exactly a friendly act when you’re sold like a commodity by your siblings. You might harbour a grudge; ponder how to achieve some form of revenge – physically and/or materially, all fairly negative emotions, but look at the joy and peace brought to all through the positive Faith Joseph has.

One of the great things about being a Reader for our church is that you get to meet lots of people who have that faith and although you might not be meeting anyone who’s done you harm, you do meet people whose paths you might have crossed many years ago. That gives me at least some small insight into Joseph’s excitement and pleasure at seeing his brothers after so many years.
By way of example, I asked myself (and my wife) who my “enemies” were or had been but (we) couldn’t come up with any. The closest I could get was some years ago when I found the going so tough in gainful employment and with some of those I worked with, that I gave up my work, literally knocked my house down and started life in a different direction, that took faith!
As I’ve already said it’s easy to say “love your enemies” but much more difficult to do. An enemy after all presents hostility in some form such as: physical violence; emotional bullying; perhaps even makes you suffer in financial terms or just refuses to alter their point of view to one that you find more favourable. Ultimately when you find difference of such a scale that you regard someone as your “enemy”, then it can’t be a surprise that the “enemy” regards you in the same way. It may be argued that showing love for your “enemies” is a weakness and allows your “enemy” to triumph but that approach to life is very negative in nature and demonstrates no Faith in the love of God.
As the Psalmist says, at the end of Psalm 37:
‘The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord: he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.’ (N.I.V.)
Douglas McHugh

Jenni’s talks 17 Feb

Marjorie and I were up here in Inverlussa in the Autumn on a fabulous sunny day. And out of this window, you can see Alistair’s apple tree. I‘ve seen it through all the seasons, bare branches, in blossom and in leaf, but this particular day, as the sun shone on the apples their red skins reflected the light, so that they almost glowed. I felt God say –that’s what my children are like when they bear fruit because they reflect my glory.

Quick question? Where is your Bible?

• Is it a)  In your hand or in front of you? Or perhaps you have a tablet or a phone these days.

b)You’re using a pew bible today

• C)You forgot it

• D)Its on the shelf at home in very good condition , hardly used ( as amazon says)

You can give yourself 10 marks for a, 5 marks for b, 2 for c , because at least you have one. 0 for d, it wont help you there.

Just before Christmas, I was going to the weekly Bible study, I had to catch an early bus, I was rushing around,tried to fit in a bit of shopping and arrived at a friends house quite flustered. It was then that I realised I didn’t have a Bible. Not much point going to a Bible study without a Bible. Thankfully, a friend had a spare one, it was shiny black leather with Gold Lettering, and inside some verses were highlighted in red. I really liked it. I was interested to see what translation it was so I had a quick swizz over the front page and read “ The Ultrayathon Bible”. Now I was a bit worried, I had never heard of the Ultrayathons, and wondered where on earth she had got it from. I thought I’d better ask her about it later. I drank my tea and had a biscuit and calmed down a bit, and thought about what I’d read. So I turned to the front page, at the bottom it said Christian Bible Society, so I thought it must be Ok ,then looked at the translation ,do you know what it said…. The ULTRA THIN Bible! I was glad I hadn’t said anything! Is that how the Bible gets you sometimes? You read things and it leaves you flummoxed? 

Last year I was studying a course in the Old Testament, my tutor had asked us to write an essay relating the escape from Egypt by the Israelites to the O.T. covenant. I remember having a total blank, I couldn’t get started at all I seemed to have brain freeze. I recently found the notes I wrote which said “ The plinkyplonks went with the Ninky nonk to see the whatingers with Iggle piggle and macca pacca.” Now if you have young children or grandchildren ,you will know what I’m talking about, because you’ve seen the program or read the books.

People often say to me, God doesn’t answer my prayers, I ask them if they read their Bible, and usually they say not often. Well a lot of the time God will speak to you through His word, but if your Bible is on the shelf you might be missing what He is saying. Most importantly the Bible tells us, who God is, what Jesus has done for us and that we have his guarantee of the Holy Spirit. The more we read ,  the more we understand about Jesus and grow to love him.  Rick Warren says “ If you are not in the book everyday, you are missing out on the banquet.”

The first Bible I had was the revised standard version, it had nice coloured photos of Bible lands ,It was the one we had at school and were encouraged to use at Bible College, I’ve had mine for 50 years and still use it although its stuck together with lots of tape. Stanley Hood says a Bible that is falling to pieces is well used. I tend to use an NIV and as language translation improves more accurate versions become available. Use whatever version you are comfortable with, but although the KJV may have beautiful language it may not help you understand the text. If I’m stuck on a passage, a quick read in The Message might give me the gist. Even if you are only reading a verse a day, and mulling it over as you work, you are being fed. Its amazing how God can speak to you through his word. Walking along Kilduskland road the other day in the rain with the dog, I was chatting to God about a worry, when stuck to the pavement was a card from someone’s bouquet of flowers . On it, it said, “ Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin…. How much more will he clothe you.” Luke 12. 22 It was exactly what I needed to hear.  As you will hear in our Old Testament reading in Psalm 1, A man or woman who delights in the law of the lord is like a tree planted by the water, bearing fruit at the right season bit like Alistair’s apple tree.

Who do you think you are? Do you watch that? People tracing their ancestry to find their roots. My family arrived on the shores of Cornwall in about the 11th Century from Scandinavia  to extract tin from the mines. They then returned to farming and moved to Dorset, which they did for a few 100 years. A young man called Wesley roamed the towns and villages of the West Country in the 1740’s and many came to faith as Methodism was born. Including my relatives. In 1878, my great grandfather, Henry Arthur James Vater was born, and was brought up on a farm, but being quite bright he became a Surveyor. He moved to Sussex and felt called by God to build a Methodist Chapel , he found a site in the village of Buxted and got to work, he worshipped there with his family until he died. I met my grandmother when I was about 4 years old and I like to think that she prayed for me and her prayers were answered when I gave my life to Jesus . If you are sitting in the pews here, you probably have your own story about how or when you found Jesus and how your journey following after Him is going.

 In our NT reading Paul says to the Colossians, who had been suffering a bit of opposition in their Christian  journey,

“You’re Deeply rooted in Christ,” When Christians look for their roots, this is where they should be. Those verses were my Baptismal Verses, when I was baptised by immersion 38 years ago. My pastor urged me to remain deeply rooted and built up in Jesus and this comes from  studying Gods word. Its not always easy , but whatever your situation, the Bible has something to say about it. 

Identity theft is rampant, people want to steal your bank account numbers, , your passport, your National Insurance number to name a few things. The devil is no different, he doesn’t want you to know that you belong to Gods family. He wants to steal your identity, confuse and diminish your faith.

He is not as powerful as God , he cannot create but he can distort, pervert and destroy.

He can affect other peoples opinions of you, he wants you to feel worthless, a failure, ugly, overweight and we are fed these feelings through media and culture.

We need to learn our true identity in Christ, this will build us up in Him, and help us put down roots. What does God word tell you and me? I’m going to take you on a quick tour.

.1Pet. 2 v9-10 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God….”

This is Gods view of you. You are royal!! You are Princes and Princesses. You belong to the Royal Family. God chose you, Prince David, Princess Libby.

Ephesians 1.4 For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Isn’t that exciting God chose us even before He created the world? He knew those Vikings would invade Cornwall and one day I would  be standing here.

Not only, that Jesus made us acceptable. Being a member of Gods Royal Family is not based on what you do but on what Jesus did Titus 3.7 From The message translation, “It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit.

So we are chosen, royal and clean.

We are Valuable!

Our lives are priceless.  Do you watch Antiques Roadshow. If a famous person has owned something and it has provenance, it is worth money. That persons’ name adds value. Well, we are owned by God, we are his treasured possessions Isaiah 43.4  you are precious and honoured in my sight…The Good News Bible puts it….I will give up whole nations to save your life, because you are precious to me and because I love you and give you honor.

On Tv we are often told how much pieces of art are sold for. Millions in some cases, but they are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them. Well we are the Kings sons and daughters and Jesus paid for us with his life. And because of that we have eternal life!

So if anyone tells you that you are worthless ,they are wrong, you are very valuable.

 We are lovable, You may be able to think of some Christians that you know who you would find difficult to describe as lovable. But if they belong to Christ they are eternally loved by our Father, as are we.  We are part of a huge family. Hebrews 2.11.  He purifies people from their sins, and both he and those who are made pure all have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his family.   We are brothers and sisters of Jesus.

God loves us with an everlasting love , no one else will ever love you like that. Its unfailing and unconditional. There are no Ifs, if you do this or that I will love you, not because you look good I love you. God says in spite of the fact you don’t always love me, I go on loving you. And that’s GRACE.

Even Christians that are committed to their faith have difficulty grasping Grace. When bad things happen they think that God is getting even. God does not carry grudges. We are totally forgiven Isaiah 43. 25 I, even I am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake and remembers your sins no more. God does not remember your sins, He doesn’t look on them. Jesus wiped them out. Forgive yourself. John 3 16. I hope I don’t have to tell you what that one says!

Why read the Bible? …because you need to know how God sees you. Read the verses ,stick them on the fridge, get your Bible off the shelf, if that’s where you left it. When we know these things, what do we do with that knowledge? We are disciples of Christ? Because Henry obeyed God and built a chaopel many came to know Jesus. We may not be called to do that but we are called to share the Good News. We want others to have what we have. What did Jesus do, he did practical things: He fed the poor, He healed the sick, he met the needs of people practically as well as spiritually.

First we have to provide the help, then others will see our faith and will be willing to listen to the Gospel.

I heard a young man from Paisley Bible College preach, the other day. He said we often pray for a revival, and he asked What if WE are that revival? He quoted from John 1 reading from The Message … “The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.” Jesus is God, he came to earth and lived as a man. When we follow him, he lives in us. We are His flesh and blood and we live in a neighbourhood. We are Jesus in the Post Office, Jesus on the bus, Jesus in the local shop. We are the first part of the Bible that many people will read. We need to be the skins of Alistair’s’ apples radiating Christ.

The only opinion about who we are that matters is Gods. Be deeply rooted in Him and be built up in him by reading his word.  Who do you think you are?  You are God’s.

Sermon 10 February

Today we joined with our linked parish of Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford as they dedicated their new premises to the glory of God.
Rev. Roderick Campbell, moderator of Argyll Presbytery led the worship.

1st Corinthians 2 : 9, 10
However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

Scripture speaks of ‘things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining, all prepared by God for those who love him. And these are what God reveals to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit explores everything, even the depths of God’s own nature.’

This morning is one of wonder and excitement. Away from the sadness of falling numbers and decaying buildings we are privileged to be gathered as one community, in this new building, with a bright and positive future beckoning us, inviting us to walk with faith and hope into it.

In years gone by, I was the last convenor of the Church’s National Church Extension Committee. We had the responsibility of providing new places of worship for the communities of Christ in different parishes around Scotland. That was exciting, however the narrative has changed and today we are busy closing churches. No need to go into the demographics, or the changing social patterns, no need to dwell on forces which would counter our faith, rather to embrace what we have, and with the Spirit of Christ leading us forward to embrace the challenges facing us.

The challenges are of change. Like it or not, the immediate future will not be as the past. The future has to be created, new ways of understanding, of expressing; new patterns of worship, new ways of service, all perhaps hidden from us presently, but to be discovered. That is your privilege and responsibility. You as the congregation here have to explore, discover, embrace the change the future demands, and as you do your faith and hope will be richly rewarded.

Let me use Paul’s words to give you a lamp unto your feet, a light in the darkness of the unknown. First of all the confidence in our calling,’the Spirit explores everything, even the depths of God’s own nature.’ There are many who feel secure in the faith of the past, suggesting that what was good enough for our forefathers will be good enough for us. Not so says Paul, this Creator is continually at work, changing, evolving, giving new life. We are given the responsibility of exploring, debating, challenging, discovering the pathway along which the Spirit wishes to lead God’s people. The leading of the Spirit will be as faithful as in the past but the journey will be very different.

If the Spirit is to be effective in our lives and in the life of our congregation, what does it expect from us. It expects us to use our God given gifts. Scripture speaks of ‘things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining, all prepared by God for those who love him. You know you are loved by that which is greater than yourself, you are loved with a love which cannot be broken and from which you cannot be separated. That is the glory of God given to us in Jesus Christ.

With that embracing of eternal love we are invited to use our senses. Our seeing, our hearing and our imagination; for the Spirit which loves us has given these gifts, that used sensitively will lead us to pastures new, and in which we will find the fullness of the Creator.

We have first of all to see the love of God in each other. Turn and look at each other with reverence and in silence, remembering that as God was in Jesus, so that same Spirit is in each of us. More than this, that same Spirit is in everyone and everything to which the gift of life has been given. So respect for those outwith the community of Christ, respect for the whole created order coupled with wonder and amazement as the scientist teaches us of the wonders and mysteries of space and time, all these reveal something of the nature of God.

Sight is but one sense, hearing is another and to that we now turn. It was hearing that introduced the Creativity of God in the book of Genesis. The Creator called the creatures into being. Across the centuries that same Creator has called men and women, young and old to explore the mysteries of life. In Jesus Christ we have been called to celebrate and explore the gift of love. For it is by love alone we as individuals and we as Christ’s community can realise our potential and be the gift of love to the world, envisaged on the cross. We learn to listen and in so doing we learn to hear the sound, the sense the rhythm of the many voices of the Creator.
Professor John MacIntyre in his book, ‘On the Love of God’ has a very powerful chapter on the imagination. The ability to think outside the box, the facility to envision how things might be, to see possibilities where others see problems, to grasp opportunities while others remain afraid, to reach out in the faith of Christ, while others remain rooted within the limits of humanism. I cannot tell you what to imagine or how to imagine it, but I can suggest that together you use your considerable talents and let the Spirit lead you.

Today we dedicate this Holy Place, place of worship and of service, a place where all should be welcome, a place from which we venture forth into the complexity of today’s world and there together find the God who calls us. But do not be surprised when you find that Spirit in the most unspiritual places, for that is where Jesus was found and where his church needs to be. This is for you and for the Presbytery of Argyll, the beginning of a journey of faith. Not for the first time does the spirituality of the Creator and the Son begin a journey in Argyll.