Ruth and Naomi 4 November 2018

The books of the Old Testament can be quite daunting reading – stories of hardship and exile, of mistreatment, abuse and deceit – of rebellion and warfare.   And in amongst it all, the thread of God, weaving a pattern of love, of concern, of right and wrong, of forgiveness and justice.

The books of the Old Testament paint a broad picture of God’s interaction with His people on an epic scale at times.   Exhausting reading – exciting and challenging, but also quite frantic at times.   

So when we come to the book of Ruth, we can actually draw breath, relax and sit and enjoy a quiet story of a family.   No references to bloodshed, to Kings fighting for power, to people rebelling and suffering.   This is a peaceful story of the recovery of dignity, of loving relationships, and of care for others.

It gives us an insight into a family who care for one another, who want to do what is right, and who seek to follow God.

The passage we read is the beginning of the story, so please go on and read the rest.

It starts with a Jewish family, from Bethlehem, who decide to leave their home and go as refugees, during a famine, to another country to find a better life.   Elimalek, his wife Naomi and two sons.   They must have got on alright as they stayed and settled there.

 – and then the husband died leaving Naomi a widow with two sons.   But they grow older and the sons marry local girls.   All seems well until, after ten years, both the sons die leaving three widows to fend for themselves – Naomi, and now Ruth and Orpah.   

So – what do widows do!     Widows in that society depend on their family for support.   Naomi has no family in Moab to look after her so she decides she must return to her homeland, to Bethlehem, where she will find a place of support and care.   

 She tells her two daughters in law – you go back to your families locally and find new husbands from your own people – and you can start a family with them – live a new life.   

Now this is where the story gets interesting.

Both of the daughters cling to her and weep – and say no we won’t leave you – we will go with you.

Why would they do that?  Naomi is a foreigner, they have family close by, this is their culture – here is an opportunity to start a new life with a new husband and possibly have children.    Why stay with their old mother in law?  

Naomi must have been an attractive person.   After the second time of cajoling them to leave her, one daughter accepts the advice and leaves to go to her family – but Ruth stays on.  Why?

Listen to what Ruth says:

“Where you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay.   Your people will be my people, and your God, my God.”

Ruth was a Moabite, they did not worship the God of Naomi, the God of Abraham – they did not follow the Jewish God Yahweh, they worshipped a god called Chemosh, the national deity of the Moabites whose name most likely meant “destroyer,” “subduer,” or “fish god.” .  doesn’t sound very attractive does it? 

But Naomi must have maintained her allegiance to Yahweh – Ruth recognised in Naomi a person who followed a different God – and that she is now saying she is ready to follow also.   Something in Naomi’s lifestyle, her character, her relationship with others convinced Ruth to make the decision – “I don’t want to leave this lady, I want to stay with her, be her friend and companion and “follow her God”.   There is something about her and her God that makes me want to follow her, learn from her and go with her back to her family – that is the life I want to lead – so I will stay with her. 

  As we reflect on Naomi – what was she like – do you think she was caring, how did she treat others, did she look after her family, how do you think she responded to strangers and foreigners – was she wise in her advice to others – what was her first concerns for her daughters in law – did she think of herself?

She lived a life which influenced others – she lived a life which Ruth wanted to follow – and what was Ruth’s ambition – to go with her, to stay with her – but above all – to accept her God as her own.

How do people view us, how do those around us view our lifestyles, our characters, the way we treat others?      Do others look at us and say – “that is a person I want to follow, to get to know – and why are they like that?” – do others look at us and say  “I want your God to be my God?”

That is the difficult challenge of being Christian – “How do others view us?” – and do we live in a way which causes others to say – I want to know more, I want to know about their God, I want to find out about their faith?   Not through singing hymns, not through listening to sermons, not through clever arguments – but by watching our lives and deciding – Yes I want to know them. – and their God.

That is the challenge we have as we commit ourselves to follow Jesus.     But the wonderful news is that Jesus doesn’t leave us alone to try to live in a way which is attractive to others – 

John records Jesus as saying:

…I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper,, that He may abide with you forever – The Spirit of Truth, …., whom you know for He dwells with you and will be in you.”

Jesus promises us the Holy spirit to help us in our Christian lives – and what does that mean – it means we are not alone, we have help.

In the letter to Galations  – Paul reminds us that the fruit of the Spirit – the result for us of accepting His help – is a life signified by:

Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

I am sure Naomi had a lot of those attributes – and we think of ourselves, do we have the humility to ask the Holy Spirit to grow this fruit, these attributes in our lives – and 

 – may we remember Naomi, and her influence on Ruth and consider – who are we influencing with our lives, and who will follow us as Ruth followed Naomi?  

Kirk Session Notes 12 October 2018

Gift for Mr and Mrs Cameron:

Mrs Logue reported that a gift of a Hamper of various foods had been bought from Fortnum and Mason, to which had been added a variety of food items bought locally.

The Session viewed this as a very suitable gift to Mr and Mrs Cameron and commended the congregation on their generosity which is a reflection on the high esteem in which Mr and Mrs Cameron are held.

Audio visual equipment:

Mr Logue reported on research which he had carried out on this matter and also advice received from Mr John Turner, CARTA adviser on Audio Visual installations.    Following discussion it was agreed that Mr Logue would circulate a note on this matter to the Session and this would be given further consideration at the next meeting.

The moderator also suggested that members should take the opportunity to study installations in other churches which they visit. 

Storage:

Mr Logue reported on two estimates he had received for the installation of a storage shed for both “Messy Church” and similar items , and for garden equipment.     He noted that he awaited a response from a third supplier.   During discussion it was noted that this shed would be sited on the area designated for the proposed extension to the church at Tayvallich.   It was decided that further consideration on the purchase of a shed for storage would await clarification on the likely timetable for this proposed extension.

Development of Tayvallich Church

Mr Logue reported that an initial plan and specification had been sent to the presbytery Property Convenor, Rev Lindsay Schluter, and a response was awaited on whether this development would be supported by Presbytery.

Service for Public Profession of Faith.

Rev. c. Acklam confirmed that he had met with Nick and Courtney Smith and that following discussion with them he was pleased to propose their admission to the Lord’s Supper.    A service for the Public Profession of Faith, Confirmation and Admission to the Lord’s Supper will take place on the 14th October 2018, at Tayvallich Church, to welcome them into fellowship.

“Shoebox” Service

The Service to gather in Shoeboxes under the Blytheswood Shoebox appeal 2018, and to pray for their distribution and use will take place on November the 4th 2018 at Tayvallich Church and the Shoeboxes will be delivered to the collection point on the 8th November. 

Messy church.

Mrs Logue reported that Messy Church had recommenced for the new session.   She thanked all who are involved in this and is pleased that Mrs Smith has taken on a lead role. 

On a related matter the Rev. C. Acklam reported that the Tayvallich Primary School were looking for a continuation of visits from a representative of the church after Rev. Cliff Acklam has left the parish.

Alpha

Mr Logue reported that the recent Alpha Taster sessions had been well received by the group visiting the Parish from Kasamba congregation.   Following the event one local person had expressed interest in attending an Alpha series.   It had been decided to relaunch a series at the beginning of the new year 2019.

The “Alpha next” continues to meet weekly and covers a variety of topics relating to Christian Faith.

Rev. C. Acklam reported that he had attended a recent meeting of Alpha Next which had been led by a couple from Edinburgh churches, both ministers, who were visiting Mr and Mrs Logue, and he had found their discussion on the challenge and invitation of Jesus, very thought provoking.   He proposed that they be invited at their next visit to provide a training session for the congregation. 

Minister’s report:

Rev. C. Acklam reported that he had asked primary schools in the parish to design a Christmas card, as in previous years, for the congregation to distribute at Christmas to the local communities with Christmas message and information on Church activities at Christmas.

He circulated the paintings submitted by Tayvallich school pupils and following discussion one painting was chosen for the card design with one other as a back up.

The Session Clerk ( Mr Logue) was asked to progress this.

Rev. C. Acklam confirmed that his Visa to take up work in the United States had now been issued and he would be leaving this parish to take up his new post in New York State on the 15th October 2018.

His final service in the parish would therefore be on the 14th October 2018. 

Presbytery report:

Mrs Kelly reported on the Presbytery conference and particularly drew attention to the presentations on Palliative Care and Hospice Ministry.    The Session Clerk was asked to circulate these.

Other items considered at presbytery were Hub Ministry, Training for the future with particular reference to Online training, the use of “Godly Play” in young people’s ministry and schools, and encouragement for congregations to become involved in leading worship in their parishes and undertake training in this.

Treasurer and Finance Committee  

Mrs Logue circulated a note on the financial position 9 months into the financial year.   She reported that the Gift Aid secretary had issued letters with Gift Aid statements for the year to April 2018, and had made the appropriate claim to HM Customs and Excise for payment for the Gift Aid made to 

Training

Mr Logue Provided information on a Training Event – “Equipping for the Future” on various aspects of Building maintenance and projects.  

It was agreed this may be a useful event for those involved in the Tayvallich church development to attend.

Correspondence:

Inverlussa Church Building.

The Session Clerk informed the meeting that an e-mail, with three points, from Anne Steele, Solicitor with the Church of Scotland Law department had been received on the 11th October 2018.

First, the e-mail informed the session that a letter had been received from the landowner to the North West of the Church that he was not willing to grant a wayleave for drainage or septic tank across his property.

Second, the General Trustees had chosen not to follow our request that the Church be sold without wayleaves agreed.

Third, that the law department would follow up with the other landowner adjacent to the church, and with the Argyll and Bute Council concerning wayleaves for services.

Fourth, she asks if there are any other local landowners who might be approached for site of a septic tank.

The Session Clerk was asked to write to Ms Steele expressing disappointment at the General Trustees’ decision.

On line Training

Notification had been received from Argyll Presbytery Ministry Committee on an event in Inveraray on the 20th October to promote “On Line” training on being an Interim Moderator.    

Cross reach.

Materials from Crossreach had been received promoting the sale of Christmas Cards and calendars, and publicising the roles and activities of Crossreach.   Mrs Norma Kelly agreed to promote this material in the Parish.

David’s sermon from 28 October 2018

Do you ever have doubts, uncertainties about your faith in Jesus Christ. Do you ever think, this is a bit farfetched, doesn’t fit in with today’s rational and scientific approach to life and belief?
Maybe that experience I had of God’s presence was my imagination, or this Jesus chap sounds very good but, “Son of God? – isn’t that taking things a bit far?
I think that it is safe to say that everyone who has faith in Jesus, everyone who chooses to base their life on belief that He is God, has times of doubt, of uncertainty, and many of us have a faith which we find difficult to express, or to explain to others. We are not alone in this. I am sure every Christian has this experience now and again.
Our New Testament reading today is from the letter to the Hebrews, it is quite unlike any of the other letters in the New Testament, and no-one is quite sure who wrote it, but it was written at the same time as many of Paul’s letters and was probably written by one of Paul’s disciples – possibly Barnabus or Apollos. What is important about the letter is the recipients – not the author.
It was written to Hebrews – not Gentiles, to Jews, not Greeks or Romans. And it is generally agreed that it was written to encourage Jews, who had turned to faith in Jesus, Jews who had become Christians – but who were having some doubts so it was written to strengthen their faith and to encourage them in their following Jesus.
The author therefore develops the basis for faith in Jesus out of the culture of the Jews, he takes what Jews will understand, what is in their culture – he takes the message and the content of the Old Testament – the Jewish scriptures and applies them to what Jesus says and did. To his teaching, to his life, and to his resurrection.
This is early culturalisation – we talk today of making the Gospel relevant to the culture of today – so that today’s generation, today’s western culture, can understand and identify with it. Well – this is an example of  culturalisation from the first century AD.
If we are not able to present our faith, our Good News of Jesus, our belief in Him as “Son of God” in a way that the society around us can identify with and therefore understand, we might as well be talking in Greek, or Hebrew. That is why new translations of the Bible in more up to date language, and new forms of worship, or new ways of being a Church are normal and essential developments.
What is it that this letter is saying to the Hebrews in a way they can understand?
In the book of Genesis, there is a brief reference to a Priest called Melchizadek, and he is also referenced in Psalm 110. Now Jewish priests all came from the tribe of Levi, descendants of Aaron, who was with Moses. Melchizadek, however, predates them and he appears without any lineage, without a history, more importantly, there is no record of him dying, there is no recorded end to his life.
In Psalm 110 he is referred to as a sort of “type” for the Messiah, a sort of model for what the Messiah would be like – and that is what the writer of the Hebrews uses to connect with the Jews he is writing to.
He takes this image of a Priest who does not die – to connect in to Jesus.
To the Jews, a priest was appointed to go between God and them, they presented sacrifices to be able to come near to God, they were able, after the sacrifices were properly made, to enter into the inner temple to meet God. In the inner temple they could make intercession for all the people, they could pray on their behalf to God. The priest is their conduit to God.
So – the message to the Hebrews is – “remember Melchizadek, who did not have recorded death – well, remember Jesus who died, but then rose again, so he has no death either. Look – in Jesus we have the realisation of an eternal priest – just like Melchizadek – but better.
Since Jesus is always alive – He can always intercede for us – isn’t that a wonderful picture – Jesus praying for us to His Father
Not only that – priests all need to make sacrifices to be able to come to God – but Jesus, he has given himself as the ultimate, complete sacrifice – so he need offer no more. His sacrifice once and for all – no need for more.
Priests need a temple, a building to go into to meet God – but Jesus has ascended to heaven where He can stand eternally before His Father, before God, in intercession for all – for the Hebrews, for the Gentiles, for us here, and for people from everywhere. That image comes out of the roots of Israel and is as vital today as it was to the first Jewish converts to Christ.
Jesus Christ is – listen to this description from verse 26 –
A High priest who is Holy – worthy of worship, undefiled by rebellion, selfishness, sin
A high priest – who is blameless – has done no wrong, is pure and innocent of all charges, nothing at all for which he could be condemned – nothing.
A high Priest – set apart from sinners yet interceding, praying for us – for you and me – constantly
A high Priest – exalted above the heavens, with His Father, reigning forever, living in eternity, Son of God.
This is your Saviour – he says this to the Hebrews – this is your Saviour – he says to us here – hold on to Jesus in His eternity, hold on to Jesus as your everlasting priest – hold on to Jesus as Son of God.
Remember the resurrection – you thought Melchizadek was something – well look to Jesus because he really is something – he is the real thing, the reality of God amongst us, the everlasting intercessor for us in our lives.
He is the Messiah, the Saviour and the Lord.
And he cares for us – to intercede for us – to pray for us – to follow Him.

Amen

Davids sermon 21 October 2018

Two readings today – from Job and Mark – and two answers:

From Job –  God answers from the whirlwind:

Who are you to question me! 

Job has been railing against God right through the book – Why have you done this – Why are you punishing me, why is this happening?

Job is sure this is not his fault, he has not done anything wrong – why God did you allow this to happen?  He has lost everything – his wealth, his family, his health, his friends: – Why God?

And God answers from the whirlwind – “Who are you to question me?  Who are you who speaks without knowledge,”

Look at all I have done and can do – 

Did you create the earth did you measure the foundations, did you set the stars or put the sea in its place? – on and on He goes listing all He has done which Job could not do. – the whole chapter lists God’s control of creation.

And Job is humbled, he changes from anger and arrogance to humility and acceptance that above all – God is Good.

Above all:  God is sovereign – we cannot understand his working by our rational thinking alone

  God’s will towards us is good – He cares and communicates that care to us – that is a sound foundation for our faith.

When things wrong, we can either harangue God and make us His adversary – or we can ask Him to be our helper, our advocate, bow in humility, and wait for Him to reveal himself and His plans for us.

And in Mark,  – God, Jesus – answers out of humility – out of servant hood.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

The two disciples ask Jesus to give them places of authority over others – and the answer is:

Do you know what you are asking, can you take on that position of hurting of subservience, of punishment and death that I will go through?

  • So be it you shall – but listen to this – come round all you and listen – :
  • Rulers Lord it over others and exert authority over people – 
  • But not so for you!
  • That is not may way
  • That is not our way

If you want to be great in my way – you must serve

If you want to be first, you have to put yourself last

Jesus response to James and John is a question – “What do you want me to do for you?” – the question of a servant.   Later on in the chapter He asks the same question of  a blind man – 

“What do you want me to do for you?”

And as we start this period of uncertainty before us, as we come to terms with what we all have to do during this vacancy, let’s hold on to these two answers:

God to Job:  “ Who are you to question my ways?” but be assured, God is Good.

Jesus to James and John: “What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus comes to us as a servant and offers us Himself.

Can we also take that mantle of servant hood and ask others:  “What do you want me to do for you?”

But also, can we in our prayers to Jesus – can we ask him from our hearts, from our uncertainties, from our anxieties – think about this – Jesus invites our requests:
“Jesus – this is what I will ask you do for me?   To do for our church, and to do for our community”

May this time be a time of blessing for us all.   Amen  

Looking forward to our vacancy…

David’s address on 21st October 2018

David read the story of Fergie the Frog scout.

I decided to read this story, to some extent out of nostalgia, because it reminds me of 15 years ago or so when we were also in vacancy – when we had a locum minister from Canada, who introduced us to the stories of Fergie the frog.    And during that time we grew together as a church.

This is our first Sunday without a minister – but we have been here before, and we know our strengths and abilities.

Hilda Smith will be our guide through this, but she has her own church to run and will not be able to give us the same attention that a full time minister can.   She will not be able to take many services here.   So we will have different people leading services, but even then, there are not so many people available as there were 8 years ago.   I have a list of 9 possible people to come but that includes those from Dunoon, Campbeltown and Islay.   And there are many other vacant parishes to be covered.   

So, to continue Sunday worship – here and in GKF we will need at times to use our own resources.

Cliff had started some meetings with people from the congregations to plan and take part in services – I think we need to develop these, in conjunction with GKF.     I will take as many services as I can and with GKF will set out a programme of those readers, etc who can come to us.   But there will be gaps which we will have to fill ourselves.    I will also be asking Hilda about trying to find a locum.

Also, this is likely to be a long vacancy because first of all Presbytery need to decide how best to manage the vacancies we have and the structure of the parishes, and then, if and when we can call a minister – there are not many around.   

However, overall, experience from this congregation is that we respond well to being in a vacancy and we can work to grow together to be a lively community of worship and of outreach to our friends and neighbours.     

I would ask that we all take time daily to pray that this time of vacancy will be a time when we experience clear guidance from God, that we each one see our faith in Jesus grow, and that we know the presence of Jesus more and more in our daily lives.

New members admitted

Our harvest celebration today was Cliff’s last service with us before his departure to the United States. We shared lunch as a congregation to wish him well. Some of our linked congregation friends joined us from Glassary Kilmartin and Ford parish.
We also had the privilege today of welcoming two new members by profession of faith. Nick Smith and Courtney Howlett came to us to explore Christianity a year ago. They were excited to join the Alpha which was held in Achnamara Hall. Their new found faith in Jesus has led them to become active in our congregation where they are involved in Messy Church and Alpha Next.

Farewell from the minister

Cliff at Cafe Connect
Cliff saying goodbye to the Cafe customers

It is with mixed feelings that I bid you all a fond farewell now that my visa to work in the USA has finally come through.  Thank you for all your kindness to me over these eight years when I have had the privilege to be your minister.  My new congregation, the United Presbyterian Church of Middletown have also been very patient waiting for over ten months for my arrival.  So, this year they will enjoy an extra special Thanksgiving in November.

Just as their autumn weather has begun to kick in, their cooler temperatures have dipped below ours in time to make me feel at home.  Thank you for inviting me into your homes and be assured that you will be welcome in mine if you decide to come over for a visit.

Kind regards

Cliff.