I’m finding myself in a few conversations about the way this time is changing our perceptions on life, the ways in which it may shift the way we live. Is it an opportunity to live differently? Some see it as an opportunity to reverse the climate catastrophe, or to re-focus how we work as churches or a moment when we shift work patterns or a time when we get our life/work balance into harmony. There are some of those (and other) things that I warm to. Yet I also hear people desperate to get back to how everything was before and treat this time as a little blip in history.
The lesson of history, is that for those living through this period, it will be hard to force the changes that we want. It may well be that as historians look back they will see the shifts in lifestyle, the opportunities grasped and the impact upon the years to come. I was reminded of the major shifts that came from the Black Plague in the 14th Century, for those who survived it created prosperity as the value of labour increased and much of Europe moved from serf based societies to ones based on the free movement of labour. At the time, I doubt anyone was rubbing their hands in glee at the economic opportunities before them – they were mourning those they had lost whilst grasping the opportunity to live. Closer in time, I’m reminded by the programme It’s a Sin that the Aids epidemic brought the lives of LGBTQ+ community into sharper focus for many of us. As some people fought for life they also created an LGBTQ+ civil rights movement that has vastly changed the landscape for the community. It’s still not perfect and many face discrimination and misunderstanding, but it is vastly different from the world many of us remember. I’ve no doubt that this epidemic will bring some major cultural shifts, but I’m not sure that we are in a position to anticipate them all. What we can do is to look out for one another, hold one another in prayer and be ready to respond in whatever way God calls us as we emerge into the future.
be blessed, Craig
This is the poem I wrote on the approach to Easter 2017. Shortly after writing it there were a number of terrorist attacks – Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge. I thought the poem might be about those times. But re-reading it, I wonder if it can also speak to this moment.
In the silent garden,
we stood with graves laid out
as if disbelief could turn back time.
Sometimes, silence is all we have to express ourselves;
awed, astonished, ashamed, ashen,
silent as the grave.
In the hushed corner plot,
woeful folk quietly plant raised beds
as if peace could descend with new blooms.
Sometimes, silence sings collusion’s victory dance;
soft, scented, scared, scarred,
hushed with inaction.
In the secret terrace,
weans play a raucous hide ’n seek
as if solemn tongues could break into laughter.
Sometimes silence is the comma, as life explodes –
caught, caressed, carried, carved,
gleeful Easter’s fête.
In festival garden,
world-weary ones feast on merriment,
as if lament will be heard no more.
Sometimes, silence proclaims extravagant garlands,
plaited, pretty, presented, pricey
fanfare of rebirth.
Craig Muir 20 March 2017
Worship for 31st January 2021
Prepared by Margaret Marshall
Call to Worship
We’re waiting! Actively waiting for the Lord!
Our strength renewed, no longer weary and faint!
For our God does not faint or grow weary,
but gives power and strength to those who wait.
Beyond the Zoom, the quarantine, the COVID, the cold, we’re gathered to lift our eyes to the everlasting God, Creator of the ends of the earth!
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who has taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes,
The Saviour promised long;
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.
He comes the prisoners to release,
In Satan’s bondage held;
The gates of brass before Him burst,
The iron fetters yield.
He comes from ignorance and doubt
To clear the inward sight,
And on the darkness of the blind
To pour celestial light.
He comes the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure,
And with the treasures of His grace
To enrich the humble poor.
Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim;
And heaven’s eternal arches ring
With thy belovèd name.
Philip Doddridge (1702-51)
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Confession
Lord God, high in the heavens, yet kneeling at our feet,
let us pray quietly, let us listen attentively, let our words praise you,
let our actions praise you.
Living, loving eternal God, as we draw near to you, may we find that you are already on your way to meet us. Come with healing light to open up and reveal to us not only who you are, but what your love might be.
Our eyes feast on the beauty of the sky and the scenery around us. Words are not enough to express our heartfelt wonder of the beauty of creation. However, thankfully, you know our hearts and our motives. We do not always understand your motives, Lord, but then you are God and who are we to question you when you see the bigger picture?
We thank you, that we can come to you in order to recharge our batteries. And that we can come alongside others in your strength and serve our community.
People everywhere and everyday are seeking you, Lord. Following you, hunting for your presence, wanting your attention. Yet not once do you complain.
We are sorry, Lord, that the weight of life’s demands causes us to stumble, to lose our temper and at times buckle under the pressure. Help us to be more like you. We admit that we do not always get our priorities right. Help us to know the importance of spending time with and drawing refreshment from the Father.
We are sorry for allowing other people and things to take over and squeeze out our time with you. We ask Lord, because of your love, healing us and setting us free, we are forgiven.
We ask this prayer through the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Bible Reading: MARK CHAPTER 1 VERSES 29-39
When politicians or chief executives commence a new role, they often set out a list of priorities for their first 100 days, this is giving them a sense of the direction of their thinking. Then, we may critically evaluate their achievements against their stated hopes and goals. I must admit that I during the recent years have a list of the tasks in priority order that I have to undertake.
As we read through this first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we observe that he wastes no time telling his story, and his urgency comes through, even when we try to divide his Gospel into neat little passages, that we can consider one by one. Mark very often uses the word ’immediately’
Here is what Jesus has done so far -he called four fishermen to follow him, and they left their boats and nets immediately; Jesus with those four men went to Capernaum, where the four men had lived; on the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach with authority. A demon possessed man challenged him, and named him as the Holy One of God – in other words, the Messiah – but Jesus told the unclean spirit to be silent and leave the man. It obeyed immediately.
We have read today that they left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. However, as they entered the house, they found Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus was immediately told. He did not say a word but puts out his hand and takes the hand of the woman, immediately the fever went and Jesus lifts the woman up.
As soon as the Sabbath draws to a close, a stream of people makes its way to Simon’s door, asking for healing, asking Jesus to do for them what they had seen him do for the man in the synagogue.
However, Jesus feels that he wants some quiet time for prayer and he goes off alone. He goes to some deserted location, reminding us of his time in the desert at the commencing of his ministry, when he was preparing to refuse Satan’s temptation.
Even Jesus struggled to find his purpose at the beginning of his ministry, but he knew how to discover it. He prayed. He set time aside to be alone with his Father in the darkness, to seek God’s will.
Jesus never went out looking for people to be healed. That was never the priority part of his mission. People came to him, seeking his healing touch, asking for his help, and he had compassion on them. Some of them did believe. Some did repent and follow Jesus, and their lives were transformed for ever. These were the ones who, like Simon’s mother-in-law, responded with gratitude.
However, Jesus had to choose between becoming the local healer and reaching to as many people as possible with the good news of God’s love for them. Jesus led the disciples into the unknown territory of introducing others to the Kingdom of God.
The disciples quickly learnt that they could not be true followers of Jesus by staying in their own homes and communities. They had to get up and join with others in the work of the Kingdom.
We are the only ones who can show people what it means to be transformed into Christ’s image through the daily disciplines of quiet times for prayer, service and sacrifice.
We are the only ones who can show people what it really means to be followers of Jesus Christ. We are the only ones who can love them as Christ loves us.
Jesus had no stated list of priorities, aims and objectives. People could see from his actions what he wanted to achieve. What do our words and actions, say to people about us being followers of Jesus Christ? Do we make it a priority to show others about God’s love for them? Amen.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!
With that deep hush subduing all
our words and works that drown
the tender whisper of thy call
as noiseless let thy blessings fall
as fell thy manna down
Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!
J G Whittier (1807-92)
Prayers for other people and the world
Creating God, we pray that the world may be led into new ways of seeing and perceiving human life; we ask that humankind may not gaze in awe at the trappings of wealth and power, but look in compassion at the suffering of the poor, the refugees and the powerless.
We pray for people who have to leave and possibly lose their homes through war or natural disasters: for those who struggle to survive and no longer know where they belong or where they are going. We pray for the people in this country who are homeless, we give thanks to the Foodbanks as food is provided for meals for many families.
Father, we pray for those who suffer turmoil of mind or spirit, those in physical or mental pain and the bereaved, we think of those known to us.
We ask for your healing on those suffering from COVID, that they might be open to receive your healing, peace and comfort. We pray that all may be aware of your arms always surrounding them.
We ask that you will give strength to all those in the Medical profession at this time and we give thanks for the vaccine that will help in this time of challenge.
Re-creating God, we pray that your church may be given new ways of living, in discipleship to Christ. We pray that we may walk boldly with the Lord of Life along the way of self-giving love. We ask that we will leave behind the old ways and follow you along new paths.
Help us to make the priority of finding a quiet time for prayer with our Father. Give us unity of heart as we pray, that we may pray as one with you and one with each other and one within ourselves. Let your Holy Spirit cover us and bind us and draw us close together, that we may be whole within our minds. Save us from caring about small things that do not matter in the light of your eternity and helps us to pray for things of everlasting consequence.
We bring to you these prayers along with all the unspoken thoughts and prayers from our hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Brother, Sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.
I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.
When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together
of Christ’s love and agony.
Richard Gillard (1953- )
Lord Jesus, go with us into the world this week. Help us to remain focused upon you and to make your priorities our priorities in all the places you are send us.
And the blessing of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, remain with us today and forever. Amen.