Monday, 18 September 2017

Contacts, information, events to 27 Sept

Due to annual leave, the minister will be unavailable from: 
Mon 18 Sept to 1pm Wed 27 Sept  

Rev. George Shand
Funeral cover:
will be provided by the Rev George Shand 
who can be contacted on 01899 309400.

For any ongoing parish queries, please contact our Session Clerk: 
Ms Heather Watt on 01899 850211

News, events, and general notices:

SUN 24 Sept
10:30am: Morning worship
will be conducted by the Rev. Sandy Strachan

who makes a welcome return visit while the minister is away on leave.
and, at 6:30pm: Evening worship will be a Songs of Praise service
with music provided by some of our friends from Leadhills Silver Band. 
This will be held in Leadhills Village Hall. All welcome

Wed 27 Sept, 7pm: Local Church Review Task Group meets in the Church Hall.
*about every five years, each parish in Scotland undergoes a process called the Local Church Review –
back in the old days, this used to be known as the Quinquennial.
Our turn has come up and over the next couple of months, 
a team from presbytery will be meeting with a team from Upper Clyde,
helping us look at where we are and what we’re currently doing;
and then, helping us as we look ahead, and see where we might go,
and what we might do over the next several years.
Think of it as the equivalent of an MOT for the parish.
Our team, I think, covers a good cross-range of views here and
I just want to thank them publicly for giving up time to be involved in the process, so, thanks to:
Keith Black
Lynn Cochrane 
Judith Gilbert
Jenny Worthington
and Dee Yates.
These are your ‘go-to’ people.  If you have any thoughts on things you’d like to see
happen here at Upper Clyde do feel free to catch up with any of the team -
they’ll feed your comments back into our team meetings.
It should be a good learning curve, I suspect we may even surprise ourselves,
so, let's enjoy the ride together. I look forward to seeing where our collective
thoughts and prayers will lead us.

SESSION PLEASE NOTE: Change of date for Kirk Session meeting
due to a recent scheduling of a Presbytery event, Session will now meet in the Church Hall on Thurs 5 October, and not 28 Sept, as previously announced. 

Sun 1 Oct, 9am - 9.45: TIME FOR PRAYER: 
Our new prayer group meets on the first Sunday of the month. 
The church will be open from 9am, with time for prayer/quiet meditation 
between 9-9.45. This is open to anyone to come along. 
Should you have any particular people or situations that you would like prayer for, there will be a small box with notelets in the vestibule: 
please make use of this, and note down who/ what you would like prayer for. 
All prayer requests in the box will be prayed for during this time. 
To preserve people’s privacy, unless you’ve checked first, please just use an initial, 
and keep the request relatively general: 
in faith, we trust that as we pray for the person and situation, 
that God knows all the details…so an example might look like: ‘please pray for S, who will be having an operation later this month’. 
See you there.

Sun 8 Oct, 10:30am: Annual Harvest Service, followed by simple soup lunch in the Church Hall. Come and join us, as we give thanks for the Harvest, and support the work of Farm Africa. You'll also have the opportunity to enjoy the great artwork created by our five primary schools - each school is currently involved in creating a Harvest banner.

BY Sun 22 Oct - 
Advent/Christmas Newsletter - deadline for articles, poems, etc.: 
it's that time of year again, and our newsletter editor, Dee, is on the lookout for articles, poems, or other items of interest for inclusion in our upcoming Advent/Christmas newsletter. If you have something to submit, please get it to Dee by Sunday 22 October - and thanks!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Sermon, Sun 17 Sept: people of the Bible series - Ruth, pt 2

READINGS/ Ruth, chapter 3 and 4

Let’s pray: may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen...

Last week, we met the family of Naomi,
heard the story of what drew them to the land of Moab;
heard the story of what happened there.
And, in that story, we met another woman, named Ruth...

Ruth had been born in the land of Moab.
Grew up there.
Knew the stories of her people’s gods...
knew the story of her people;
knew from her earliest days that her destiny was to marry a man of her people.
But that... didn’t happen.
Instead of taking the expected path, she headed down the road less travelled –
married a man who followed a different God,
who came from a different nation:
a man whose family had escaped famine –
and who’d travelled the many miles from Bethlehem, in Judah,
and who’d embarked upon a new life in Moab.

Breaking with tradition and culture,
she married a stranger, a foreigner,
and lived with him for about ten years, until he died.
But it wasn’t only her husband who’d died:
her brother-in-law was also dead.
She, and her sister-in-law, Orpah, were now widows,
just as their mother-in-law, Naomi, was a widow.
The mother-in-law decides to return to her homeland,
and the young women travel with her for a little way until she tells them to turn back:
to take the safer option of staying with their own families.
One weeps, hugs her in farewell, and travels along the more secure road...
It’s not a bad choice:
she’s not a bad person...
and the person telling the story doesn’t condemn her for making it.
Presumably, Orpah settles back into her family, her country, ...
it is the safe, sensible choice,
and in making it, she settles into a life of obscurity –
and is never heard of again in this story, or elsewhere.
The other young woman weeps, and begs to go with her mother-in-law:
will not take ‘no’ as an answer.
Having already broken with making a safe choice to marry a man from her own country,
once again, Ruth chooses a different path –
a less secure path...
takes the road less travelled into the unknown.

The two women arrive back to Naomi’s homeland
and begin the task of settling in,
making a new life.
For Naomi, it’s mere survival –
she has no real hope,
has only the feeling of bitterness and a sense of God’s abandonment.
She would rather be known as ‘Mara’ now:
meaning ‘bitter’, as opposed to ‘Naomi’, meaning ‘sweet’.
Names are interesting in this story –
‘Ruth’ means ‘friendship’, ‘comfort’, and can even mean ‘to refresh’.
And we see, as the story continues,
Ruth’s gift of friendship and comfort to Naomi...and, of bringing refreshment to her.
While Naomi lives with her grief and her sense of hopelessness,
Ruth is someone who does hold hope:
she hopes for new opportunities
in this new land,
among new people –
even while she tends to the needs of her despairing mother-in-law.
But being practical, first things first:
they’ll need to eat.
As is the privilege of widows, she heads out to glean the fields –
it’s harvest time.
She’s a hard worker.
She wins the admiration of the local foreman,
who passes on a good report of her to the land-owner, Boaz...
who happens to be a relative of Naomi.
He offers her kindness, and protection.
When she returns home, she tells Naomi of this benefactor.
And, that’s where we pick up this morning:
Naomi is hatching a wee plan,
all of which is based upon the cultural expectations of her people.

Ruth has been an excellent and faithful,
kindly and companionable daughter-in-law.
She has given much to care for Naomi,
and now it’s Naomi’s turn to see what is in her gift to give to Ruth.
Of all the kinds of people in society,
women, and particularly widows, were vulnerable –
who would protect them in what was a time of chaos and turmoil?
The people had no real leader, apart from occasional champions - also known as 'judges'.
Naomi wants to find a way to provide a safety net for Ruth...
to give Ruth some kind of security,
and Naomi’s kinsman, Boaz, might just be the way.
It’s quite a dodgy-sounding plan, to be honest.
‘Go and make yourself pretty’ says Naomi...
‘Go and hang out at night in the threshing room’...
‘Go find Boaz’.
Now, we know from hearing the story, especially in the cold light of the next morning,
that it’s not quite the done thing for a woman to be spending time at night in such a place as this.
So, what’s happening here?
By placing herself where she does, Ruth is putting herself under the protection of Boaz –
asking him to act on his responsibility as a member of Naomi’s family.
He is surprised at her boldness,
he is pleased that she has come to him, when she could have chased after younger men...
she has made the right choice:
the legally appropriate choice, and he praises her,
and, decides he’ll honour her action by agreeing to act in the role of kinsman-redeemer,
that is, if he can...
for, unbeknown to Naomi and Ruth, there’s one other relative who is in the line ahead of Boaz –
he might want the land that would have belonged to Naomi’s husband, Elimelech...
and, if he does, Ruth would then go to him.
He would take back the land – redeem it –
and, take Ruth, and, by marrying her,
and by having a child with her,
redeem the family name...
rescue it from the possibility of disappearing.*
[*plus, some off the cuff comments on women as property/ cultural customs]

We know that Boaz goes out that very morning to find the other relative.
When he does, he asks about the land:
‘do you want it’ says Boaz...
‘Oh, yes,’ says the relative.
‘you do realise that you’ll also be responsible for Ruth, don’t you,’ says Boaz...
‘Ah. You know, it’s fine, you take the land,’ says the relative,
who then pretty much melts away into the distance.
If he takes on Ruth, he will have to split his inheritance... it’s not a great option for him.
And so, we go back to Plan A:
the Boaz option.
In front of witnesses, Boaz declares that he is happy to redeem the land, and to take Ruth as his wife.
Naomi’s hopes are coming to fruition:
Ruth will have her security, her safety-net after all.
And the next plan involves Ruth and Boaz getting married,
which in turn, leads to a child:
and there’s something about a child that is a living breathing hope for the future.

So we have a story that, in the beginning, had hopes dashed – had created bitterness.
But, through the steady, loving-kindess of Ruth,
and, through the faithfulness of Boaz,
God was able to show his own steady,
faithful loving-kindness to Naomi.
Hatching a plan,
she dared to find hope in a most unexpected place,
and in the end,
discovered her God,
her joy,
her hope,
and her future once more.

It’s an interesting story, this story of Ruth.
And it doesn’t end with the birth of her son, Obed.
We’ve got a wee P.S. at the end in the shape of a family tree...
in which we discover someone further down the line who is rather well-known.
And, there’s another P.S. to the story which we can find in the Gospel of Matthew,
in the genealogy in chapter one.
Remember last week, I said the town of Bethlehem might just be important? Hmmmm.

Naomi’s desire to give back to Ruth,
as Ruth had give to her resulted in a rather interesting security plan taking shape,
that went way beyond what Naomi might have foreseen.
It was a security plan:
for Ruth, beloved daughter-in-law,
and for the future of the family... for the family name not to disappear,
but to be refreshed through Ruth...
and to continue along a slightly different path to the one that may have been expected.
But it ended up going further than just one small family –
affecting the future of the nation,
a nation that will later move from the time of the judges, to the time of kings –
for the child Ruth and Boaz have, Obed,
will be the father of Jesse, the father of...
the future King David,
the king chosen and beloved of God.
But it goes beyond even the future of the nation:
for this will affect all people, for 28 generations later,
the outcome of the story will be heard in the cry of a child in a stable,
the child who will be named ‘Jesus’ –
the one who will redeem the whole of creation,
the one who will redeem
and bring us back to God.

'In the Book of Ruth the whole world is new again.  
Relationships have been righted. 
The outcastes have been taken in.  
The lowly have been raised up.  
A new generation of men—represented by a boy-child—
comes to inherit a cosmos where women are its co-creators.  
In Ruth, we get a glimpse into God’s world and find that it runs just the opposite of ours.
Overall, the sense of mutual commitment between Naomi and Ruth is ultimately 
the source and mark of divine blessing. 
Only once in the entire story is the word “love” used and it is used to describe the relationship between these two strong and determined women. 
This is the kind of love that molds and drives the universe.' 
*Shelli Williams

In Ruth, we are shown a mirror of God’s loving-kindness,
a loving-kindness that is about both relationship and redemption:
God’s love for us,
and, in that love,
God redeeming us, and claiming us as his own,
offering us hope in the most unexpected places,
and the possibility of a future that is richer, better than we can imagine...Amen

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Sermon, Sun 10 Sept: People of the Bible series, Ruth pt1

From Sun 10 September, until the beginning of Advent, we'll be taking a look at the lives of some well-known and lesser-known people in the Bible. What do their stories tell us of God at work, of God who is present in human lives and human history, and of the God who accompanies us even now? In this short series we begin with Ruth, and later, we'll meet Hagar, Rahab, Jonah, Philemon, Andrew.

READINGS/ Ruth ch 1, and ch 2

Let’s pray: may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

‘In the days when judges ruled…’
So begins the Book of Ruth.
Those days were long after the time
when Joshua, after the death of Moses, had led the Israelites from their wilderness wanderings and into the Promised Land.
A couple of generations had passed.
Those Israelites who now lived in the land, were people ‘who neither knew the Lord, or what he had done for Israel’ – this, according to the Book of Judges.
They’d forgotten their God,
they’d forgotten their story.
There was chaos, as other nations around them swept in and seemed near-impossible to resist.
The people of Israel cried out for rescue, and so, God raised up judges – champions –
to save them in their times of peril.
Often, after having saved the day, the judges were then largely ignored by the people,
who then went back to worshipping other gods and doing their own thing.

‘In the days, when judges ruled’, 
there was chaos:
political instability.
Short times of peace were followed all to swiftly by raids and warfare.
They were dangerous times.
And, even in the event of a strong and good judge, who was able to keep the peace,
there was no real safety net when other events intervened:
what to do, for example, in the case of natural disaster?
And it’s this situation that we find at the outset of the Book of Ruth:
famine has hit the land,
and in the midst of this,
we suddenly find our attention drawn to one small family,
as they try to navigate their way out of potential, life-threatening disaster.

In the first five breathtakingly swift verses of this book, we watch as the family make the decision
to leave their homeland to try and make a new life for themselves in a strange land.
Essentially, we see a settled family, who, when faced with starvation,
decide that they have no other real choice other than to become refugees.
They head off to the land of Moab.

The risk, initially, seems to have been worth it:
they settle down and begin to make a life for themselves.
It’s a new start, with hope-filled hearts for a better future.
Those hopes are quickly dashed, however.
Disaster strikes once more:
Elimelech, the husband and father of the family, dies.
Naomi, his wife, finds herself widowed.
But, her two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, are of marriageable age:
they both marry, settle down, and presumably as dutiful sons, take care of their widowed mother.
Again, the family fortunes seem to be on the up and up as they look once more to the future.

Ten years pass and at some point, there’s a reversal of fortune with another disaster:
both sons die at around the same time.
We don’t know how –
raiders? war? Some kind of contagious disease?
And, this misfortune is compounded:
they leave no children to carry on the family name.
Within five verses, we've travelled with this family over the course of roughly ten years,
a family whose situation has changed dramatically:
from Naomi and the three men of the family,
we now have Naomi and her 2 daughters-in-law,
Orpah and Ruth – all three of them, widows.
And, to be a widow in such times, was to be utterly vulnerable.
In verse 6, we see that, at this time of crisis, another decision is made:
another journey is planned, as Naomi determines to return to her homeland, to Bethlehem, in Judah.
Keep a wee note of where she’s headed and tuck it away somewhere safe for next week…
it may be a small detail, but… I suspect, it’s probably important.

With all her hopes blighted, Naomi no longer looks to the future –
she hasn’t got one.
It’s the end of the genealogical line.
For Naomi, everything is now all about the pragmatic business of surviving in the present.
But her current reality doesn’t have to be shared by Orpah and Ruth –
they are still relatively young.
Perhaps if they stayed behind in Moab,
they might find a new future with a new husband:
perhaps, even start a family.
So, while Naomi is intent on going back to live once more among her own people,
her wish is that Orpah and Ruth live among their own people –
that is where their future lies.

When we get to the farewell, there’s a tearful scene,
but eventually, Orpah remains with her own people,
while Naomi returns to her people, accompanied by Ruth.
Loyal, steadfast, Ruth –
who loves and cares for her mother-in-law,
and who is determined to not only spend the rest of her life caring for her,
but, at the end of her life, to accompany Naomi even through the final barrier of death:
to be buried with her.
Ruth, faithful companion in both life and death.
She’s fascinating:
her devotion and selflessness is astonishing.
In her care of and for Naomi, she is prepared to forsake her national identity –
her heritage, her people;
she’s prepared to forsake her religious identity –
the gods she grew up with and who she served.
‘Your people will be my people; your God, will be my God,’ vows Ruth.
And so, out of love for her mother-in-law,
she strikes off into the great unknown,
to a land she’s never seen;
she leaves everyone, and everything that she’s ever known…
and, through her decision to be a part of Naomi’s future,
she creates the possibility of a new future for herself.

When the two women arrive, it’s initially the past, not the future, that Naomi is confronted with:
although she’s been away for such a lengthy period of time, she is still remembered.
‘Can this be Naomi?’ folk ask.
But the past is difficult place to inhabit:
Naomi, whose name means ‘sweet’, chooses a new name: ‘Mara.’
No longer ‘sweet’, but ‘bitter’.
She is all hollowed out with grief –
She feels that God has brought only misfortune her way.
That’s how it seems…

And then, as we read further, as Ruth and Naomi begin to settle into their
new lives in Bethlehem, at the time of the harvest, the wind of change is once again in the air:
this now-tiny family unit of two widows is about to see a turn-around.
Far from having no future, there’s the possibility of promise…
and it’s in large part down to Ruth’s character.
Heading out to the fields to gather the left-overs of the harvest –
the right and privilege of the most vulnerable in society, widows,
Ruth happens to find herself in the field of a kinsman – Boaz.
He’s been away on business.
When he returns, he notices her, however.
He decides to check out who she is, asking questions of his foreman.
Ruth’s made a very good impression:
she’s seen to be a hard worker.
Boaz decides to take her under his wing –
because, for a woman, it’s dangerous work out in the fields…
there’s always the danger of sexual attack by the field hands.
Boaz offers her protection.
He offers her advice on where to find the best place to collect the most grain.
He offers her easy access to water.
He offers her extra portions at meal time.
He offers her…kindness.
He does this to recognize her own kindness to his family – to Naomi, his kinswoman.
And central to the whole story of Ruth is one word ‘hesed’
the Hebrew word meaning:
We see in Ruth’s story a classic case of ‘what goes around, comes around.’
But we see more than that:
we see, in Ruth herself, a mirror, showing God.

And when Ruth returns, and tells Naomi just how unexpectedly good her day was,
Naomi sees God in a completely different way:
this is not the God who disappoints, who makes life difficult…the God who disappears.
She’s allowed bitterness to cloud her judgement.
Now, in the loving-kindness shown by Boaz to Ruth,
loving-kindness offered as reward for Ruth’s own loving-kindness to Naomi…
Naomi’s taking another journey:
an interior journey as she moves from bitterness to sweetness once more.
As she makes that journey, she sees that far from being absent, God has always been with her;
she sees, in Ruth, a mirror of the loving-kindness of God –
who is faithful, steadfast, loyal…
a companion in the good, the bad, and the ugly that form part of the journey of life.
She sees the God who is with her in the bleak, and in the beautiful, and in the in-between…
the God whose loving-kindness is broader than previously imagined,
for this is the God who takes in Ruth:
a foreigner,
a stranger,
and shows his people – certainly Naomi, and Boaz, and the villagers of Bethlehem –
that he will ‘not stop showing his kindness to the living and the dead.’
And this…
is the God who even now, calls us, gathers us together here,
the God who we worship,
and who continues to offer to us his loving-kindness…
who, in Jesus, offers us hope,
and the promise of new life,
a new future,
as we walk with him…
as he always does, with us. Amen

We'll pick up part two of Ruth's story next week.

Monday, 11 September 2017

UCPC Harvest Festival: 8 October - supporting 'Farm Africa'

Our annual Harvest Festival will be held on Sunday 8 October. 
This year's chosen charity for our Harvest Festival is Farm Africa.
There's a little information about them provided below, and, you can also visit their website here
With a month to go, it might be an excellent time to pull out an empty jar, and begin to fill it with any loose change you have lurking about...and then bring your filled jars to our service to give to Farm Africa.

Who is Farm Africa?
Farm Africa is an international organisation working to build a prosperous rural Africa.
We help farmers to increase their harvests, build their incomes and sustain natural resources, partnering with governments and the private sector to find effective ways to fight poverty.
closely with local communities, who actively participate in all the decisions about our work. Typically, our staff are from the local area, can speak the local language and have a deep understanding of the local context.
Farm Africa works in four countries: Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania

What Farm Africa does:
Farming doesn’t just provide food, but income and prosperity. Good agriculture can change lives. Farm Africa focuses on transforming agriculture. We help farmers to increase their harvests, protect the environment and sell their produce in thriving markets.
By providing support, training in effective farming methods and links to markets, we help to build more profitable farming businesses so that whole communities can lift themselves out of poverty.

Eight out of ten rural Africans scrape their living from small plots.
Soils are often poor, drought ever near. Farm Africa brings in the smart crops, drought-busting techniques and marketing skills that make such tough farming viable, profitable and sustainable.

Where land is arid and crop cultivation hard, many farmers make their living by keeping animals. Animals are generally the family’s most valuable possession and Farm Africa helps with basic animal health services.

Pollution and overfishing have put wild fish stocks under pressure. The price of fish has rocketed, hitting people hard. Farm Africa is pioneering fish farming in Kenya, which ensures sustainable protein supplies and a major new source of income.

Deforestation destroys wildlife and dehydrates soil. We help forest communities replace traditional tree-cutting and wood and charcoal selling with new eco-friendly enterprises that protect biodiversity and provide a sustainable income for future generations.

Climate resilience
If the current consumption of fossil fuels continues, global temperatures could rise by
as much as 4⁰, which would have a devastating impact on farmers' livelihoods.
Farm Africa helps smallholders to farm in ways which don't damage the environment,
and to build resilience to future climate shocks.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

COMING SOON: UCPC Annual Coffee Morning

UCPC ANNUAL COFFEE MORNING - food, fun, and fund-raising
It's back! Our annual coffee morning will be held once again in Roberton Village Hall.
Choose your morning tea from a selection of mouth-watering home baking, 
check out what's on offer to buy from our making and baking stalls, 
see what fabulous item/s you might just take home from our tombola...
Let your friends and neighbours know, 
and come along to join us on Sat 9 September, from 10.30

Monday, 4 September 2017

Guild news - this year's programme

The new Guild programme for 2017-2018 is now out -    
why not go to our Guild page [click on the link] and see what's happening this year?

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Sermon, Sun 3 Sept: 'Come home to the feast'... wk52 WMRBW

This morning, we gathered together around the bread and wine of communion, and also concluded our year-long journey with 'We Make the Road by Walking'

READINGS/ Romans 8:28-39; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; Luke 15:11-32

Let’s pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Over the course of this last year, we’ve been on a story journey. This Sunday last year, we began to ‘Make the Road by Walking’ – following a year’s worth of bible readings designed to help us get a better sense of the greatest story ever told:
that of God’s relationship to the world and, to human beings…
and, of the relationship of human beings to God, to one another,
and, to the world.
We began with Genesis: the book of beginnings –
exploring the beginning of everything, the great story of Creation.
We wandered through the Garden –
and heard the story of two trees:
the tree of life,
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…
and of a choice taken to ignore God in favour of eating of the forbidden fruit,
a choice that marked a new beginning:
the beginning of a separation of human beings from God;
of a ruptured relationship.

Over the year, we heard many other stories:
stories of God’s continued love for humanity,
stories of God rescuing people and leading them from slavery,
through the wilderness, and into a Promised Land;
stories of God doing everything in his power to build bridges, to call people back
into a healthy and happy relationship with him once more:
stories of God’s attempts at restoration and reconciliation.
And in these stories, there were some who did come back to God
and others who didn’t – some doing almost everything they could to run the other way.
Overall, down through the ages and, through this year, as we've listened to
and reflected on the many bible stories we've heard God’s continued call for people
to come, to follow –
to receive life,
to receive love, and mercy, and forgiveness.

Having begun the great story with Genesis,
last week saw us delve into the Book of Revelation:
the final book of the Bible, the book telling us how the story ends…
and, begins:
for at the end of all things, we saw a new beginning –
a new heaven and a new earth,
a new Jerusalem in which there’d be no more suffering, pain, tears, death…
in which the old, not fit for purpose, human attempts at power and position
without God would be swept away:
and where God would give light - where God would be the light,
and where the river of the water of life would flow;
echoes of Eden,
echoes of Creation.
From Genesis, through to Revelation we have a story which
'came from God in the beginning, and which all comes back to God in the end.' [McLaren, WMRBW]

And today, we come to one last story:
a story of a man with two sons.
Many of us know this story –
have heard of the shocking request made by the younger son to his father
that would effectively harm the family, and the family business;
a request that would cause considerable difficulties.
A request made by the younger son as a way of filling whatever emptiness
there was within him that he couldn’t seem to fill by staying at home.
We know what happens:
at what would have been great cost to the father, the farm is essentially split up
and the younger son is given his share, which is then cashed in:
the land, probably held for generations, is now in the hands of others.
And once it’s gone, and he’s got the money in hand, so is the younger son:
he’s made his choice, and he’s away, much to the father’s great sadness.

The older son stays, and looks after what’s left of the land.
Meanwhile, the father yearns for his youngest child to come home…
which, after things have gone horribly wrong, he eventually does.
The boy comes home.
And his father is overjoyed:
he’s back, time for celebration!

But not all are celebrating.
The older son, who has stayed at home, is clearly unhappy.
He’s worked hard, he’s always done what he’s been told…
and he feels that he’s never been given the chance to have even
a wee barbecue with his mates.
The story ends without full resolution:
in the early part of the story, the younger son had placed himself outside of his family,
while the older son stayed inside.
Toward the end, however, it is the younger son who is inside,
and the older son standing, hesitating outside:
will he unclench his fists,
will he let go of his resentment,
will he share in the joy of a younger brother now back once again in the fold?
…Will he go inside and join the celebration,
or will he hold the grudge and allow it to fester and wound
the relationship he has with his father – who loves him no less than his other son?

This last story from our series, is a story that shows, in a smaller scale,
the larger story we’ve been hearing and telling this year.
A great, sweeping story which has at its centre a loving Father:
a great, sweeping story about relationship;
a story which contains poor choices, mistakes made, and the messiness of wrong paths taken.
But, like the story of the man with two sons,
it’s also a story that eventually follows a path back to the Father –
the Father who has never stopped loving his people,
for nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love.
A story of God…
always at work,
always about the work of reconciliation and renewal.
A story of God who does a new thing:
who sends his own Son to us, showing us
‘a gracious and spacious heart that welcomes all to the table.' [McLaren, WMRBW]
For in Christ, and at his table, we are reconciled once more to God our Father….

In the telling of the story of the night when Jesus created a new meal
to share with all who believed in him,
we look back to all that God has done for his people…
we look back to the stories that Jesus told about what God was like,
about what God’s kingdom was like.
We look back to the story of Jesus:
his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection…
we look back and remember the reconciling God who has called us his own.
And we look around, to one another:
each one of us, in Christ, a spiritual family – brothers and sisters –
with our own stories of what God has done and is doing in our lives.
And we look forward:
as we eat and drink together
we celebrate the One who restores and renews and reconciles
and who wants us to come, and to live, and to rejoice:
to join the great celebration feast –
a feast that never ends, a feast where all are welcome in. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

September Communion

Quarterly Communion Service:

Our next Communion Service will be:
10.30am Sun 3 September, in the parish church at Abington.

"This is the table, not of the Church, but of the Lord. 
It is to be made ready for those who love God
and for those who hope to love God more. 
So, come, you who have faith 
and you who have doubts. 
Come if you have been here often, 
and come if you have not been here long. 
Come if you have followed, 
and come if you have stumbled. 
Come, because it is the Lord who invites you. 
It is Christ’s will that those who seek him 
will meet him here at his table. 

We practice an open table: all who are baptised, regardless of denomination,
are welcome to share in bread and wine.
Children and communion: children may receive communion
at the discretion of their accompanying adult.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Sermon Sun 27 Aug: 'Spirit of hope' wk51 WMRBW

READINGS/ Rev 1:9-19; Rev 21:1-27; Rev 22:1-6, 16-21

Let’s pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

There was a story in the news yesterday that caught my eye.
Two people in London, a man and a woman, minding their own business, are sitting on the Tube on their way home from a night out.
The woman does a slight double-take when the man sits down opposite her, which, naturally, catches the his attention.
He looks at her a little more closely, trying to work out why she seems vaguely familiar.
Meanwhile, curiosity gets the better of her:
breaking the unwritten protocol of the Tube, which is, basically,
to politely ignore fellow travelers, she asks,
‘Don’t I know you?’ 
Now, he’s done a little TV and radio presenting, so he thinks it’s just that:
‘Probably from Crime Watch’ he jokes.
But no, that’s not it.
And then, they realise:
back in 1992, a much younger Howard had picked a much younger Brigette
as his date on the show, ‘Blind Date’…
so, keeping on that theme, I guess it was a bit of a ‘Surprise Surprise’
for both of them to meet 25 years later.
Now, back in the day, the show had whisked the couple off to Germany for their date
where they spent the weekend drinking champagne and trying to get to know each other a little.
A couple of weeks after the date, they spoke on the phone, but nothing really came of it.
This time around, however, Howard’s clearly quite taken with Brigette, and she, with him –
both seeing the other in a new light.
Plans are afoot to see each other again, and it all sounds...hopeful...

Sometimes, I wonder if that vaguely familiar –
‘Don’t I know you?’ feeling is a little like how we react to the very last book in the Bible:
the Book of Revelation.
Yep, we know it’s there, we may even have taken it out for a wee date –
well, opened a few pages to try and get a little more familiar with it,
and then put it aside, because...well, frankly, it’s just a very odd piece of writing.
Today, we have the opportunity to look again at this Book, and maybe –
a little like Howard and Brigette –
we might see it in a new light and, find hope within in it:
because, for all it’s seeming strangeness, ‘hopeful’ is the word
that I’d choose to associate with the Book of Revelation.
So let’s do a little exploration,
looking at the beginning, and the ending of it,
to get a sense of what this Book is all about.

An alternative name that’s occasionally used for the Book of Revelation is:
‘the apocalypse of John’.
That word ‘apocalypse’ has all sorts of interesting connotations
when we hear it, and none especially cheerful.
‘Apocalypse’ is the kind of word that makes you think of
doom and destruction; great catastrophes.
Actually, all it really means is ‘unveiling’ –
and what the Book of Revelation reveals to us
is a God whose agenda is about life, not death;
a God of resurrection and renewal, not utter ruin.

Apocalyptic writing, such as we see here, and in the Old Testament, in Daniel,
has strange things happening within it,
has odd creatures – like a lamb with 100 eyes,
or great mysterious beasts – there's a dragon, in Revelation.
What does it all mean?
For a start, it’s not meant to be interpreted literally:
think of the strange style of writing as if it were like painting with words.
If you try to go down the path of taking a literal interpretation you may end up in some
very odd places indeed – and down the years, some folk have.
But, back to that question:
what does it all mean –
what’s it all about –
and what’s the relevance for us?

Revelation was written in the 1st century, either around the year 60, or, possibly 90.
In either case, the known world was ruled by Rome, and on the Imperial throne was a madman.
In his book ‘We make the road by walking’, Bryan MacLaren observes that:
‘Life was always hard in the Roman Empire for poor people, 
as it was for most of the followers of Jesus. 
But life was extremely precarious when the man at the helm of the empire was 
vicious, paranoid, and insane, as both Nero and Domitian were.’
Under the reign of both of these emperors, Christians were persecuted:
tortured and killed for their faith…
because what both Nero and Domitian really wanted, was to be worshipped as a god.
The Christians simply couldn’t do it, and died.

‘Revelation’, then, is written to people who are living in harrowing, dangerous times;
people whose lives are on the line;
people who are decades removed from when Jesus walked with his disciples.
Life, if anything, feels worse, not better.
While they’re followers of the Prince of Peace,
while they’ve been commanded to love their enemies
and pray for those who persecute them,
given the circumstances,
could they not just turn their ploughshares back into swords;
take matters into their own hands and meet violence with violence?
Given the times, and given that they didn’t know if each day would be their last,
wouldn’t they also just be better off to follow that old saying and ‘drink, eat, and be merry’…
and, quietly give up on Jesus and pay lip-service to their very demanding Caesar instead…
and maybe live to see another day?
If their world is all going to end anyway, it sounds reasonable.
Into this mix, then, comes John’s great vision that we call ‘the Book of Revelation’ –
a message to the church:
a message looking to the future, but looking also to the present.

In our first reading, we heard an extract from Chapter One.
In it John identifies himself as the writer, and also identifies with
the struggle that all followers of Christ have been going through.
‘I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering…’ he says.
He understands the situation his readers find themselves in completely.
And then he begins to tell of the vision –
given to him by ‘someone like the Son of man’,
who has a voice ‘like the sound of rushing water,’
who has a sword coming from his mouth, not his hand –
basically, whose words are far mightier than any weapon.
This messenger is amazing in appearance, so much so, that John cannot cope:
he falls at the messenger’s feet, as if dead.
John’s utterly overwhelmed with what he’s seeing.
And then, the messenger speaks.
And the very first words spoken to John?
‘Do not be afraid.’
We’ve all heard those words before, the first words Jesus says
to those he meets after his resurrection.
And then John hears:
‘I am the first and the last; 
I am the Living One…
I hold the keys to death and Hades.’
John is met by none other than the risen Christ in glory,
and is then instructed to write down all he sees in the vision.

In the vision, John sees a great number of things,
but primarily, what is being shown is the breaking down of old powers, of old systems;
in one sense, a vision of corruption and decay:
the end of life, the end of all things.
However, that is not all there is:
in the breaking is a remaking as we see in the final sections of the vision.
‘Behold! I make all things new.’
Evil doesn’t triumph.
Those who are living under the power of tyrants are given hope –
tyrants may come,
tyrants may go,
tyrants may rise again…
but in the end…God.
Good wins over evil –
not by inflicting violence upon enemies,
but through the sacrificial love that allows the giving of One life for all.
John writes down his vision, acutely aware of the events of his current day,
and in doing so, essentially says to his brothers and sisters in persecution:
‘stay the course. 
This …   ends. 
These are the death-throes of the old way of being –
the way of darkness and of death.
We are people of the light,
we worship the God of the living, the God who makes all things new.’

John’s vision shows God making his home among us, just as in Jesus,
God walked the earth for a time.
We see the ongoing work of God, healing and renewing the heavens and the earth.
We see what the kingdom of God looks like:
no oppression, because there are no more tyrants, or bullies.
No more tears, or pain, or suffering, or death.
A place of light, not darkness, and that light, coming from God himself;
a place of welcome, where the gates are always open;
a place of healing – not just of physical wounds, but of broken relationships –
we see new accord between nations, and, no more war;
a place of life – where the river of the water of life flows, and is freely given to all.

As we hear the description of this new Jerusalem,
we hear again the echoes of the first Creation story:
here, in Revelation, God begins again –
starts afresh, walks in the new Creation with his people once more…
in one sense, this is set in the future at the end of all days.
But it’s also set in the context of the present in which John’s readers live:
they live in the now and the not yet.
The vision encourages them to stay the course,
for they are shown how the story ends…
and they also stay the course, because they understand that they are part of
bringing in the end of darkness and death,
for they live in Christ, and they have the hope of resurrection in their hearts.
John’s message to them is that,
no matter what person sits on a throne of power,
what matters is that the ultimate power is God’s.

That message is not only for those living in the 1st century under Roman rule.
We live in turbulent times –
where it feels like madness sits in the highest places of power around the world.
We feel the rise of those around us who
would do violence to people because they’re different in some way –
just as in the 1st century, Christians were different.
Some of us may feel fearful as we see what’s happening in our world,
our own country,
even in our own neck of the woods.
But, remember those words of Jesus:
‘Do not be afraid.’
Remember the message to the early Christians given to John in a most unusual way
and yet, a message giving hope to those living in terrible times:
God triumphs.
Hate doesn’t win. Love does.
The old, rotten structure is swept away –
death is destroyed and God makes all things new….life wins.

Toward the end of Revelation, there’s an invitation:
whoever is thirsty, come, take the free gift of the water of life.
That life is available to us now, in Jesus, who IS the living water.
As we drink deeply of the water that he gives, so we are strengthened
and have our hope in the One who makes all things new.
In that strength, in that hope,
so we are called to go and do the work of bringing in the new kingdom.
So, come, drink deeply of the free gift of the water of life…this day, and every day.
Come, and live into the power of the resurrection –
be made new once more by the One who calls you his people.

Let’s pray
Speak to us, Giver of Life, and make us new.
We thirst for the waters of eternal life,
we yearn to know ourselves
as Resurrection People.
Send your Holy Spirit upon us this day,
and create in us your new heaven and new earth.
Speak to us words of comfort and hope,
words of challenge and courage.
Come: move among us, we pray,
in Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

UCPC Events: coffee morning

UCPC ANNUAL COFFEE MORNING - food, fun, and fund-raising
It's back! Our annual coffee morning will be held once again in Roberton Village Hall.
Choose your morning tea from a selection of mouth-watering home baking, 
check out what's on offer to buy from our making and baking stalls, 
see what fabulous item/s you might just take home from our tombola...
Let your friends and neighbours know, 
and come along to join us on Sat 9 September, from 10.30

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Sermon, Sun 20 Aug - 'Spirit of life'...wk50 of WMRBW

A bit of an out of the pulpit experience this morning, beginning at the doors to the worship space, and moving along... eventually staying at the mini-lectern by the front pew.

Readings for the morning: Ps 90; Phil 1:20-30;
Luke 20:27-38

Let’s pray: may the words of my mouth and the
thoughts of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

[from the entrance doors]
Let’s pretend, for a moment, that our aisle is a timeline…
and, let’s say that here, at the doors,
it’s way back at the dawn of civilization:
picture in your mind’s-eye people hunting and gathering,
chasing the odd woolly mammoth or two,
living in caves…
painting images of their lives on the stone walls.
 [moving several pews forward...]
Moving along the timeline…
let’s imagine that centuries have come and gone
and that, we’ve reached what we now call the 1st century:
just over the mid-way point, possibly around the year 60.
Jesus has been born, baptized, lived, died, risen, and ascended…
the day of Pentecost has come and gone,
the new religious movement of those who follow him,
who follow his teachings, has been spreading.
And in Greece, in a place called Philippi,
the community of believers have received a letter from Paul –
the one who shared the story of Jesus with them several years ago.
They listen as the letter is read,
hear of his struggles and imprisonment,
hear his encouragement to them to stand firm in the faith
and that what keeps him going –
what gives him life
is Jesus:
through the power of the Spirit of life,
he is able to find meaning and purpose
and the strength to keep telling the story
he has shared with so many,
in so many places…
for him, to live is Christ…
 [moving several pews forward...]

And so we move along our timeline again:
and, giving a nod to this, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation…
the place is what we now know as Germany – a town called Wittemburg.
It’s the end of October, 1517, and a monk named Martin Luther
wants to get into a discussion about some of the practices of the church
that he feels are unhelpful, and, in some cases, corrupt.
He stands at the door of the Cathedral hammering a paper into it, with 95 challenges.
His intention is to correct abuses:
but the outcome will change the world and continues to have repercussions even now…
 [moving to front and centre...]
Speaking of the present…
here we are:
we live in interesting times and even as we do –
God lives –
for God’s name is I AM.
God…is … here.
 [moving back to ‘1517’]
just as at this point in time:
God lives –
God is I AM,
not ‘I was’;
God is here, too.
[moving back again]
God is I AM here, as well…
[moving back again]
God is I AM here…
[moving back to doors]
God’s is here, too:
for, as we listen to the words of scripture –
as we listen as Jesus debating with those who would try to trick him,
we hear him say of God that:
‘He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him ALL are alive.’
[heading back to mini-lectern]
ALL are alive:
we talk of the 'communion of saints',
we hear the phrase ‘the cloud of witnesses’:
we worship a God who is beyond time and space
and who, in Jesus, breaks into our time, and our space.
No matter where on the human timeline,
…God is I AM –
fully present both in the present
and in the present of those who we think of as in the past…
or, who are yet to be.
Hard to get your head around without it feeling like your brain might melt a little!
But what’s all this timey-wimey stuff – to pinch a phrase from Doctor Who –
what’s this talk of time got to do with our readings?

For the psalmist, the living God is a refuge:
but more than that,
a dwelling-place –
God is our home:
has been,
will be…
our home throughout all generations:
in every generation that has a present, present, and God is home.

For Paul, who writes to the Philippians,
who writes while in chains,
while in captivity for his faith,
the Spirit of Christ is both a present help,
and also, gives him hope,
gives him reason to look ahead,
gives him reason to live:
‘for me to live…is Christ’ –
for Paul, just as essential as air is to life …is Jesus…
and: ‘for me, to live is Christ –
as I said a little earlier, not only does Paul live
through the power of the life-giving Spirit,
the Spirit is what gives Paul a meaning,
a purpose to live:
it gives him hope,
it gives him courage in the face of extreme difficulty –
will he get out of jail,
will he survive this ordeal?
Whatever the outcome, Paul tells the Philippians –
who are also undergoing struggles –
whatever the outcome,
the Spirit of life helps to drive away the fear –
for, to live in fear… is a living death…
Paul says that,
as God is with him,
so God is with them –
…the living God, and ...the God of the living
Life, not death, is the final word in Christ.

And, what then, of Jesus?
Our gospel reading takes us to a strange conversation on resurrection and marriage.
But the whole conversation is a set-up:
the instigators of this wee chat are those who belong to a group known as the Sadducees –
a group within Judaism that didn’t believe in the idea of an afterlife, of a resurrection.
An old high school chaplain back in the day who had a reputation for
appallingly dire jokes used to say:
‘the Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection: that’s why they were sad, you see…’
It’s such a bad pun, that’s it’s been seared into my memory for decades.
But these Sadducees want to test Jesus, so they set him up
with a hypothetical, and utterly ridiculous question,
trying to showcase just how stupid the whole idea of resurrection is.
And, here we get a little insight into the custom of Levirate marriage,
of the needing to pass down the family name:
a husband takes a wife.
Before there are any children, he dies.
The brother below him, in order to carry on the family name, then takes her as his wife…
he, too, dies childless, and so this goes on
as the poor woman is married to each of the seven brothers in turn.
When all the brothers have died, and still without child, she dies…
whose wife will she be?
I rather suspect that she’d quite like a wee break from the whole marriage thing, personally.

They know they’ve asked a ludicrous question,
Jesus knows it too, but turns it back on them:
this is what happens in our lives in the here and now, he says…
everything in this given situation is focused upon what to do in case of death –
what to do to prevent the dying out of a family line –
What about focusing upon life instead, says Jesus.

The resurrected life is very different:
nobody is giving anyone away in marriage –
people are not property;
nobody needs to secure their future through the passing down of a name –
they are named as God’s own, that is their inheritance;
nobody need fear death, says Jesus –
for there is resurrection:
God is the God of the living.
Christianity is a way of life,
…not a cult of death.
This is expressed every time that someone of faith – a follower of Christ, dies.
In the funeral, at the point of committal,
we hear less about death
and more about life.
We hear the following – or a variation of – the following:
'Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life.  
Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.
We have entrusted our brother,/our sister…into the hands of God. 
Now let us commit their body to be buried:
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, 
in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, 
through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died, was buried, and rose again for us, 
and is alive and reigns for evermore.' 

We come right back to Easter, here:
Jesus dies on the Friday, but he’s not just left there on the Cross –
we have the astonishment,
the wonder,
of an empty tomb,
of grave-clothes folded,
of death defeated:
of a living God, and a God of the living.
And later, the Spirit of life breathes life into those friends of Jesus,
who go out and share the story:
who see life in an entirely new way –
for the fear of death that has held them, and has stopped them from living, is gone.
They have moved from working within a context of death, to a context of life –
and so their lives flow, and grow…
and brings resurrection life and possibility to those around them;
it sustains Paul in prison,
so much so, that he’s able to encourage his friends in Philippi:
they, like he, need not fear –
need not cower in death’s shadow:
they are resurrection people,
they follow the living God,
they are filled with the Spirit of life, not death.

In good times, in hard times,
in times of joy, in times of discouragement…
God is here –
I AM, not I was
God is present –
and we are a resurrection people.
We live in a time of change, of transition.
The mainline church seems to be more and more on the sidelines of society,
so many other things compete for precious time.
Church attendance numbers are studied,
and brows furrow in concern and mutter darkly about ‘decline’ –
in some cases, we hear of strategies to ‘manage decline’
But I say:
let’s have a strategy to manage life because
the living God has not finished with us –
we are a resurrection people…

As God’s community of faith in this small corner of the kingdom,
how does living as people of the resurrection
move us, give us purpose, give us life?
What do we hope for, my friends?
For God is with us now
God is at work in us and within us…now.
We don’t worship the ‘as long as it sees me out’ God -
we worship the living God,
whose Spirit breathes life into our hearts, our souls, our minds…
Let’s be open to that Spirit – even if it may bring change
Let’s choose life, resurrection life:
let’s choose to fully be God’s living people.
And, this day, and every day,
let’s worship and celebrate the One who gives us life –
our living God,
not ‘I was’,
but, I AM.
…May it be so.  Amen.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Sunday preview: 'Everybody'

Can't remember where I came across this cartoon, but every frame tells a story of sorts, and, for me, the overall cartoon is a wee delight.

This coming Sunday, as we continue in our season of exploring the Spirit,
we'll be focusing in on the Spirit of Life; pondering beginnings and endings,
the life to come and the life we have now.

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

'Wordworks' writing group August meet up

'Wordworks', our writing group, meets this week on Thursday at 7pm in the Colebrooke Arms, Crawfordjohn.

This month's writing prompt:
take a headline from the news as your source for inspiration. How might you:
retell the story?
write about something entirely different?
tell the story with the most economic use of words?

Feel free to bring this along, or any other pieces you may be working on.

See you Thursday, by the fireplace...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Sermon, Sun 13 August: 'Spirit of holiness'...wk49 WMRBW

Psalm 98;  John 14:15-29;  1 Cor. 15:20-28

Let’s pray: may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer, Amen.

The scene:
a wet and muddy field;
I’m very aware of the hole in my right shoe
and the increasingly damp sock that I’m wearing.
The midges are making me wonder
why they really needed to be included in God’s good creation.
And, I’m not alone in that thought –
some good Samaritan is sharing around their Avon ‘Skin so soft’…
Dotted about me are a cast of characters:
Luke Skywalker, an Obi-Wan Kenobi – or two,
a couple of Princess Leias,
several Chewbaccas, a Yoda,
and not forgetting R2D2 and C3PO.
There’s also a posse of Elvis’s,
some punk rockers,
and Batman’s Boy Wonder – Robin.
A whole assortment of heroes or such-like based on a sort of 70’s theme,
with a random Charlie Chaplin thrown in for good measure.

I have the horrible, agonizing job of having to judge the best costume:
a job guaranteed to make you popular with a teeny number of people,
while making you decidedly unpopular with the wider majority.
In discussion with my fellow judge, we make our decisions knowing that,
while some will be delighted, others will be disappointed.
It’s the fancy dress competition at Leadhills Gala Day – held yesterday.
And I’m always amused, and occasionally awestruck,
by the work that goes in to making the costumes for these kinds of events –
the sweat of brow, and creativity given to
how best to look like,
how to best be like
the particular character you’re trying to show to the world –
how to be your hero?
In this case, some of the props include light sabres, assorted wigs, masks,
and, for some, a lot of… fur.

But… how best, to be like Jesus?
The scene:
an upper room.
In the room, a table.
A meal has been eaten –
breadcrumbs are scattered among discarded dishes
and half-empty cups of wine.
A bucket of now-dirty water and damp towel
sit by a table-leg,
a sign of service given...
of humility shown.
Seated around the table are his friends –
and he is there, in the midst of them,
telling them that change is coming,
that things will be different,
that he … will be different…
that he will be going…
but that, even so,
they will not be left to fend for themselves;
they will not be abandoned,
not be orphans:
he is going in order that
he may live in them still,
live with them forever,
through the power of the Spirit –
the One he calls ‘Counsellor’,
the Spirit of truth,
the Holy Spirit.
He urges them, for love’s sake, to obey what he commands…
As the Father lives in Jesus,
so Jesus will live in them through the Spirit.
God will be all.
God will be all, in all.
Essentially: everything’s going to be alright.
In the words of the medieval mystic,
Julian of Norwich,
‘all shall be well, 
all shall be well,
and all manner of things…shall be well.’

But, not long after this point in that upper room,
things are going to look pretty bleak and hopeless indeed;
not well at all.
Their friend is arrested, crucified, and dies.
It probably feels to them that things are about as ‘not well’ as it gets, really.
They experience an agonising separation –
guilt and grief and desolation,
mingled with so many other emotions.
The dream is over, and death is the harsh reality.
They are stunned.
And then, everything changes.

Initially, there’s confusion.
Then the stirrings of hope.
Later, hope turns to joy.
could it be?
Yes, it could.
And then, …
they wait for the Spirit to come, just as he promised…
and when it does,
it’s as if they suddenly find their eyes
opening wide, and seeing things anew.
Their minds are also open:
to new ways of understanding
his words,
his actions,
his life…
the time he spent with them showing what God is like,
and, how to live in such a way as to best be like God.
But this is no fancy dress –
this is the real deal,
of what a life lived authentically as one of God’s people actually is.

‘Obey what I command,’ says Jesus:
it’s a command to love –
so simple.
So hard.
And yet, in loving, there comes both
and holiness…
Seeing God – the holiness – in all
brings about wholeness;
it’s about restoration:
nothing less than the restoration
of all creation,
of all created things.
It’s where balance and harmony and well-being
are the order of the day, rather than disorder.
It's where everyone, everything
is reconciled to their rightful and true purpose…
and I’m minded of our rightful and true purpose according the good old
Westminster Shorter Catechism:
What is the chief end of man?
Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. 
To shout with the joy of the psalmist;
to live into the peace given by God…

The Holy Spirit – God’s Spirit living within us –
helps to restore us, to put things right:
to reorient us to God,
reorient us to our true purpose:
to be reconciled and whole people of God,
and, as God’s holy people,
to live in our communities,
in our world,
as those who work, who strive,
to see restoration –
of people put right,
of reconciliation of neighbour to neighbour;
of reconciling people with planet –
the whole of creation.

‘All shall be well’…
We know things aren’t well in the world:
crumbs, the news this week confirms that -
we’ve got the leaders of two nations throwing threats at each other,
who potentially have an arsenal of nuclear weapons to throw as well…
elsewhere, the Ku Klux Klan have been openly marching in Virginia with lit torches,
spewing racism under the guise of patriotism:
I’m not sure about you, but I feel a weird deja-vu…
and find myself wondering how we’ve managed to go back to some
kind of nightmarish re-run of the Cold War and pre-Civil Rights.
We’ve troubles closer to home with the fall-out over what may, or may not, be
with Britain post-Brexit…
and there’s not much point rehearsing some of those arguments either side of the fence,
but merely to say how splintered we’ve become,
not how united.

‘All shall be well’…
We know things aren’t well in the world:
we are bombarded 24/7 with the news…
we are the people who know the good news –
if we really do believe that there’s more to Jesus
than just being a decent guy who had some nice, moral lessons to tell…
if we really do believe that there was more to Jesus than met the eye…
that, the words he spoke belonged to the Father who sent him…
sent him to show us how to live,
to show us of the restoring, reconciling  power of holiness,
to teach us what God looks like –
what the love of God looks like…
then, we have a job to do:
we need to share that good news –
to live it,
to love,
to be people about the work
of restoration,
of reconciliation,
of demonstrating that all shall indeed be well.
We are the good news people:
though there are fearful things afoot in the world,
we    need   not   fear –
we are not abandoned,
we are not orphaned;
for God has given us the Holy Spirit,
and bit by bit there will be restoration.

‘All shall be well’…
We know things aren’t well in the world,
but we dare to dream:
that in Jesus, God spoke;
we dare to dream:
that goodness is stronger than evil,
that love is stronger than hate;
we dare to dream:
that holiness, wholeness, will triumph
and that reconciliation and restoration
will be the order of the day;
we dare to dream:
that our songs of praise to God
will be revolutionary actions of change,
will be tools of liberation that will help throw off fear
and bring about healing and joy and freedom.
We dare to dream,
because Jesus showed us what that dream was,
and that, through the Holy Spirit,
we have the strength within us
to do the great work of restoration in partnership with God.
We dare to dream:
for we know, that in the end,
all shall be well,
for God will be all in all
and that we need not fear.

I love Bryan McClaren’s take on not living in fear. He says:
‘we won’t live in fear. 
We’ll keep standing strong with a steadfast immoveable determination, 
and we’ll keep excelling in God’s good work in our world. 
If we believe the universe moves towards purification, justice and peace, 
we’ll keep seeking to be pure, just and peaceable now. 
If we believe God is pure light and goodness, 
we’ll keep moving towards the light each day in this life.
Then, one day, when our time comes to close our eyes in death, 
we will trust ourselves to the loving Light in which we will awaken, purified, beloved, for ever. 
Until then, the Spirit leads us along in that arc towards restoration and healing. 
Like a mother in childbirth, groaning with pain and anticipation, the Spirit groans within us. 
She will not rest until 
all is made whole 
and all is made holy, 
and all is made well. 
Life will not be easy. …
(but) We will never be alone. 
…In the end 
all will be well.
That is all we know, and all we need to know.’

Let’s pray:
Holy God,
the psalmist calls us to sing your praises...
Lord, take our songs
and fill them with Your presence.
Let them bring a word of hope
to weary care-full hearts.
Take our songs
and fill them, Lord.
Fill them with Yourself.

Lord, take this place
and fill it with Your blessing.
Let it be a haven
where the poor in spirit sing.
Take this place
and fill it, Lord.
Fill it with Your praise.

Lord, take our lives
and fill them with Your praises.
Let us speak a word of peace -
the peace that Jesus gives to us.
Take our lives
and fill us Lord.
Fill us with your Spirit
this day, and every day,
we pray...amen.

Hymn 710 'I have a dream,' a man once said

Friday, 11 August 2017

Reflection zone: Psalm 98

Our psalm reading this coming Sunday is Psalm 98...

O sing to the Lord a new song,
   for he has done marvellous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
   have gained him victory. 
The Lord has made known his victory;
   he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. 
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
   to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
   the victory of our God. 

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
   break forth into joyous song and sing praises. 
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
   with the lyre and the sound of melody. 
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
   make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. 

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
   the world and those who live in it. 
Let the floods clap their hands;
   let the hills sing together for joy 
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
   to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
   and the peoples with equity.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Contacts, information, events to 9 August

Due to annual leave, the minister will be unavailable from: Mon 24 July to Wed 9 August  

Rev. George Shand
Funeral cover:
will be provided by the Rev George Shand who can be contacted
on 01899 309400.

For any ongoing parish queries, please contact our Session Clerk:
Ms Heather Watt on 01899 850211, or, if unavailable,
one of our elders - Mrs Jenny Worthington on 01899 850274

News, events, and general notices:

Schools: Our thoughts and prayers are with all the P7's from our 5 primary schools in the area, as they make the move to Biggar High School in the new school year: go well, settle quickly, work hard, and enjoy this new adventure.

Local Church Review (LCR): about every five years, each parish in Scotland
undergoes a process called the Local Church Review –
back in the old days, this used to be known as the Quinquennial.
Our turn has come up and over the next couple of months, a team from presbytery
will be meeting with a team from Upper Clyde,
helping us look at where we are and what we’re currently doing;
and then, helping us as we look ahead, and see where we might go,
and what we might do over the next several years.
Think of it as the equivalent of an MOT for the parish.
Our team, I think, covers a good cross-range of views here and
I just want to thank them publicly for giving up time to be involved in the process, so, thanks to:
Keith Black
Lynn Cochrane
Judith Gilbert
Jenny Worthington
and Dee Yates.
These are your ‘go-to’ people.  If you have any thoughts on things you’d like to see
happen here at Upper Clyde do feel free to catch up with any of the team -
they’ll feed your comments back into our team meetings.
It should be a good learning curve, I suspect we may even surprise ourselves,
so, let's enjoy the ride together. I look forward to seeing where our collective
thoughts and prayers will lead us.