Tuesday, 27 September 2016

HARVEST THANKSGIVING SERVICE 2 OCTOBER


Sun 2nd October, 10.30am
in the parish church at Abington

Join us as we celebrate the Harvest, this coming Sunday.

And, after worship, why not stay for tea/coffee, and thereafter, a simple soup lunch? 
Everyone welcome!

*if you'd like to make a donation of food, to help with the Harvest display,
please drop off items on Saturday 1st October between 10am-12pm*

  • All dried/ tinned food will be taken to our local area foodbank in Carluke.
  • A large box of fresh produce will be donated to Clannalba, 
  • and the remainder will be put on a table for folk to take away -
    having made a small financial donation to raise funds for the church.
There will also be an opportunity, as you leave worship, 
to make a donation to the project 'Send a Cow' :

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Sermon, Sun 25 Sept, Wk5: 'In over our heads'...WMRBW

Let us listen now to an old, old story:
a story of peril and preservation;
a story of love winning over retribution;
a story from God’s word contained in scripture:
1st READING: Genesis 6:9-22; 7:11-24
2nd READING: Genesis 8:1, 14-22; 9:1, 8-17

SERMON
Let’s pray:
Let 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.

I remember, very clearly the first time I came across
the very strange and very soggy story
of a man,
of rain beyond imagining,
of a large boat,
and a great bunch of animals, big and small.
I was 18.
I was fairly new to all this church stuff.
And for some reason, I found myself volunteered to teach P 6’s and 7’s Sunday School.
But the great joke was, that the children taught me.
And in that year, where they taught me the old, old stories of the faith –
stories that I’d never known when I was their age –
they told me the story of Noah.

I remember sitting, listening to them completely entranced, while,
as a group, they pieced the story together.
According to my young instructors in the faith,
things weren’t really working out very well in the world –
bad stuff was happening.
God was upset.
So upset, that he just wanted to make it all go away.
And then, he asked Noah:
to build a boat,
to go on a rescue mission
to save the animals – two by two -
and, in that boat,
to ride out the biggest flood that the world had ever seen
For some reason, unclear to us at the time, the boat was called an ‘ark’.

Mostly, we talked a lot about all the different animals...
I remember feeling sad about unicorns –
wishing that they’d managed to get on board,
and wondered with the kids about dinosaurs:
we all thought that, probably, they were just a tad too big...
and none of us were quite sure why animals like midgies and mosquitoes were saved.

It was a fascinating story, a story that stayed with me over the years,
but... it’s not a comfortable story, despite the all the animals.
In fact, we’ve sometimes allowed the animals to take centre stage –
got caught up in the fluffy, cuddly things, rather than think about what seems
to actually be going on, namely, God destroying that
which he had previously so joyously created.
Now, the joy has gone.
Now we see a God who seems to be grieving over the great mess the world seems to be in –
the great mess that humans have made in the course of acting out of envy,
malice, greed, anger, and all the other products of only looking toward self-interest,
as opposed to working toward the interest of all.
Here we see a God, looking upon this mess, and, despairing so much, that, it’s like
he loses heart with humanity, and says:
‘I just can’t take this anymore.’

Genesis, Chapter Six:
‘Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence... 
So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people,
for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy 
both them and the earth.”'
But, even as God has the conversation with Noah, there’s a relenting of total annihilation:
immediately following on the heels of ‘I’m going to destroy everything’
God says to Noah: ‘Build a boat.’
And you might pardon Noah for going:
‘Wait. 
What?’
Because apart from seeming like a complete non sequitur,
it’s a mighty odd thing to ask of someone when you’ve pretty much just said to them
‘Nobody gets out of here alive.’
Detailed instructions for boat building then follow and, presumably,
Noah’s got the equivalent of a notepad and pencil handy,
because these instructions are quite specific:
type of wood – cypress;
measurements – 450 x 75 x 45 feet;
exactly where to put the door;
how many decks...
and so on.
Even with this detailed plan for ark building, God still says that everything will be destroyed...
everything...
but actually,
not everything.
Already the ending of the story is changing and moving towards a possible new beginning.
When it comes to complete destruction, simply put, God’s heart is not really in it.
God just can’t seem to wash his hands of humanity,
turn his back and walk away.
God chooses to stay.
God chooses to try and find a way to work things out with those made in God’s own image –
as well as moving around a substantial amount of livestock in the process.
Creation can be saved.
Humans can be redeemed.

As we’ve seen in our journey through Genesis so far,
God’s nature tends toward creating,
tends toward life.
And, while in this story there’s an enormous amount of death and destruction,
at the end of the story, God says
‘no more’...
‘never again will life be cut off.’
God is done with answering violence with violence,
of seeking vengeance and retribution for hurts given.
God models another way:
the way of sacrificial love.

From the end point of the Noah story,
as we watch the story of God’s ongoing relationship with people unfold through the Bible,
we find that no matter how many times people
reject God;
behave badly;
make some quite frankly eye-wateringly, astonishingly poor life-choices;
no matter even, those occasions when people choose to set themselves above God...
that God continues to choose the way of love and calls us to do likewise -
through the voices of the prophets,
the actions of the faithful down through the ages,
and, in time, through Jesus.

In this strange and soggy story
of a man,
of rain beyond imagining,
of a large boat,
and a great bunch of animals, big and small,
the bow – weapon of violence,
is hung up forever on the great wall of the sky,
facing away from, not to, the earth and all its people.
The bow – bringer of death,
becomes a sign of God’s choice to make peace,
of God’s choice to break with the spiral of violence,
of God’s choice to show that power is not found
within a culture of brute force, closed fists, and tyranny –
but rather, to be found by putting away weapons,
by being prepared to be open-handed and vulnerable...
and in so doing, to break down walls of distrust and fear.
The bow becomes a symbol of peace and reconciliation
a sign of hope and life and new beginnings.
It is this model, that we, as God’s people, are called to embrace –
and it is a model, that we can find so hard to follow.
It feels all too easy to want to hurt –
both those who hurt us,
those who hurt the ones we love,
those who hurt the innocent and vulnerable.
From somewhere in our depths we can too readily want to cry out:
‘smite them!’
Or, perhaps that’s just me on a bad day?
But there’s something primal within us that moves us
to want to choose retaliation
and the tearing down of people –
that makes us want to settle old scores,
or to keep old wounds festering.
But, perhaps it’s because this is the easy way?
Taking up God’s call to break the cycle of violence and retribution
requires us to break from a habit and choose a new way of being and behaving.
It is to choose to put away our own particular weapons of choice –
whether judging looks, sharp words, or even the use of violence –
and to make the road of faith by walking together in openness and vulnerability –
even though that can be frightening.
It is to choose to operate within a spirit of sacrificial love –
even though it brings the risk of hurt upon hurt.
It is to choose to break with old cycles and patterns that bring despair and destruction,
and instead, to choose life.

In this story of Noah, we find God led to do a new thing,
to find a new way of being in relationship to people.
In this story of Noah, we find ourselves, as God’s people, called to do a new thing,
to find a new way of being in relationship to God,
and, a new way of being, in relationship to our fellow human beings.
This day, and every day, let us hang up our weapons
and choose the way of life and of love.
...
Let’s pray:
Faithful God
as we make the road together with you and each other:
may we look afresh on our lives,
and leave by the wayside,
the hurts we have caused,
the harm we have spoken,
the lives we have bruised.
And may we pick up a new promise to you,
to live full lives
in the echo of your promise to us:
your living, dying and rising again;
to find celebration before prejudice,
life before death, sharing before greed,
balance before unsustainable living.

Faithful God
as we make the road together with you and each other:
may we look afresh on our lives,
and leave by the wayside,
the ways of living that corrupt,
the lifestyle choices that ignore others,
and the decisions we make that hurt.
And may we pick up a new promise to you,
to live full lives,
and share the world together,
love it fully, walk through it lightly,
share the burden equally,
celebrate its richness fairly.

Faithful God
as we make the road together with you and each other:
may we look afresh on our lives,
and leave by the wayside,
all that brings dull living,
all that is unjust,
all that makes conflict an option.
And may we pick up a new promise to you,
to live full lives
that work towards a new world,
and a new way to live together:
through the cross and into glory,
through the tomb and into morning,
through the death and into resurrection.
                             [prayer adapted from Roots]
Amen.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Date for the Diary: Harvest Thanksgiving service reminder...

Harvest Thanksgiving Service

Sun 2nd October, 10.30am
in the parish church at Abington

Join us as we celebrate the Harvest!

And, after worship, why not stay for tea/coffee, and thereafter, a simple soup lunch? 
Everyone welcome!

*if you'd like to make a donation of food, to help with the Harvest display,
please drop off items on Saturday 1st October between 10am-12pm*

  • All dried/ tinned food will be taken to our local area foodbank in Carluke.
  • A large box of fresh produce will be donated to Clannalba, 
  • and the remainder will be put on a table for folk to take away -
    having made a small financial donation to raise funds for the church.
There will also be an opportunity, as you leave worship, 
to make a donation to the project 'Send a Cow' :

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Sermon, Sun 18 Sept, Wk 4: 'Paradise Lost'...WMTRBW


Having jumped across to the Gospel of John's creation comments last week, we return to the garden...

1st READING: Ps 32
2nd READING: Philippians 2:3-11
3rd READING: Genesis 3

SERMON
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.

Imagine...
everywhere you look:
beauty.
Creation...is good.
Creation...is green and growing,
gliding and growling...
stunningly, awesomely, shimmeringly alive.
...A paradise.
And, in this paradise, you walk freely:
every living creature lives in harmony –
all is at peace,
all is well.
In this paradise, you are bidden,
by the One who spoke you into being,
to flourish,
to prosper,
to know no shame,
...to enjoy.
To make use of what you need, when you need it...
to eat of any fruit you see.
Well, apart from one
the Creator of this paradise asks you not to eat the fruit of just one tree...
one tree in the whole of this teeming, abundant, beautiful garden.
Everything else, however, is yours to tend, and to make use of,
and, you get to enjoy it with a partner who you care about,
who can share in the work of naming and tending;
who you can talk with, while you both look up at the
glimmering stars and planets as you rest at night;
and, who can walk with you, companionably,
through the mossy glades in green-dappled daylight,
and, with you, meet - face to face - the One who created you,
and who also likes to walk in the garden, enjoying his handiwork.
A harmony of relationships:
with God,
with humans,
with all of creation.
Paradise.

But, in this paradise,
there is a subtle and crafty creature –
cunning and clever,
curious and ...questioning.
In the first verse of chapter three of Genesis,
this creature, called ‘the serpent’,
insinuates itself into the story,
insinuates itself between God and the humans,
insinuates itself between
the man and the woman.
And, as it does so,
it begins the task of slyly undermining trust:
‘Did God really say “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”’
Note the use of ‘any’...
And with that opening gambit from the serpent,
the woman helpfully tries to clarify what it is that God has asked of them –
which is, that they are not to eat the fruit of that one tree in the middle of the garden...
And then, she offers up a further, helpful clarification for this curious serpent,
noting that God had warned them:
‘You must not eat fruit from the tree...and you must not touch it, or you will die.’

And even as she’s pondering on the fruit of this one tree,
this one tree out of all of the trees and plants in the garden...
it is as if, this one, single tree is now very sharply in her focus,
while the teeming abundance of the rest of the garden is now...barely noticed.
And as she considers it, she notices that it is a particularly lovely tree.
Might it even be the loveliest of all the trees in the garden?
The shape, and colour, and smell of the fruit is so...pleasing.
How odd, that something so beautiful, magnificent,
so...utterly lovely
is so...out of reach.

She continues to gaze upon it,
as a gentle breeze moves the delicate leaves.
It’s as if nothing else exists in this moment,
apart from a quiet voice beside her,
insinuating itself into her thoughts:
‘You won’t die...’
Insinuating that God has lied.
Insinuating that the One who has made her,
and everything around her, out of sheer love...
is somehow playing false.
The first chink in a harmonious relationship appears.
An odd sensation of...what to name this feeling?
‘Doubt.’
This...is a new experience.
Unsettling.
The separation is already beginning.
And then, the next suggestion:
‘If you eat it, you will be like God...knowing good and evil’
... ‘You   will be    like   God’...
And a strange notion of... what – a yearning for power? –
sends a shiver through her.
To be like God...
and yet, forgetting, that of all of the creatures,
both she, and the man, are like God:
created in God’s image.
Another chink in the relationship.
The crack of separation widens.
She begins to question God’s integrity,
she begins to yearn for knowledge...
and knowledge,
as the saying goes, is power.

She is so close to the tree now:
she can almost feel its energy.
She has listened to God...
and now, has listened to the serpent –
clever, clever serpent,
with such reasonable questions.
It seems inordinately helpful, looking out for her best interests.
Of course it makes sense to eat this fruit –
why shouldn’t she?
She wants it,
it’s useful.
The food looks good
and she will access wisdom and knowledge
immediately, instantly,
....and be like God.
And you can almost, but not quite, hear a sly hiss of encouragement:
‘Go on, you know you want to...
Go on, for not knowing will drive you mad forever, if you don’t.’

And, all the while that this conversation is happening,
it is not two that are there - the woman and the serpent;
there are three.
The man is with them, watching, listening.
His eyes see her fingers outstretched,
reaching to the ever-so-desirable fruit.
A gentle ‘snap’
and it is in her hand.
And with the severing of the fruit from branch, and the eating,
so, another severing:
as the once harmonious relationship between God and humans is broken.
And now, so many strange sensations,
feelings...and, knowledge too:
it’s as if they suddenly see things in a very different way:
‘their eyes are opened, and they know things...
but they still have human eyes, not God’s cosmic perspective, so they can’t see the whole truth’
[Teri Peterson]

Another old saying:
‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’
They look at each other and see their nakedness –
their utter, open trust and vulnerability,
as well as their physical differences
-  and it’s just too much for them.
They are exposed and they need to cover themselves –
psychologically and physically:
and for the first time in the world, another new sensation -
shame.
Their new-found knowledge shows them just how far they fall short of God.
God’s immensity,
God’s very being, overwhelms them,
and they know now that they can never
walk with God,
talk face to face with God, as they did before.
The shame and embarrassment of it all just makes them want to curl up and die...
or, at least, run away and hide –
for how could God bear to look at them?
And then, horror of horrors, they hear the sound of the Lord God,
walking in the garden calling for these creatures
he has fashioned and has made a friendship with.
And God’s voice echoes through the garden...
a strangely silent garden now.
‘Where are you?’ calls God,
and eventually the man shuffles out of hiding,
expresses another feeling unknown before the eating of the fruit:
fear.
‘I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’
‘Who told you that you were naked? ...Have you eaten...?’
In response, we get the first known case of passing the buck:
before he admits what he’s done, added to shame, is blame.
The man quickly points the finger at the woman –
‘she gave it to me.’
And God looks at the woman, who points the finger of blame at the serpent –
‘the serpent deceived me.’
Both, essentially admitting what they’ve done, but crying ‘it’s not my fault!’
Neither taking responsibility.

I wonder...
how this story would have worked out if the man and the woman
had looked at God sadly, and simply took responsibility for their actions,
simply said:
‘We did this thing, we are to blame, and oh, we are so very, very sorry.’
 But they don’t.
And so, the garden is now
paradise lost.
And the act of eating the apple does result in death eventually –
for, in their exile from the garden, they can no longer eat of that other famous tree:
the tree of life.

This is a story that tries to explain
why human beings are broken
and why bad things happen.
The ancient followers of faith, told the story to show
how the relationship between God and humans was ruptured;
how relationships between human and human could so easily fracture;
how the relationship between human beings and creation got so out of kilter.
Where once was harmony,
at some point, disharmony entered into the way of things.
Distrust, and shame,
and greed confused with need,
the desire for power, and for instant gratification –
just eat the fruit and you’ll immediately know everything –
all of it leading to focusing upon everything else but... God,
for in a sense, here we have a story that shows us an
essential part of the human condition:
that we are often too busy trying to be God –
and, not necessarily be like God.

A friend of mine observed the strange paradox
that ‘our attempt to become like God only highlights how humans are not God. 
Our attempts to use this newfound knowledge,
when we have a perspective bound by being part of creation 
rather than the breadth of God’s vision, 
inevitably lead us to a sense of shame and inadequacy which then force us to keep 
trying to be self-sufficient, which is why the first people hide from God.’ [Teri P]
There’s a reflection of this response of shame and inadequacy within our worship:
we begin with praise and adoration –
and, as we begin to move into the sense of
how astonishing, how gracious, how lovely God is,
we find ourselves changing focus momentarily –
we realise as we see God, that we are not God,
we realise this through the choices we’ve made:
you know, the many and varied pieces of fruit
we’ve taken from all sorts of trees that would better have been left alone...
but we took the fruit because
...well, why shouldn’t we?
And, if I don’t, somebody else will,
and I won’t have any...
and a myriad of other justifications.
And so, in worship, from adoration,
we move to confession –
for, in knowing the old, old story of the garden,
we know something the first two humans didn’t:
that the best course of action to ensure that a relationship can be healed and mended,
is to take responsibility,
to take the blame,
not shift it.
To ‘fess up and say
‘I was wrong when I did that – I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me?’
And in the honest, asking,
in the laying yourself on the line and being open, and vulnerable,
and not hiding before God -
God’s response is always
‘yes’.

Even as they’re exiled from paradise -
although, they’ve effectively exiled themselves -
note the love and care shown by God:
garments of skin are made by God and given to them:
God clothes them for that journey out.
And, I think the exile is an act of mercy, as well.
With the knowledge they have, but not knowing how to use it properly,
to live forever seeing only their eternal shame would be...eternally horrible.
A bitter fate.
Perhaps the exile is not just a matter of punishment,
but protection for the humans.

And then, after many centuries of God calling in the wilderness,
of God wanting to restore the severed relationship,
then, in love...there is Jesus.
Jesus, who shows human beings what it is to be in full relationship with God.
Jesus, or whom it's said, in Philippians,
‘did not consider equality with God something to be grasped...
but made himself nothingtaking the very nature of a servant...
he humbled himself...
therefore, God exalted him.’

Jesus, shows us the love of God, and God’s desire for restored relationship:
between God and humans,
humans with other humans,
humans with the whole of creation.
Jesus, showing us what the kingdom of heaven on earth can be –
as we turn our focus back to the One
who created all things in love, and with joy;
who created us to live in love and with joy;
who calls to us, even now,
to be builders of the kingdom –
to be restorers of relationships
and,in so doing,  
to discover paradise, no longer lost,
but paradise found.  Amen.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

We Make the Road - weekly reflection: 'don't do the things'

A little later in the week, but we get there!

This Sunday, we head back to the Garden of Eden.
God tells the humans to enjoy the garden, to flourish, to prosper,
to have fun...with one request: don't eat from that particular tree.
We know the story: decisions can be tricky things.

Recently, I came across the following summary of the Bible, which is quite fun, but makes it's point well. Enjoy!

The Bible... a summary
GENESIS
God: All right, you two, don't do the one thing. Other than that, have fun.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
Satan: You should do the thing.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
God: What happened!?
Adam & Eve: We did the thing.
God: Guys

THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
God: You are my people, and you should not do the things.
People: We won't do the things.
God: Good.
People: We did the things.
God: Guys

THE GOSPELS
Jesus: I am the Son of God, and even though you have done the things, the Father  
           and I still love you and want you to live. Don't do the things anymore.
Healed people: Okay! Thank you!
Other people: We've never seen him do the things, but he probably does the
                       things when no one is looking.
Jesus: I have never done the things.
Other people: We're going to put you on trial for doing the things.
Pilate: Did you do the things?
Jesus: No.
Pilate: He didn't do the things.
Other people: Kill him anyway.
Pilate: Okay.
Jesus: Guys

PAUL'S LETTERS
People: We did the things.
Paul: Jesus still loves you, and because you love Him, you have to stop doing the things.
People: Okay.

PAUL'S LETTERS PART II
People: We did the things again.
Paul: Guys

REVELATION
John: When Jesus comes back, there will be no more people who do the things.
           In the meantime, stop doing the things.
THE END

Friday, 16 September 2016

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

News of coos: Harvest and the Send a Cow project

As part of our upcoming Harvest celebration on 2 October,
we'll be supporting the great work of the Send a Cow organisation -
started by British farmers to help farmers in Africa.

In the run-up to Harvest, our five small, rural primary schools have each
been given the challenge to build a cow, and all have cheerfully agreed to go for it.
Construction is already underway - and pics will follow.
The cows will be used in Harvest Assemblies, joint schools Harvest services,
and visit the church as our special guest stars on Harvest Sunday [which could be most amoosing].
Keep your eyes and ears out for news of coos in the area!!
In the meantime, a wee video, showing the work of Send a Cow.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Church Coffee Morning, 2016: update

A huge thanks to everyone who made the morning such a great success!
Special thanks to our brilliant Social Committee for their sterling efforts in organising and coordinating the morning...
Thanks, as well, to all who volunteered with help -
from pouring tea, to staffing stalls, to baking and making many lovely things.

A thank you to everyone who turned out to support our event, too!

Thanks to all the hard work and support, we raised the excellent amount of £450.

Well done, folks, great stuff!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Sermon, Sun 11 Sept, Wk3: In the beginning, the Word' - WMTRBW

1st READING: Ps 145:1-16
2nd READING: John 1:1-17

SERMON 'In the beginning, the Word'
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.

The ancient philosopher, Plato, stated that:
‘the beginning is the most important part of the work.’
And, over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing
the important work of exploring beginnings
as we’ve heard again the creation stories from Genesis, the book of beginnings.
Our first story was a great hymn of awe and wonder –
a story beginning with God;
God’s story of creation –
a story of imagining,
of shaping, and making,
and of bringing order out of chaos,
and life out of nothingness –
this, over a period described as ‘6 days’.
And all that was made was seen by the One who had created it,
and was called ‘good.’

Our second creation story,
following immediately from this first account,
told the story of a garden –
out of which rivers flowed,
and in which, was filled with all living things:
plants and creatures
and then, from the dust, a human being...
followed later by another –
formed by God from the rib of the first.
Both made to live in companionship with:
God,
one another,
and the whole of creation –
over which they were stewards,
and over which they had the power of naming each created thing.
And in this garden, called Eden,
we also know that there were two special trees:
the Tree of Life,
and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Now God had instructed the humans to enjoy Eden,
to prosper and flourish...
to eat of any fruit...
but one:
the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:
for to eat of it would surely bring death.
Into this second creation story, then,
was introduced the possibility that while all was good,
that could change, depending upon human choice.

Where we left off last week, in that story,
all was still well in the garden...
and, we’ll travel back there next week.
Today, however, we have another beginning –
a third account of creation, according to the Gospel of John –
echoing our first creation story:
Genesis 1: ‘In the beginning God...’
John 1: ‘In the beginning ...was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’

Remember Plato –
‘the beginning is the most important part of the work’?
This is John’s beginning – his account,
his testimony, if you like, about the man, Jesus.
And John thinks it hugely important to tie
the beginning of his story of Jesus
to the beginning of all things.
John’s creation story introduces the whole of the story to follow,
the story of Jesus, by grounding it solidly within the creation story –
and by doing so, flagging up that there’s something
 more to Jesus than may meet the eye –
he’s human, yes...
but so much more.

This portion of John’s gospel is ordinarily heard
at Christmas Eve watchnight services, or on Christmas Day –
the great hymn of praise and wonder of God breaking into creation
and doing a new thing...
a great hymn echoing that first great hymn of creation in Genesis, chapter one.
And, at that time of year, our other gospel accounts give us
more ‘earthy’ descriptions of Jesus –
the muck and mess of a birth in a byre,
smells and animals and pain and love combined.
The other accounts of Jesus put him well and truly within a human context –
...albeit with angels singing ‘Glory!’
and a star shining over Bethlehem.
Here is God made flesh – tiny, human...
But at the beginning of John’s account of Jesus –
we see a holy, and wholly, other side to the nature of Jesus,
described here as ‘the Word’ –
in the Greek, ‘logos’
which Bryan McClaren refers to as:
‘a special term for the pattern of meaning God
has spoken or written into the universe.’  [WMTRBW p15]

John’s creation account, and account of Jesus,
speaks less of the human Jesus
and more of the cosmic Christ.
Trying to make sense of the extraordinary experience
he and the disciples – and others – have had, of Jesus,
trying to put down in words that which had been, in the end, utterly overwhelming,
John turns to this sense of ‘logos’ to describe Jesus -
Jesus, who is not just a man,
but God.
Jesus, who has a human nature...
but also, who has a divine nature –
and if divine, then, somehow, involved in the beginning of all things –
the Word, speaking patterns and logic
from nothing,
from formlessness,
and out of chaos.

This particular gospel reading –
often referred to as ‘the Prologue’ of John –
is like a hymn of awe and wonder and love.
A hymn of glorification –
of praise and worship;
a recognition of the holy:
God’s presence...
it is of God, in human life.
God, who, having gotten hands dirty by gathering dust and forming a human,
enters fully into human experience in Jesus.
And the writer of this gospel is astonished –
astonished by the thought that to see Jesus is to see God...
the One who brought all things into being at the beginning of all time.
‘It is through entering into our flesh that Jesus reveals to us who God actually is, 
has been, and will be.  It is through plunging deeply into the sinful, ignorant 
realities of our existence in this world that Jesus restores us to that for which he created us.’        
                                                                                                      [Cynthia L Rigby FOTW YrB Vol 1 p144]
The man, Jesus, who told stories,
shared food at table,
who touched the untouchable,
who challenged authorities
is, also the divine Word, through whom all things were made –
the light, shining in the darkness,
the true light who gives light to every human being.
This same one who, for those who believe,
gave the right to become children of God...
the Word,
who ‘became flesh and lived for a while among us.’
And, here, the basic meaning in the original text
is that in Jesus, God ‘spread his tent with ours.’  [Gk verb: ‘skenoo’]

John echoes Genesis once more, with his mention of light and dark –
into the darkness of nothingness, the light shines:
God’s creative Word bringing life,
leaving an imprint upon creation,
the patterns and logic making, for John,
sense of God’s story of beginnings,
and God’s continuing story of relationship with human beings...
making sense – showing the divine ‘logic’ –
of the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus...
making sense of the mission of Jesus,
to restore us, and to redeem us – to re-orient us as we make the road, together,
with God,
and each other,
by walking in faith
by continuing the story of faith
and continuing the tradition of relationship and community...
and re-creation and restoration.

Here, in this creation story told by John –
told in the context of a people trying to make sense of Jesus and of his story,
we’re told at the beginning of this story, of Jesus - the Word,
echoing the creation story of Genesis, which:
‘tells us that God said, 
"Let there be . . ." and there was. God spoke day and night, 
heaven and earth, land and sea, plants and animals, and humanity into being.  
Jesus is that utterance. Jesus is God’s eternal speech, which existed before 
anything else and called everything into being.’
                                                                                     [Craig Saterlee, ‘Working Preacher’]

Essentially, John telling us that:
‘In Jesus, God speaks God’s mind.’    [FOTW, YrC, Robert Redman, 140] 
That, in Jesus, God has given life,
and that God has given light.
As John prepares us to hear the rest of the story of Jesus,
the imagery of light and dark will play out throughout the entire story.
We begin in the gospel, with the true light coming into the world...
and over the course of the John’s account,
the darkness begins to overshadow the story,
until that particular darkness which covered the earth one Friday, at 3pm,
a darkness trying to blot out a man hanging upon a cross on a hill
outside the walls of Jerusalem...
but that is not the end of the story, according to John:
for ‘the beginning is the most important part of the work’
and the beginning of this creation story in John points to the true light:
a light that can never be overcome;
a light that reveals, through Jesus, what God is like;
a light that reveals, by his life, how we should live;
a light that reveals, that, in Jesus, we are God’s own beloved children
and part of a long, and great, and astonishing story –
a story worth sharing with others...
a story of hope, of life, and of God’s ongoing love –
a love present from the beginning of all time,
and love that will last throughout all eternity.
A love that calls us, as God’s people, to take the light of life
into places that don’t shine so brightly;
to places where it feels like the dark is winning.
We carry the light – that light of life,
as people who follow the true light –
for we are called by the life-giving and creative God,
to be a life-giving and creative people... this because:
‘we have seen his glory:the glory of the one and only Son, 
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Let’s pray:
‘In the beginning 
the Word had already spoken what had been. 
The universe understood its meaning. 
Nature recognised its tone. 
Life and energy responded to its sound. 
And so our story was birthed through 
the ecstasy of creation and the agony of love. 
In the beginning 
the Word had already declared what was to be. 
Yet blindness did not see it. 
Ignorance could not discern it. 
Hostility refused to accept it. 
And so our story was lived 
through the suffering of a Son, 
the heartbreak of a Father. 
In the beginning 
the Word spoke clear and true of what is. 
And a weeping woman heard it. 
A people failed to suppress it. 
A world is yet to receive it. 
And so our story begins 
again and again with a Word. 
Lord, may we listen. 
Lord, may we know. 
Lord, may we see a new beginning. Amen.’
                                                                   [Spill the Beans]

Thursday, 8 September 2016

2nd Sunday Summer Service: 11 September

'2nd Sunday' Summer Services

Can't make morning worship?
No need to worry!
Join us for the last of our summer evening worship services on the 11th September...


6.30pm at Holy Trinity Chapel, Lamington: 
Take time out to 'be' as we gather together for worship in the simple, uncluttered style of Taizé.

It's a time for:
candles and contemplation,
music and meditation,
silence, simplicity, singing...
Worship in an unhurried pace, with time to reflect.
A quiet space in the midst of the busyness of life to help
recharge, refresh, renew yourself for the week ahead.

What is Taizé-style worship?
Taizé Services by Upper Clyde Parish are loosely based on the pattern of worship
used by the Taizé Community.
A mixture of chants, scripture readings, spoken prayers and long silences,
help provide an oasis of peace,
a chance to stop and dwell with others on the presence of Christ.
If wordy worship is not for you, if you enjoy stillness and simplicity,
Taizé Worship may well be what you are looking for.

Some background on the Taizé Community: 
Taizé is a small village in eastern France and one of the wonders of the Christian world.
Far better known in continental Europe than it is in Britain, for over 50 years,
it has been the home of a Christian monastic community made up of over 100 brothers
from around 30 countries, speaking many different languages and, uniquely, belonging
to several different Christian denominations.
Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants, Orthodox and others live and pray together,
share a simple life and welcome the tens of thousands of visitors who come to spend time
with them every year from all over the world.

The Community describes itself as a "parable of communion", living proof
that it is possible for Christians from all denominations to overcome the divisions
of the past, to live, work and worship together, united by their shared trust in Christ.
Taizé has developed a unique style of meditative singing which focuses
on the repetitive chanting of short phrases from the Bible and other Christian texts
in a range of languages.
The three daily services also include short Bible readings and prolonged periods of silence.
Learning to listen to God in the company of others is at the heart of prayer at Taizé.
It is almost impossible to recreate the unforgettable experience of a Taizé service
outside the Community, but thousands of Christian churches, communities and families
across the world do take inspiration from what they have found there.
The songs, in particular, are widely used.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Annual Church Coffee Morning, 2016

All Welcome to our 2016 Church Coffee Morning:
Bring a friend, enjoy great home baking over a cuppa...
A fun and fund-raiser.


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Guild News and updates: new session begins

Guild Programme for new session 
Sept. 2016- March 2017:  

Sunday 11th September 2015 10.30am:
Dedication of Guild at the Morning Service, Upper Clyde Church. 

Wednesday 14th September 7.30pm:
Speaker: Tim Bell - Port Chaplain at Leith Docks
Chair: Ailenn Gemmell     Hostess: Heather Watt 

Wednesday 12th October 2.00pm:
Speaker: J Warnock MBE
Chair: Mary Hamilton     Hostess: Christine Hudson

Wednesday 11th November 2015 2.00pm:
Speaker Rev. Sarah Agnew.
Chair: Heather Watt       Hostess: Mary Hamilton 

Saturday 19th November 2016, 10.30 - 12.00pm: 
Guild Week Annual Coffee Morning, Roberton Hall 

Wednesday 14th December 2015 2.00pm:
Theme: Christmas music
Chair: Jenny Hodgen     Hostess: Committee.                                          

Wednesday 11th January 2017 2.30pm:
Annual Guild Afternoon Tea, Church Hall 

Wednesday 10th February 2016 2.00pm:
Speaker/Theme tbc
Chair: Christine Hudson     Hostess: Aileen Gemmell 

Wednesday 8th March 2016 7.00pm:
Leadhills Silver Band
Hostess: Committee       

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Sermon, Sun 4 Sept: Wk2/ In the garden ...[WMTRBW]

1st READING: Ps 8   
2nd READING: Genesis 2:4-25

SERMON
Two stories of beginnings...
Last week, we reflected upon the first account of the beginning of all things, as described in the book of Genesis, chapter one.
In the beginning, God –
bringing order from chaos,
speaking everything into being
with a life-affirming ‘let    there    be’
This, over a period of time described as 6 days
and with an added seventh day – for rest.
And, as each day, filled to the brim with creative energy 
and fusion, came to an end, further affirmation of life:
‘and God saw all that had been created, and it was good.’
Mountain and valley – good;
flowers, and plants, and trees – good;
sun, moon, stars – good...
human beings, male and female, 
created in God’s very image – good.

While God is shown to be intimately connected 
to all things, through the act of creating,
it is in this second account that we see 
the equivalent of God’s hands getting dirty –
this, in the act of creating the first human:
‘adam’ – which sounds like, and very probably is, 
derived from the Hebrew word for ‘ground’, ‘adamah’.
This account of creation is where we get the reference 
used within a funeral service: 
‘from dust we come...and from dust we will return.’

In this second story - a somewhat different account of the creation,
we learn of streams springing up from the dusty earth, 
watering its whole surface.
And then we hear of this first human,
gathered and formed from the ground itself,
but there’s no life in this sculpted shape
until God breathes into the nostrils of the human,
and upon doing so, behold:
the human...‘being’ – 
living, existing.

It’s in this second account of creation 
that we come across the Garden of Eden –
somewhere in the east.
A garden in which rivers of life-giving water flow out into all the earth;
a garden in which there are trees, pleasing to the eye and good for food;
a garden in which is placed two particular trees:
the tree of life
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
It is this garden, into which the human being is placed, 
to work and to care for it.
And, just as God spoke the creation into being,
so the human speaks to the beasts of the field and the birds of the air –
and names them.
And God says to the human being –
created in God’s image,
created with the power to name things,
and created with the power to make decisions –
the power to choose –
God says to this human being:
you are free to enjoy the fruit of all trees in this garden, but, just one thing:
‘don’t eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, 
for when you eat of it, you will surely die.’

As the poet, Edwin Markham, once observed:
‘choices are the hinges of destiny...’
For, into the story of creation, 
and the relationship between God and human beings, 
comes, for the first time, the possibility of 
creation having the potential of not being good anymore.
But, for the moment, within our text today,
all is well for a time, in the Garden.
Or, well enough...
something yet is lacking:
if God is a communal being –
for whom relationships are important,
then, it follows that human beings were created to be relational creatures.
There is the divine and human relationship,
as we look at our two accounts of beginnings.
However, it seems that God understands 
that the human, as with all other creatures, needs a companion:
‘it is not good for the human to be alone.’
Looking at all of the other creatures in the garden, none is like the human –
all are good, but only the human being is made in God’s image.
After casting the human into a deep sleep, God takes a rib.
And there is new life – 
and new relationship:
male and female 
connected by God,
connected to each other,
connected to creation.

It’s useful to note, too, that here in our reading,
‘helper’ is not meant to be inferior,
not meant in a subservient way –
these two human beings help each other,
share, care, and bear one another’s burdens:
this is not a hierarchical relationship.
The man does not create the woman – 
in fact, the man is sound asleep throughout 
the whole process, utterly passive, 
and probably...cheerfully snoring!
It is God who creates the woman. 
‘Eve, like Adam, owes her existence to God alone. 
Both Adam and Eve are created from fragile materials – dust, a rib – 
and in both cases those materials depend upon God’s 
careful shaping of those raw materials into human creatures.
‘So here we have a passage that affirms the creation of human creatures 
as interdependent – helpers and partners, who live in mutuality and discovery.’
[from: Meghan Florian, ‘Femmonite’ blog]

While this latter part of Genesis, chapter two, is a classic text for weddings – 
it goes beyond marital relationships:
it speaks to a web of relationships on different levels.
Yes, there’s the love shared within the bonds of the marriage relationship,
but there’s the wider bonds of love that we’re called to have for all human beings:
for the whole of the human race is our neighbour.

But what about the trees?
We know that those two trees are still hovering 
in the background, there in the Garden.
We know that one brings life,
and the other brings death.
We know that the story in the Garden 
doesn’t have a Disney-style happy ending...
there is shame, blame, and estrangement from God.
But we also know that the story of God, and of God’s people continues.
Desiring reconciliation,
desiring to no longer be estranged from humanity but a friend
God’s hands once again get dirty –
and echoing the words 
‘flesh my flesh, bone of my bone,’
God becomes one of us,
and hunkers down into the mess and muck of what it is to be human –
with all our potential for good,
and all our potential for not doing good.

Shortly, in bread and wine,
products of God’s good creation,
we remember God’s connection to us, through Jesus,
and our connection to God, as Christ’s body on earth,
seeking to follow him as we serve one another,
and the wider world, in his name.
We gather together to share a meal
in which Jesus talks of bread as his body,
and wine as his blood...
It is a meal of friendship,
of reconciliation,
of celebration - of all that is good,
of all that is ...God’s.
It is a meal that has at its heart life –
abundant life;
it is also a meal that has, at its heart, love –
freely given.
Let us, this day, commit ourselves again
to choosing life, 
and to choosing love –
and to share that life and love with all we meet,
this day and always.  Amen.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

We make the road - weekly reflection: 'Being human'

Two trees...in a garden
In the second of the Genesis creation accounts, there's a focus on relationships:
*the Divine: the relationship between God and human beings... and humans with God.
* and human relationships.

What does it mean to be human?
To be in a relationship of love with God?
To be in relationships of love with our fellow human beings.
And what of the freedom to be given the power to choose?

As an extra for personal reflection:
This might be a great week to explore Milton's great masterpiece 'Paradise Lost'!