Friday, 30 December 2016

Sunday preview: 'God Knows' or 'The gate of the year'

This Sunday we'll be thinking of gifts, and of gates, and of time, as we stand at the beginning of a fresh new year.  At this time of year, the poem by Minnie Haskins comes to mind:
'God knows' - or, it's better known title -
'The gate of the year'.

Here, copied below, the poem for reflection...

'God knows'
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Sunday worship 18 Dec: 'bingo', shepherds, baptism, and carols

A busy and fun Sunday! Here's a wee round-up:

Morning worship:
At our rather packed all-age, informal morning service we told the Christmas story
by playing a game of 'Christmas Bingo'.  We heard a reading from Matthew's Gospel that was
not unlike an episode of 'Who do you think you are', and discovered some surprising people
in the midst of the long list of names in Jesus' family tree.  In our other reading we
heard of angels visiting shepherds in Luke 2:8-20, and later, had an imagined reflection
from one of the shepherds about that night. He was rather surprised that angels would
trouble to visit folk such as him, given his own people looked down on the likes of shepherds;
maybe God's love was for everyone, not just those who thought they were 'respectable.'
We also had great fun welcoming young Innes into God's family through the sacrament of
baptism. And, we unfurled the last of our lovely Advent/Christmas banners, so beautifully made
by our craft group.

Community Carol singing, with Junction 13
From 1.30 - 5.15, folk from our community choir, 'Junction 13', managed to carol their way
around 5 of our 9 villages in the parish:
Abington, Crawfordjohn, Crawford, Leadhills, and Wanlockhead.
Huge thanks to our singers, for their tireless efforts - and particular thanks to the Foleys for organising us re. music and a spot of supper before evening worship.
Thanks, too, for the hospitality provided by Abington Store, Colebrooke Arms, and Hopetoun Arms and their much-welcome mince pies, choc. Yule log, lots of tea/coffee - which kept us all keeping on.
We managed to raise c.£160 for Cancer Research. Thanks for the kind donations! :)

and... evening worship: our Carol Service in Scotland's highest village
We finished the day with our annual Carol Service, in Scotland's highest village, Wanlockhead,
followed by some fab home baking. Thanks, as ever, to our friends from Leadhills Silver Band
[from Scotland's second highest village!] and to the fabulous Mary Hamilton, for providing the
music. And thanks too, to: Teresa Brasier, who put the service together, and to all the readers.
Below is a snippet of our final carol for the evening - apol's for the wobbly camera work on the
small Android phone!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Lunch Club, December


Join us as we bring our Lunch Club year to a seasonal close... We meet in the Church Hall, 12.30pm on Wed 21 December.
All welcome! Cost - £5

For catering purposes, please let Jenny Worthington know by the Mon evening

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Sunday 11 Dec, wk16 - 'ready, willing, able'...WMRBW

Our readings on Sunday were:
Micah 5:2-5a and Matthew 1:1-18 to 2:15.

Through the use of reflective imagination we heard Joseph's story,
some gathered thoughts from the Wise Men, and listened to what King Herod had to say. These short reflections were later gathered together for a brief homily...

Three weeks of Advent waiting, watching, and wondering.
Week One – and we wondered:
‘are we ready?’
Week Two – and we wondered:
‘are we willing?’
This week, Week Three, perhaps our wondering moves us to ask:
‘are we able?’
Joseph, when confronted with difficult news, also wondered: what should he do?
How could he move from betrothal, to marriage with Mary, given her ‘condition’?
What would people think?
It was just not the ‘done thing’.
Names mattered:
if he married her, and it got out that he was not the father
Joseph’s name would count for nothing.
Rather than being named as someone ‘respectable’ his name,
along with his family’s, would be mud.
He’d already determined to break off the relationship – but he was a decent man,
so he was preparing to break things off quietly, so as not to bring attention,
not to bring scandal upon Mary and her family.
And then, something changes.
Overturning the weight of societal expectations,
the burden of culture, and appropriate behaviour,
Joseph suddenly changes course.
He’s ready to wait and watch and prepare with Mary for the longed-for Messiah.
He’s willing to say ‘yes’ to God, and let go of his need for a ‘good reputation’.
He finds himself able to break out of the confines that he’s been boxed in to
by society, culture, and religious law – this, in order to do what is right.
In the process of saying ‘yes’ to God, Joseph discovers he need not be afraid
and, in doing so, finds an inner strength and peace to be a part of God’s rescue story.

Three weeks, and in this third week, three wise men:
kings? astrologers? priests?
Wealthy, influential, and wondering:
ready to look for signs that show them that there’s more to life than wealth and power.
Willing to seek for deeper meaning and to journey into the unknown,
on a voyage of promise and discovery.
And, on encountering that for which they have sought so long, and so hard...
they, like Joseph, find themselves able to forget about reputation:
they bend the knee to the child before them,
seeing in him the hope of all people;
the one who will bring peace, not a sword.

Three weeks, and three different kinds of king:
Herod –  the despot in Jerusalem:
the ultimate conspiracy theorist who sees plots and enemies everywhere.
Herod, whose reign is one of terror and revenge;
who has no qualms in disposing of family members, or small children,
to keep the power he so desperately craves.
A king who serves only himself.
Then there are the wise men – open to new things,
prepared to put aside their power for a time
when they come upon that for which they’ve been searching:
the child who will be king of kings, the prince of peace,
whose kingdom will never end,
and who will be named ‘Immanuel’ – God with us...
a king who lives in the service of others,
ready, willing, and able
to give his all and to teach us how to live in love, and service,
to God and to each other...

As we move toward Christmas, on this third week of Advent:
so our Advent question expands:
are you ready, willing, and able to follow the One born in the stable?

Let’s pray:
Joseph said, ‘Yes' -
in spite of his shock at Mary's news,
     the scandal it would cause,
     the damage it could do to his business.
What would we have done?
Joseph said, ‘Yes' -
which meant accepting Mary into his home,
     providing for Jesus' needs,
     welcoming God into his life.
What would we have done?
Joseph said, ‘Yes' -
to God breaking into his life,
     changing his focus and direction,
     bringing joy undreamt-of.
What are we doing?
Advent God,
forgive us for undue concern
with our plans and reputations,
worrying about what others will think.
Be our companion in our quest for fulfilment,
guiding our thoughts
and releasing our imaginations.
Lead us once more to the manger in Bethlehem,
preparing us to accept your gift of love.
Make us ready to receive you afresh
in this Advent season.
Break down our excuses and reluctance
and breathe freshness and enthusiasm into our living for and with you. Amen.

Monday, 12 December 2016

We're dreaming of a Guild Christmas...

The Guild meets on: Wednesday 14 Dec, 2pm...

Our meeting this month is cheerfully seasonal, as we feature favourite Christmas music. Members are asked to bring along a plate of Christmas treats.
All are welcome!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Tidings of comfort and joy: special service

Tidings of comfort and Joy:
a service of reflection and remembrance

Saturday 10 December, 2pm -
in the parish church at Abington

For all those who find this time of year difficult...

Join us for readings, reflections, and prayers to light this season with hope while acknowledging the losses we may have experienced in our lives...

Monday, 5 December 2016

Sermon, Sun 4 Dec wk15: 'Two women'...WMRBW

READINGS: Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 1:39-56    

Two women:
one is old, one is young.
One, married, the other, betrothed.
Both, however, find themselves unexpectedly pregnant.
The older woman, Elizabeth, has lived with years of shame –
a shame brought about through social custom, expectations, and pressure...
In the early days of her marriage, hope was high of maintaining the family line.
But, as the years pass, the only thing bearing fruit
has been the idle speculation and disapproving gossip of her neighbours.
More years pass and with them, hope has faded,
even as the endless whispered conversations have grown.
An old woman, now mostly ignored, mostly invisible, of little account;
a woman who is just getting on with what is left of her life.
A woman who is surprised one day to find that hope has not entirely withered:
like that great ancestor of her faith, Sarah, who thought she was too old to bear a child,
miraculously, Elizabeth too shall have a child in these, her later years.
Her world is turned upside-down.
She, and her strangely silent husband, Zechariah –
silent since his last stint at the temple –
watch and wait, and prepare for the unexpected.

The younger woman, Mary, has lived a quiet life,
stayed at home and helped her mother, and waited upon her father,
as all good daughters are expected to.
Following the cultural norms, this gentle and obedient daughter,
has recently been betrothed to a man deemed by her family to be suitable.
He will be more suitable than she currently understands:
showing patience, care, loyalty, and love in the midst of possible scandal.
However, at this point in time,
Mary has just been given utterly unexpected tidings from a strange messenger:
like Elizabeth, her whole world is about to turn upside-down as well.
In that most conservative of societies, where women are controlled
by their fathers, brothers, and husbands,
she has just been told by God’s messenger that she will have a child...
and, it will not be Joseph’s child that she’ll carry.

In a different way to Elizabeth, Mary too, will be subject to gossip and snide innuendo...
but she will bear it, and the child, for God’s sake.
In some strange way, this humble young teenager
- a woman of no importance in her society,
has been chosen to carry the hope of the nation,
the hope for the world.
Letting the message sink in, as much as she can, Mary says ‘yes, may it be as you say.’
Both women, older and younger, dare to believe that the impossible is...possible,
that they worship a God
who can do all things,
who can overturn all things.
They rejoice as they meet, and ponder what is about to come.

Later, sons will be born to both of them:
Elizabeth’s son will prepare the way for the son of Mary, Jesus...
who, in the mystery of incarnation, will be God, with skin on.
Even later, both sons will say ‘yes’ to their respective tasks,
and both will suffer for their willingness to play their part in the great story
of God’s rescue,
God’s deliverance of humanity...
God’s good news that turns the ways of the world upside-down,
which Mary sings of in her great song of rejoicing that is referred to as ‘the Magnificat’.

As Elizabeth and Mary meet one another their hearts sing as they realise that
something awesome, something amazing is about to happen:
something bigger even than God’s rescue of the Israelites from Egypt.
And, echoing the liberation song of Moses’ sister Miriam, Mary sings:
of the God who saves,
of the God who sees those unseen by society,
of the God who showers the most lowly with his blessing,
of the God who shows mercy...
This is the God who does not play by human rules of grabbing all for one’s own gain,
of having power by keeping others down:
for in God’s economy, God’s kingdom,
power is seen in vulnerability,
it is where the poor are fed while the rich are sent away.
Here is a God who believes
that all are entitled to share in the good things of the kingdom,
that all deserve to have life that is abundant – in body, mind, and spirit...
This is the God of unlimited grace
and unmerited blessing.

Mary’s song encapsulates what the gospel is:
good news for all of humanity, not just a select few.
And the life of her son, Jesus,
is the good news in word and in deed:
showing those who followed him and those who follow him still,
how to live, and what it is to be willing to say ‘yes’ to God.
Shortly, we share in bread and wine – the meal that Jesus made for his friends
and bid them, when eating, to remember him.
It is a solemn meal –
for we know that shortly after he met with his friends,
his willingness to be obedient to God would lead to suffering and death ...
But it is also a joyful meal –
for we know that death is not the end of Jesus’ story.
His story continues - even here, among us.
Perhaps if last week the question was
‘Are we ready?’ this week, the question is:
Are we willing – like Elizabeth, like Mary, John, and Jesus –
are we willing to say ‘yes’ to God,
to sing with Mary a hymn of good news, and, as God’s people,
to live out God’s good news in word and in deed?
Dare we believe in a God who makes the impossible... possible?
And, if we do, how might that transform not only our lives,
but the lives of all those   around us?

Let’s pray:
Enable us, gracious God, to listen as Mary listened
and to give ourselves fully and humbly and joyously
to that which you call us to do.
And whether it be dramatic or mundane,
may we reflect your wonderful love for each of us
and serve the world your Son came to redeem.
We ask this in his name.  Amen.