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Messages from the interim moderator
Sadly the Churches can no longer open at present. From time to time I will leave short Bible messages / prayers on the website. I know some people will be wanting more than we can offer, as we do not have facilities to stream live worship. Many websites will provide some form of worship or thoughts for the day etc.
One of the increasingly popular is fairly home grown. A web Church founded in Falkirk area, by an ex-Moderator of the Church of Scotland – the Rev Albert Bogle.
This offers a live Sunday service as well as other encouragement, and many of you may find it useful.
You've got to be taught to hate and fear,
You've got to be taught, from year to year,
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a different shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
Many of you will recognise these lyrics (which are an observation – not a suggestion) from the musical South Pacific dating back to 1949. Many will also have heard of Martin Luther King looking forward to a day “when people will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character” from his 1963 'I have a dream' speech.
Not many years ago we were told we had to be colour blind and just not notice a different appearance. Of course that could not work, but in a way it was an encouragement to say do not let someone's colour affect your judgement or your attitude. Over the years, things have improved a bit but as current events show there is still a lot to do to change mindsets. Most people are probably not guilty of violent racism but there is a word – microaggression, in this context meaning when people unintentionally are racist or discriminate, e.g. "My neighbours are black/Asian but they are nice people." In conversation usually there is no need to mention the obvious characteristic of colour. Or similarly, as I would hear when working in the central belt, "My neighbours are Catholic but nice people." Many conversations, although without malice, will throw in an unnecessary comment.
As Paul told his Christian friends in Galatians 3, “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So often in times past and still today the Bible has been misunderstood or simply misused. Yet that is the doing of wrong thinking, or abuse of power. The Bible truth is none of us is perfect. As Romans 3 puts it, ”for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” therefore under God no one is better than another, for each of us equally owes life to him, and freedom to be the most satisfied we can be comes through trusting in Christ and the cross.
Under God, individuals may have different abilities, different characteristics, different genetics, but all are equally valued: black, white, old, young, male, female, healthy, physically disabled, mental health difficulties. Each has infinite value and worth under God, and Christians for themselves need to have that attitude, then show it and then try teach the world. For as long as the real values of Christianity are not taught by example, and by speaking gospel truth, then the hurts and harshness that people cause others will not go away.
Under God there is true equality, Christians are set free to realise that as children of God the differences do not change the truth. Our concern should be to look for fairness and justice for all.
Micah 6 – People, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Or rephrased – God's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously, take God seriously.
History records that he was a great man. He had humble beginnings, growing up in a small home, from a poor family, as an ordinary boy. As he got older, people began to notice there was something special about him. He had talent and charisma, gifted in some way. Soon he started attracting crowds, thousands would come to hear him. He gathered around him a small group of loyal friends and supporters who would travel with him.
As his fame grew, some became jealous, some thought he was leading people astray and plotted against him. But he became yet more popular. He touched the lives of all ages, bringing joy to many. Many started calling him the King.
Towards the end of his short life, he suffered a bit. Many who once followed him turned away and found a new idol. He died alone and those who did still support him were confused and distraught.
Soon after his death there were rumours that he did not really die. Some claim they saw him alive, Even today many believe he is still alive.
By now you have probably guessed who this man is – that's right, Elvis Presley.
There can be a lot of similarities between Elvis and Jesus. There can be a lot of similarities between you and Jesus, because we are human. But the similarities stop. And where they stop most obviously is at Easter. Recently the world celebrated Easter day, the day the King of Kings lives after dying on the cross. No one, no celebrity, no King can do that. There is only one – Jesus Christ, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. Sinless, Holy, Son of God. No matter what the world is doing, that truth cannot change.
Easter, strange as it was this year with a stopped world, gave the great message of encouragement to many people. Many of whom would usually concentrate on chocolate and holidays and other activities and would normally have let the Easter truth – Christ is risen – pass them by, Now Easter has passed, and people are looking forward hopefully to a time of the world restarting. To get back to all the activity they once enjoyed and even perhaps took for granted. Much of the activity people long for has no real space for Jesus. He will go ignored and unheeded, his ways of peace and love rejected. It does not have to be that way and should not be that way.
As Christians we know and experience the truth that Christ is risen is a satisfying, sustaining, joy-filled truth. Be encouraged and assured of life by that knowledge. Then let us as friends of Jesus spread the word that he is never to be ignored. Covid-19 will pass, lockdown will pass. Easter resurrection truth does not pass – and always Christ is risen, makes all the difference.
Bible reading: John 12:12-19
This week Prince Charles delivered a message of support to the nation via his role as patron of Age UK. Rightly he spoke of his thoughts and prayers for NHS staff and support workers. However his summing up was to do with hope and having faith in others and ourselves. He was sincere and meant well. Sadly though his closing words were expressing a view shared by many – that is a belief in a flawed humanity.
While at present we can see and appreciate much good, even sacrificial behaviour around us, and we can see some generous philanthropy from some e.g. Bill Gates, James McAvoy and many others, most anonymous, the overall pattern in recent years has not changed. In towns and cities, people afraid to leave their homes at night or even answer the door. Increasing anti-social behaviour. An increase in violent crime. An ever widening gap in wealth and in empathy, between rich and super rich, and the poorest of the world, e.g. businessman David Geffin encouraging us all to stay safe while telling us he was self-isolating on his £500m superyacht.
What many Christians are saying is that much of what is now happening is because we have seen God increasingly ignored, abandoned, and rejected. By actions and lifestyles, the world tells God he has no part of our lives. Funerals which have no thanksgiving to God for life. Infant naming ceremonies that have no recognition of the God of life. Sunday worship ignored by many. The consequence is not necessarily God disciplining his children in the hope that they will respect him and accept his blessing, but that, as the Bible tells us, he is willing to give us what we want. That is he leaves us alone. Left alone we have only a world which has shown it cannot work in peace and harmony and love. A world where all manner of things can spoil it, and the innocents and less guilty are caught in the same net. A truth seen in the Bible history of God's people, and in world history.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday, we are remembering a day when Jesus was cheered and praised by many. But also we know that when Jesus no longer seemed to be what they wanted and expected, the crowds turned against him. This Palm Sunday and in what is known as Holy Week, enjoy your knowledge of the love of God, and live in the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. Offer prayers that people today will stop their rejection and abandonment and ignoring of the Lord God. That instead they will look to embrace him and that in so doing God will again look with grace on his world.
May you each have a blessed week – Robert
In this country, our standards and morals are Bible based, even though not everyone believes in God, and even fewer trust in him through the resurrection of Jesus. Easter, however, is a time when the world is reminded of him – even if only through chocolate eggs or decorated boiled eggs, or pictures of bonnets and bunnies. Such fun things tell us it is Easter. And Easter should be a fun, happy, joy-filled time. Obviously this year life is different as the fun activities and family gatherings are cancelled. Easter, however, is not cancelled. Easter will always be a time for those who choose to, to reflect on life, on God and his declaration through the cross of his love for us.
In the Bible (Matthew 22) Jesus said the second greatest commandment is love your neighbour as yourself. At present much love is being shown by people making sacrifices for one another, and seen unusually by avoiding one another. There is no guilt in this, as we are also told to love ourselves. The greatest commandment is love God – for all he has done for us.
Christian or not, be encouraged by using YouTube or Spotify or similar music facilities, and listen to Scottish folk singer Heather Heywood singing 'Paul's song'. And keep building a better world.
And stay safe
This morning on Radio 4, Desert Island Discs' castaway was Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter.
I do not know anything about his beliefs but now, 30 years old, he comes over as a decent well adjusted person. He contrasted very favourably with many celebrities who speak of bad parenting and bad influences when growing up, and who frequently put down others around them.
Radcliffe spoke well and generously of his parents in keeping him right. He spoke well and generously of many of the cast and crew of the Harry Potter films who befriended him and nurtured him. He blamed no one for any past or present faults. He does not want to rest on his riches but continue to prove himself in his career.
Sometimes, celebrity biographies or bio-pics can show people helplessly descending into drink and drugs and general unpleasantness. But we can be encouraged by the stories of others who we do not know, who live positive lives. Radcliffe's most favoured disc on the programme was Morecambe and Wise – Bring me sunshine. A secular song focussing on happiness and joy and love. A very positive choice.
Even better for us to remember, at all times, that Jesus' promise to the faithful is exactly these things.
He speaks often of joy and love. And his complete promise to us is as summed up in his words in John 10:10, 'I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.' Real True life is living in the blessing of God.
Whatever is happening around you, be encouraged to remain faithful as Christ was and is faithful.
The Church of Scotland will be providing a recorded service every Sunday via its website and social media platforms. It will also aim to provide guidance and ideas for how congregations can connect with each other and offer spiritual practices for members to follow in their own time. Cormac Russell writes on Asset Based Community Development, and he stresses: 'We are not engaging in "social-distancing"; we are engaged in "physical distancing" while remaining social.'
Scotland’s church leaders have joined with others in the United Kingdom calling for a National Day of Prayer, and inviting people to join together at 7 pm on Sunday 22nd March to say a common prayer together; this prayer can be found here.
Fresh expressions, 17 May
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