Daily Devotional reflections

As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.


Cruden Parish Church

Sunday 26 April 2020

“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”

Call to Worship

This is the day that the Lord has made.
This is the day when he can be found.
God of all, breath of life,
Living water, Saviour, friend.
Come as the hungry, feed on his Word
Come as the thirsty, drink of his Love
Come as the faithful, worship the Lord.

Read the following hymn of praise slowly, focussing on the meaning of the words.

The Saviour died, but rose again
Triumphant from the grave;
And pleads our cause at God’s right hand,
Omnipotent to save.

Who, then, can e’er divide us more
From Jesus and His love;
Or break the sacred chain that binds
The earth to Heav’n above?

Let troubles rise, and terrors frown,
And days of darkness fall;
Through Him all dangers we’ll defy,
And more than conquer all.

Nor death, nor life, nor earth nor hell,
Nor time’s destroying sway,
Can e’er efface us from His heart,
Or make His love decay.

BIBLE READING

St Luke 24:13-35

The Walk to Emmaus

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

REFLECTION

One colleague writes: Recently I came across this poem by A S J Tessimond, who lived through the first part of the last century and all the upheaval caused by two world wars and depression. The poem speaks of a community coming back to life.

Day Dream

One day people will touch and talk perhaps easily,
And loving be natural as breathing and warm as sunlight,
And people will untie themselves, as string is unknotted,
Unfold and yawn and stretch and spread their fingers,
Unfurl, uncurl like seaweed returned to the sea,
And work will be simple and swift as a seagull flying,
And play will be casual and quiet
as a seagull settling,
And the clocks will stop, and no one will wonder or care or notice,
And people will smile without reason, Even in winter, even in the rain.

Although Tessimond died in 1962 that poem carries a particular resonance for today in a world where it seems as if someone has pressed the pause button on real life. And that sense of life at a standstill is felt most acutely by individuals who have lost a loved one. Especially if there is no opportunity to say farewell to that loved one. And it is often in this place of unreality that questions arise. Where is God in all of this? Has God turned his back on the world?

In today’s bible reading we return to that first Easter Day. It is getting on in the day. Two of Jesus followers are heading out of Jerusalem towards Emmaus. Weary and confused, angry and grieving, they trudge along the road, heading for home. They are so caught up in the events of the last week that they barely notice the stranger who comes along-side them. Until he asks them what they are talking about. You can picture the scene – where has this guy been? The events of the last week have shocked Jesus friends to the core and brought their lives to a virtual standstill. Surely everyone has heard about Jesus, about his arrest, trial and crucifixion? After all haven’t these events dominated the whole Passover celebration in Jerusalem.

But that is not all – some of the women who were followers of Jesus had visited the tomb and found it empty. They came back claiming to have seen a vision of angels – and what is more their story checked out. Peter and John had gone to see for themselves. They came back and confirmed that they had found the tomb empty – no sign of Jesus body.
At this point in the story it is not the presence of the risen Jesus that is key to Luke’s Gospel narrative. Indeed, it is the opposite – it is Jesus absence, his hiddenness. The empty tomb, the stranger who goes for the meantime unrecognised (and this is not the only resurrection story in which Jesus goes unrecognised) – these things speak of the mystery that lies at the heart of the Christian faith.

In one sense the cross is easier to understand – the identification with pain and suffering; the sacrificial laying down of life for another. We can understand that – even perhaps live into it to some extent. It is the absence, the hiddenness of God, conveyed by the empty tomb and the unknown stranger, which we find harder to accept. Yet it is this seeming absence, this hiddenness that reminds us that God is beyond our human understanding, that God cannot be confined to our ways of knowing and being. God is greater than all of these.

The Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that this hiddenness is an important part of the journey of faith. Yet it is this very unknowing that rescues us from false certainties and rigid fundamentalism. But this way of unknowing is not to be confused with ignorance. Quite the opposite. Luke tells us that for the rest of the journey to Emmaus Jesus treats his blind and bewildered followers to a bible study – explaining everything the Old Testament has to say about himself, about God and God’s relationship with the world. And those followers find their hearts quicken. Love and hope and life stir within them. They long to know more. Yet still Jesus’ identity remains hidden from them. It is only later as they sit around the table and Jesus takes bread, blesses it and breaks it, that his followers recognise him in that ordinary and everyday event.
The journey towards God will always involve times when it seems as if life has come to a standstill, times when there is a loss of words, of understanding, and of vision of God. There will be times when God seems absent or is hidden. And in those times we are besieged by questions and we ache with longing for God’s presence. But it is in that very ache of longing for God, that, in some mysterious way we come alive again to his presence and are able once again continue our journey in faith and hope and love.

So let me leave you with another poem to reflect on,

The Footprints Prayer

One night I had a dream…
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and
Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, There was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life
This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You would walk with me all the way; But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, There is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me. The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child. I love you, and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering.
When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.

PRAYERS FOR OTHERS

Suggestions for prayer
• The NHS, its staff in hospitals and GP practices as well as the other emergency services and volunteers
• Scientific researchers engaged in the struggle against Covid-19
• The Government and Scottish Parliament as they seek to manage the pandemic
• Those suffering from or bereaved by the corona virus
• Family, friends and neighbours, those most affected by the lock-down Other people and situations who are in your hearts today.
• The Church that we might offer a faithful witness to Christ through this time
• Crossreach and in particular their work with the elderly and vulnerable adults

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Amen.


A BLESSING

May God’s blessing surround you each day
As you love him and walk in his way
May his presence within guard and keep you from sin
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.

CHURCH NOTICES

This Sunday Cruden Parish Church are holding an on-line service of Holy Communion, beginning with a time of solidarity and prayer at 7.00 pm. For a copy of the liturgy (essential if you wish to join in the responses) and a link, please email Sean at seanswin1@aol.com.
Irrespective of where you are on your spiritual journey, you are welcome to join us.
In order to participate you must have access to a smart phone or Tablet/IPad or a computer connected to the internet with a webcam and microphone.
For the Act of Communion, please have a glass of wine or grape juice and a small piece of bread.

Thursday Morning – 11.00 am to 12.00 noon – virtual coffee morning. Please contact Sean for the link. Everyone welcome.

Guide me O thou great redeemer

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Saturday 25th April 2020

Public morale and the people of God

A couple of years ago, I spent a few days in New York. It was the first time I had visited the city and it was a bit of an overwhelming experience. We did the usual tourist things. Looking down from the top of the Empire State Building, jogging around Central Park, a visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and a walking tour of the financial district (More interesting that it sounds!) and coffee in Trump Tower surrounded by heavily armed police and guys wearing jackets that read ‘Secret Service’ (How can you be the Secret Service if you tell everybody about?), and travelling on the Subway at rush hour. But the most memorable place was ground zero – the site of 9/11 where in 2001 the deadliest terror attacks in history left 2,753 died and tens of thousands injured. To describe the place as poignant is a bit of an understatement. It had a most peculiar atmosphere.

Up to 9/11 you could argue there was a general consensus that religion was a good thing and had a positive influence on society. But since then religion has increasingly been under constant criticism. Some of this criticism was well deserved – such as the heart breaking revelations of child abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. Some of the criticism is misplaced and ingenuous such as so called ‘militant atheism’ which appears to have burnt itself out. No surprise there. But the place of religion in society has been under increasing scrutiny to the point in which most folk would deem it irrelevant to their lives. Much of this is our own fault, especially when it comes to hanging onto traditions or styles of worship that are no longer culturally relevant. And there is still a mind-set that expects people to come to us. No wonder people have voted with their feet!

There is an interesting question here. What is the place of religion and faith during the current pandemic? There is certainly more religious broadcasting on TV. Churches have been at the forefront of organising foodbanks and offering support. I recently heard of one Christian group in Aberdeen who found a foreign national sleeping outdoors. It turned out he had recently lost his job at a hotel and been booted out of his accommodation. Speaking very poor English he ended up sleeping rough and begging for handouts. Fortunately, he is now getting the help he needs. But the question remains what is the place of religion and faith during the current pandemic?

In a previous generation religious customs, rites and festivals would have been central to community life. Participation in these would have contributed to the values, routines, sense of community and self-identity. Bible passage such as the Good Samaritan and Ten Commandments would have informed and shaped people’s values. In a past generation when life was far more uncertain and challenging, faith would have given rise to hope and hope given people inner strength. But what about today. Where are people finding inner strength? Where are people finding hope and meaning as loved ones pass away? The answer is probably not from the church.

However, there is I believe something very subtle happening right under our noses. Not the old style fundamentalism or liberal church, but something rather interesting. One article I was recently reading suggested a new form of church was beginning to emerge. It is more self-critical, scientifically reasonable and humanitarian. It reflects many of the recognised values of modern culture (not all of them!). This ‘new’ church wherever it exists or is emerging is deeply significant for the morale of individuals, the community and nation. Still every early days but I believe that inward change is in the air, and this change will enable faith to again become relevant for the community and nation.

BIBLE READINGS

Luke 10:25-37 - The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Exodus 20 - The Ten Commandments

And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

Isaiah 43:18-21

18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honour me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.

REFLECT

Do you feel that your faith is you helping at this present time?
Do you feel the church is a source of hope and inspiration?
Why not pray for your neighbours, friends and family?

PRAYERS

Prayers in a time of coronavirus

Love never fails
Even in the darkest moments, love gives hope.
Love compels us to fight against coronavirus alongside our sisters and brothers living in poverty.
Love compels us to stand together in prayer with our neighbours near and far.
Love compels us to give and act as one.
Now, it is clear that our futures are bound together more tightly than ever before.
As we pray in our individual homes – around the nation and around the world – we are united as one family.
So, let us pause and find a moment of peace, as we lift up our hearts together in prayer.

Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession

For the health workers tending the seriously ill
for the scientists working on a vaccination
for the researchers analysing data and identifying trends
for the media outlets working to communicate reality
for the supermarket workers, hygiene and sanitation providers
for the good news stories of recoveries and effective planning
for the singing from balconies by locked-down communities
for the recognition that isolation doesn’t need to mean loneliness
for the notes through letterboxes offering help and support
for the internet and telephones and technology that connects
for the awakened appreciation of what is truly important
Thanks be to God.

For those who are unwell and concerned for loved ones
for those who were already very anxious
for those immune suppressed or compromised
for those vulnerable because of underlying conditions
for those in the ‘most at risk to coronavirus’ categories
for those watching their entire income stream dry up
for those who have no choice but to go out to work
for those who are afraid to be at home
for those who are more lonely than they've ever been
for those who are bereaved and grieving.
God be their healer, comfort and protection,
be their strength, shield and provision
be their security, safety and close companion

And raise up your Church
to be your well-washed hands and faithful feet
to be present to the pain
to respond with love in action
if even from a safe distance.
God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Amen

A prayer for times of isolation

‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come… will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38-39)

God of heaven and earth,
in these times of isolation,
apart from loved ones
distant from friends
away from neighbours
thank you that there is nothing
in all of creation,
not even coronavirus,
that is able to separate us from your love.

And may your love that never fails
continue to be shared
through the kindness of strangers
looking out for each other,
for neighbours near and far
all recognising our shared vulnerability,
each of us grateful for every breath,
and willing everyone to know the gift
of a full and healthy life.
Keep us all in your care.
Amen.

A prayer for the church

May your love that never fails
strengthen the weak
encourage the fearful
calm the anxious
heal the sick
through your church –
your washed hands
and feet on earth –
distant but still present
virtual but still connected
apart but still helping.
God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Amen.

BLESSING

May the grace of God uphold you,
the peace of God surround you,
the love of God flow from you
and the strength of God protect
and bring you safely through this day.
Amen

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after thee

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Friday 24th April

‘Spiritual Morale’

Yesterday I was making a second round of delivering flowers to people who were in residential care or housebound. Again, I was at the door of a residential home where some residents were infected by Covid19 and regretfully a small number had passed away. But not everyone. One lady who received flowers had just recovered, much to the delight of her carers and relief of her family. The member of staff who greeted me, could not have been more friendly or helpful. Despite working in the most challenging circumstances, they were so kind and positive and caring. You don’t have to use your imagination to realise the difference this kind of attitude makes to the residents and their families.

Another word closely related to confidence is morale. The word describes both an emotional feeling and intellectual conviction. Morale can define the amount of confidence felt by a person or a group, especially when facing a challenging and potentially life threating situation. Morale can also describe the level of satisfaction and fulfilment felt by a person or group. Good morale can make an incredible difference. It generates enthusiasm, confidence, loyalty, team work and productivity. From my time in the military, one of the lessons repeatedly drummed into us was the importance of creating and maintaining good morael. And for good reason. Bad morale can have devastating consequences. Not only does it engender a spirit of failure, in the wrong circumstances it can cost people’s lives.

Confidence, morale and religion are of course intertwined. Without them it is hard to avoid ending up with a hard boiled cynicism, which leads to bitterness. It is here that an informed, balanced Christianity has a massive and important contribution to make in these difficult days. Faith in God should lead to inner peace and a quiet reassurance. These qualities when allowed to develop and take root lead to a quiet confidence and depth of character. The knowledge that God is with us, that we are forgiven and redeemed, that God’s love surrounds us each and every moment, and at the end of our journey He will lead us home to glory - all these and more make up what could be described as a ‘spiritual morale.’

BIBLE READINGS

Galatians 5: 13-26

Life by the Spirit

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

REFLECT

How is your spiritual morale in these troubling times?
Are you fearful about the present or quietly confident?
Try and list your spiritual strengths?

PRAYER

Opening Prayer

A love that never ceases,
A creativity that designed the universe,
A hope that cannot be quenched,
A pursuit of reconciliation no matter the cost:
These are the things that are of God,
Then let us pray and worship God.

Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you
in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Prayer Focus

• Pray for the Government and Parliament to receive the wisdom, counsel and strength of God in their duties.
• Pray for wisdom, knowledge, grace, integrity and truth and for the Prime Minister, Cabinet, MPs and The Lords, First Minister, Scottish Parliament, Local Counsellors & Aberdeenshire Council
• Pray for the godly and positive influence of God’s people throughout all Government departments.
• Pray for the unity of the United Kingdom and for the Queen and Royal Family.
• Pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in Britain.” Pray that God’s will, plans and purposes for the UK shall come to pass and be fulfilled. Pray that Britain shall turn back to God, His word, worship and ways.
• Pray for a fresh move of the Holy Spirit in the UK.

A prayer for all those affected by coronavirus

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious,
be with those who care for the sick,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may find comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.Amen
They say this will all be over,
Sooner or later
That this won’t last forever
That this is a temporary, though difficult, time
A passing phase
A passing pandemic
But isn’t’ all time temporary, passing phases,
Passing minutes, hours, days, seasons, years?
Isn’t time just a human construct
A way to measure – what?
Our productivity? Our greatness? Our failures to act?
This is liminal time, time on the edge
Time of misstepping and falling off the cliff
My time is now unbound
I do not know what day it is, or what I’m supposed to be doing
A friend suggested waking up every day and while getting out of bed shouting the day and date, just to keep ourselves grounded
They say that to offset a panic attack you should be very present
Notice what you see, smell, hear, taste, feel
Ground yourself in the immediate now.
Isn’t that what we are supposed to do all the time anyway?
Be present? Notice?
This is what it is, right now, in this moment
What it will be in the next moment, we cannot know
Look: the crocuses are up.
Smell: the scents of creation
Listen: that bird keeps singing the same song, over and over again.
Taste: coffee lingers on the tongue.
Feel: the skin on my wrists is so dry.
Breathe.
This too shall pass, as all things do.
Amen.

© Beth Merrill Neel

BLESSING

May your home always be too
small to hold all your friends.
May your heart remain ever supple,
fearless in the face of threat,
jubilant in the grip of grace.
May your hands remain open,
caressing, never clenched,
save to pound the doors of all who
barter justice to the highest bidder.
May your heroes be earthy,
dusty-shoed and rumpled,
hallowed but unhaloed,
guiding you through seasons
of tremor and travail,
apprenticed to the godly art of giggling
amidst haggard news
and portentous circumstances.
May your hankering be
in rhythm with heaven’s,
whose covenant vows a dusty
intersection with our own:
when creation’s hope and history rhyme.
May hosannas lilt from your lungs:
God is not done;
God is not yet done.
All flesh, I am told, will behold;
will surely behold.
Amen


CLOSING HYMN


Be Thou My Vision is based on an ancient Irish Poem (8th c.)
Translated by Mary E. Byrne (1880-1931)
'
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

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Thursday 23rd April 2020

‘Confidence’

One of the things most important to us at this unprecedented period of our history is confidence. We need the assurance of competent leadership from the First Minister at Holyrood and the Prime Minister at Westminster and all who work alongside them. We need to know that Aberdeenshire Council are doing all that they can to support our communities.

We need faith in the NHS – the local medical centre and hospitals –that they are doing all they can within their power, including providing enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect staff and patients. And should the worse happen and we end up in Intensive Care, we will receive the best possible treatment to give us the best possible chance. Not to mention the reassurance that we can still buy essentials at the local shop and supermarket. Yet confidence can easily be eroded.

Recently some journalist and politicians have been suggesting that the Government in Westminster are making serious mistakes and serious errors of judgement. For example, a lack of competent decision making has led to the shortage of PPE. Some so called experts have suggested the lock down is either unnecessary or should be extended well into next year. Undoubtedly there are failings. We have not invested enough to create a more robust NHS or better social care. So who should we believe?

Goverments in Holyrood and Westminster who are tirelessly working flat our trying to respond to an unprecedented crisis and doing a really good job. Or one journalist who suggests that the coronavirus proves that Boris Johnson and his Cabinet are a malevolent bunch of incompetents who should be drummed out of office immediately!

One of the most interesting characters of the Easter story is doubting Thomas. All the disciples had witnessed the risen Jesus in the flesh. They had seen him and heard the sound of his voice. They have even eaten breakfast with him. In all these post resurrection appearances one person was absent – Thomas.

He would have heard all Jesus exited friends talk of their experience. He would have seen how their grief and sadness had been exchanged for enthusiasm and joy. Yet for Thomas, before this faith can be restored he needs personal confirmation. It was a whole week later before he encountered the risen Jesus.

There is much that can be said about Thomas. We can decry his lack of faith or we can admire his honesty. But I think Thomas reminds us of a deep theological truth. Before we can trust God we need to encounter God. Before we can understand, we need our eyes opened, our minds quickened and hearts softened. It is then and then only that authentic confidence in God can emerge. This can happen in an instant or be forged over a lifetime. We must not forget Jesus’ words ‘Seek and you will find’ or God’s promise that He wants all to be saved.

BIBLE READING

John 20: 19-30 - Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of John’s Gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

REFLECT

In the story of Thomas, which of the characters do you most identify with?
Are you like the disciples, with an exuberant faith that overflows with joy? Or are you more like Thomas, struggling with doubts, wrestling with fears and yearning to believe?
Do you have confidence in God?

PRAYER

Doubt – a doorway to discovery

How strangely comforting, Lord,
That so many of your servants
Have doubted you.

So, If I cannot always see the sense
Of your Word;
If I do not always feel confident
About my faith;
If I wonder where your love is
In the face of pain and death;
I am not the first.

A great company of saints and martyrs
Has felt this way before me.
Now, in your presence,
They see face to face
And know as they are known.

Teach me, like them,
Not so much to fear doubt
As to see it
As a sign of the mystery of life
And a door to discovery.
Amen

Prayer of Confession

Gracious God,
Increase our doubt that
armaments and wars bring peace;
that science and intelligence alone can cure the ills of the world;
that human beings are the controllers of all things.
Give us grace to blush for our mistakes and arrogance,
forgiveness for our foolishness
and power to live as stewards of creation,
through Jesus Christ our Lord

Merciful God,
deliver us from
the cowardice that dares not face new truth
the laziness that is content with half truth
the arrogance that thinks is knows all truth

May we plead no extenuating circumstances,
no frailty of nature, no force of temptations,
no persuasions of those who lead us astray.
Grasp us with zeal and fiery commitment
to the purposes of grace in Jesus Christ our Lord

Almighty God,
You have brought us to this hour by our several ways,
unfaithful as we have been
You have nevertheless kept faith with us.
Pry us from the host of distractions to which we give ourselves so freely.
Strengthen our resolve to commit ourselves to the Gospel.
Counter our desire for wealth and reputation with an urge to serve
In the way of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen

Prayers of Intercession

Our heavenly Father, we come before you with contrite hearts, yearning for your comfort and your grace. In the midst of COVID-19 spreading across the globe, we ask in your mercy that you would stop this plague and restore harmony and health to the nations.

We thank you for all those who have dedicated their lives to serving our community, for health workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and especially those who labour In laboratories seeking a vaccine for the Coronavirus. Give them wisdom, skill and patience in their work, and by your grace, give them success in their endeavours.

We also pray for those who govern us, for their courageous leadership and national cooperation. Grant them wisdom in their decisions as they navigate the threats to lives and livelihoods. We also pray for our police force, our emergency services and armed forces as they seek to maintain order in our country. May all respect their work, accept the limitations on our freedoms and seek the welfare of others, for the good of all.

And we pray for ourselves and our families, especially those who have lost loved ones to this disease, or those suffering from its effects. May we know the peace that passes understanding, as we place our trust in Jesus, in whose powerful name we pray.
Amen


For Wisdom and calm

Sovereign Lord, you are the hope and healer of your people and have promised a world where there is no more sickness or crying or death.

By your death and resurrection, you have set your people free from the penalty of sin and death.
We pray your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Please prosper the work of those who are seeking a vaccine for the coronavirus, please strengthen those who are treating the sick, please comfort those who are mourning the loss of loved ones or living in fear of this disease.

Please give to governing authorities’ wisdom in their management of this crisis, and give to your people your peace beyond understanding, generous and wise hearts and a renewed trust in your sovereign goodness and glory.

Turn the hearts of many now experiencing fear and anxiety that they they may find that peace which is the fruit of the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray,
Amen.

A global prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,
You are the God of all compassion and comfort. We thank you that you listen to our prayers.
We pray today for our world, our nation, our communities and our church as the Coronavirus spreads.
Please bring help to all our communities according to their needs. Heal those afflicted and strengthen all who have the responsibility for care. In your mercy, please provide a cure and give wisdom to those seeking to develop a vaccine for this condition.

We pray, too, for ourselves. Enable us to walk by faith. Help us to be careful and wise in taking whatever precautions are necessary to limit and contain the spread of this virus


Strengthen us to remain calm while vigilant; responsible citizens seeking the welfare of others above ourselves.
At times of uncertainty and anxiety, help our world to look to security in your Son, Jesus Christ. And give courage to Christians as we point others to the One in whom there is always hope.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen


The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Amen

BLESSING

May the grace of God uphold you,
the peace of God surround you,
the love of God flow from you
and the strength of God protect
and bring you safely through this day.
Amen

Great is thy faitfulness

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Wednesday 22nd April 2020

‘The new reality’

One of the phrases being frequently used to describe the experience of lockdown is ‘the new reality.’ It describes how everything has changed. The new reality is schools shut, bars and restaurants closed, social gatherings prohibited, doors locked in every church and community building, social distancing and self-isolation for swathes of the population. Familiar routines have come to an end and even the golf course if off limits!

This new reality is turning into a very curious and unfamiliar place. I personally feel for all the P7 pupils who lost out on the experience of leaving Primary School before moving up to the Academy and those confined to hospital or residential care who are unable to have visits from friends and family.

The ‘new reality’ is also a phrase that can be applied to the Christian Faith. From the outside it can be hard to make sense of what faith in God is all about. It can appear strange and bizarre to worship a higher being, to seek His guidance and strength.

Yet from the inside faith does make sense. Personal spiritual experience, the revelation of God witnessed through the Bible and many centuries of Christian history and tradition all make a compelling and coherent case for faith. Yet faith is so much more. It embraces faith, hope and love. There is a verse from 1 Corinthians that comes to mind here:

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (I Corinthians 2:14)

Trying to penetrate faith from the outside is like looking through a glass darkly. The new reality of God can only be perceived, understood and experienced from the inside. In other words, you cannot know, perceive or understand the reality of God without a personal spiritual awakening.

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church

BIBLE READINGS

1 Corinthians 2

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
God’s Wisdom Revealed by the Spirit
6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—

the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.[c] 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.

Isaiah 55

Invitation to the Thirsty

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendour.”
6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

REFLECT

Do you know and have you encountered the ‘new reality of God?’
Or are spiritual things strange and unfamiliar?
Why not use this period of to think about where you are in your journey through life?
What parts of your life and routines from pre-lockdown do you wish to discard?
What would you like your life to look life when we emerge from lockdown?
Do you want God to be part of that life?

PRAYER

Take a moment to listen to the still small voice of God within the bustle of the day which has begun. Find a quiet place where you can enjoy precious moments of peace in God's presence. Sit quietly and listen to the sounds of the world around you, both outside and in the place where you are. Breathe slowly and rest in God's presence......

From our rising in the morning
to our lying down again,
you are with us
every hour of the day,
our reassurance
when storms assail
and strength
when courage fails.
From our rising in the morning
to our lying down again,
your light illumines
every step of the way,
our comfort
when darkness falls
and peace
that calms our souls.
From our rising in the morning
to our lying down again,
you are with us.
Amen

Prayers for others

For the health workers tending the seriously ill
for the scientists working on a vaccination
for the researchers analysing data and identifying trends
for the media outlets working to communicate reality
for the supermarket workers, hygiene and sanitation providers
for the good news stories of recoveries and effective planning
for the singing from balconies by locked-down communities
for the recognition that isolation doesn’t need to mean loneliness
for the notes through letterboxes offering help and support
for the internet and telephones and technology that connects
for the awakened appreciation of what is truly important

Thanks be to God.

For those who are unwell and concerned for loved ones
for those who were already very anxious
for those immune suppressed or compromised
for those vulnerable because of underlying conditions
for those in the ‘most at risk to coronavirus’ categories
for those watching their entire income stream dry up
for those who have no choice but to go out to work
for those who are afraid to be at home
for those who are more lonely than they've ever been
for those who are bereaved and grieving.
God be their healer, comfort and protection,
be their strength, shield and provision
be their security, safety and close companion
And raise up your Church
to be your well-washed hands and faithful feet
to be present to the pain
to respond with love in action
if even from a safe distance.
God, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Amen.

BLESSING

Go now as God’s chosen witnesses
to testify that Christ has been raised
and that we are raised with him.
Do not look for him among the dead,
but be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
And may God raise you from all that would entomb you;
May Christ Jesus call you by name and go ahead of you;
And may the Holy Spirit empower you for all that is good.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord, In the name of Christ.
Amen.

Be still for the presence of the Lord

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Tuesday 21 April 2020

‘God’s judgment is always redemptive’

Recently a small number of people on the fringes of faith have suggested that COVID-19 is God’s judgement. For example, a DUP Councillor, John Carson, who represents Ballymena, Co Antrim suggested that pandemic in God’s judgment on Northern Ireland for the legalisation of abortion and same sex marriage.

This takes us to one of the most problematic doctrines of the Christian Faith – the doctrine of providence. There are various degrees of understanding. The range from God being the initiator and sustainer of creation, to God being in complete control over every event and experience. It is here that the doctrine becomes awkward. If God is in complete control and is responsible for every event, then what about the Corona Virus? It this part of God’s plan and God’s purpose? And when you take this to its logical conclusion it means God is directly responsible for all the people who have died.
Of course things are not that simple. The study of God – theology – doesn’t always provide clear cut answers. In our study of the scriptures and reflections on our own personal spiritual experience we always end up with more questions than answers. If that is not complicated enough there are further challenges. There is mystery. Our understanding and knowledge of God will always be partial and incomplete. Then comes the counterintuitive aspect of faith – a ‘simple saint’ can have greater insight into spiritual things than a person of great intellect. Here we are reminded that the study of God isn’t just about the mind – it is also a matter of the heart.

So the challenge here is getting a reasonable and nuanced view of what God is up to during this pandemic. I do not believe it is God’s judgement. I do not believe that God is pouring out his wrath. After all the people who are most affected are either the most selfless or the most vulnerable. For me this says more about John 15:13. But I do see God at work here. I see God helping us to examine and reorganise our priorities. I think God is reminding us of things that really matter. I think God is challenging us about our responsibilities to care for the most vulnerable members of our society. I think God is teaching us about the true value of things. The true value of friends and family and community.

Speaking to an empty rain soaked St Peter's Square at the Vatican on the 27th of March on a service that was streamed around the world, Pope Francis said “the worldwide coronavirus pandemic is not God's judgment on humanity, but God's call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on.” Addressing God in prayer, the Pope that "it is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others."

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church

BIBLE READINGS

John 15: 9-17

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Isaiah 55: 6--9

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts
.

REFLECT

Sometimes it can feel that God is absent and far away and everything is freewheeling out of control, yet there are times when God can feel so close and intimate and in control.
What do you think God is saying to you at the present time?
Remember – God’s judgment is always redemptive!

PRAYERS

Almighty and merciful Father, who show your love to all your creation.
We come before you asking for a quick control of the Coronavirus currently ravaging our world.
Hear graciously the prayers we make for those affected by the virus in various parts of the world.
Grant healing to the sick, eternal life to the dead and consolation to the bereaved families.
We pray that an effective medicine to combat the sickness be speedily found.
We pray for the relevant governments and health authorities that they take appropriate steps for the good of the people.
Look upon us in your mercy and forgive us our failings.
Amen

Loving, ever-living and compassionate God,
You understand the pain of loss, the heartache of bereavement,
May we hold in our hearts all those whose families or friends have died.
You are a light that shines in the darkest times,
Guide us and heal us in our sickness and sorrow.
You comfort us in times of fear,
May we comfort each other, even as we keep apart.
You console and lead us in times of doubt and confusion,
May we follow the light of your love and spread hope.
You move our hearts to acts of generosity,
May we be led to share what we have with those in need.
God of life,
We thank you for the signs of your light in the midst of our darkness,
May we be signs of your compassion in the heart of your world.
Amen

(Prayer: Linda Jones)

Lord God, we entrust to you the families and communities
affected by Coronavirus, wherever they may be.
We pray especially for health care workers, that you may guide and protect them.
We pray that your Spirit might inspire those researching new medicines and treatments.
And in the midst of this, keep us strong in faith, hope and love. Grant us the courage and perseverance to be good neighbours.
May the words of your Son Jesus Christ in the Our Father,
be our prayer as we entrust ourselves and all of us who are affected
to your infinite power and love.
Amen.

Your loving care
Lord Jesus,
when you walked with us on earth
you spread your healing power.
We place in your loving care
all who are affected by Coronavirus.
Keep us strong in faith, hope and love.
Bring relief to our sick,
console our bereaved,
protect those who care for us.
We lift our prayer to you Lord,
and trust in your infinite mercy,
as we wait for the daybreak.
Amen.

BLESSING

May the grace of God uphold you,
the peace of God surround you,
the love of God flow from you
and the strength of God protect
and bring you safely through this day.
Amen

Love divine all loves excelling

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Monday 20 April 2020

Yearning for Routine

Today marks the end of the Easter holidays and the start of the summer school term, yet the playgrounds are empty and the classrooms silent. And who knows how long it will be till regular routines will return? Will the schools be back for a few weeks before the summer holidays? Or is life in lockdown till the autumn? For us in the church, how long will it be before our spiritual family can gather again? Being separated from the people we love and those routines which are such an essential part of our daily lives is turning out to be a strange and uncomfortable experience.

Routines are important for several reasons. Without routines we have no control over our lives. Routines are essential for making the best use of our limited time. For children unable to attend school developing consistency in their daily routines is known to reduce anxiety and apprehension. The consistency brings reassurance. The same is true of adults. Without routine our motivation decreases, we deviate from our responsibilities and we become frustrated and unproductive. One writer suggests that when we have an absence of routine it becomes harder to concentrate and we eat more chocolate!

For the church our main routine revolves around Sunday morning. We gather as a community of faith to worship God, to pray, to hear God’s word and reflecting how it applies to our daily lives. Like everything else this routine has been disrupted. Our attempts, so far, at arranging small group meetings via the internet have been a wee bit of a disaster!

Fortunately, there is plenty of content to nourish our souls. Religious broadcasting on TV has become more important to us. We all have access to the Bible etc. But what we all miss is the experience of community. This is one routine that I really yearn for!

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church

BIBLE READING

Ecclesiastes 3 - A Time for Everything

1There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9What do workers gain from their toil? 10I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet a no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
15Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.

REFLECT

Where is God in your daily routine? Do you make space for Him or is life just too busy?
In this time of lockdown, think about the routines that you would like to make a central part of your life?

PRAYER

For all whose day starts with anxiety,
as they leave the security of home
worrying about the risk of infection;
particularly those whose health
or age classifies them as vulnerable.
Loving God, be close, keep them safe,
along with all whose tasks today
includes the care of frail and elderly.
And for all of us, grant wisdom
to make sensible choices, not just
for ourselves, but for everybody.
Amen

Help us to put aside
preconceptions
about other people,
because that alters
our behaviour,
and simply accept
that they, like us,
are precious in your eyes.
Loving God, we give thanks
for the extended family
of local communities
assisting with the needs
of both frail and elderly
confined to their homes.
May every gift of love,
every encouraging word,
bring hope into lonely lives
and a blessing to the giver.
Amen

Lord, we would grow with you
New shoots reaching out
Hands stretched upward
Like leaves newly formed
Soaking up your light and warmth
Lord, we would grow with you
Lord, we would grow with you
In sunshine and rain
In darkness and light
In cold days and summer days
From Springtime to Winter
Lord, we would grow with you
Lord, we would grow with you
And bring forth fruit
That is pleasing to you
Fed by your living water
Giving sustenance to others
Lord, we would grow with you
Amen

A prayer for our nation

Heavenly Father, we turn our hearts to you. You are utterly faithful, and you have never failed us. Grant us hope, strength and mercy in our time of need. Enable us to throw our cares onto you, our mighty God.
O Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for those touched by the coronavirus, those who face sorrow, fear, illness and isolation. We ask for compassion, love, healing, and kindness. Make us a people living in your perfect love that we may drive away fear.
O Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for wisdom and clarity for those making key decisions, for scientists, medical experts, politicians and public health officials. We pray for acts of kindness to spread in every community.
Enable us to be quick to see need and respond in gracious and loving ways. Take us through this time of trial.
O Lord, hear our prayer.
In Jesus’ name
Amen

SCRIPTURE READING

“Cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

BLESSING

Bless this house and those within.
Bless our giving and receiving.
Bless our words and conversation.
Bless our hands and recreation.
Bless our sowing and our growing.
Bless our coming and our going.
Bless all who enter and depart.
Bless this house, your peace impart.
Amen

What a friend we have in Jesus

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