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 – online evening service
7.00 pm, Sunday 3rd May 2020

‘Hearing the masters voice!’

His Master's Voice

 

Introduction – our service tonight takes place over the internet using a software app called Zoom. If you would like to join us, please contact Sean for a copy of the link

If possible, please have to hand – a candle for the prayer of solidarity

Please feel free to join in the responses printed in bold & italic or simply listen and observe. We would appreciate if you could keep background noise (TV etc.) to a minimum.

There are a couple of hymns included in tonight’s service. However due to the time delay on some internet connections singing in unison is not possible.

Order of Service

Call to Worship

In the meeting of our lives,
be the focus of all that we are.
In the prayers that we shall make,
the reading of your Word
and the preaching of the same.
Speak to us, encourage and forgive us.
In the meeting of our lives, Lord,
be the focus of all that we are. Amen
                                                                                                              
Prayer of Solidarity

Sunday marks five consecutive weeks of joint calls by Scottish churches to pray at the same time in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Thousands of people across Scotland have been answering the call to join in prayer during this time of sacrifice, difficulty and bereavement.

We light a candle and pray together

Living God, speak into the depths of our experience,
Speak the word that stills our fears
And calms our anxieties: ‘Peace be with you.’


Speak your word to the lonely and to the broken,
To the bereaved and to those whose world has crumbled:
‘Peace be with you.’

Faithful God, speak to us behind locked doors
As we remember others, who risk their own safety,
In order to serve others: Peace be with them.


Carers and nurses, doctors and ambulance drivers,
Delivery drivers and shop assistants: Peace be with them.

God who inspires Hope, speak to us in the present
And speak to us of the future,
For though the doors are locked, in time they shall be open:
Peace shall be renewed.


For those who lead the life of our Nation: Our Queen Elizabeth,
First Minister and Prime Minister, and all who shape our common life,
For us all: Peace shall be renewed.

God whose name is love and whose gift is love,
Open our hearts to know you and to love you,
To love you and to love our neighbour
And as we do, to hear again: ‘Peace be with you.’
May we find our strength in you,
And hear again: ‘Peace be with you.’

Amen

Reflection Part 1 ‘Thunder, silence and hearing the masters voice’

I would like to begin with a question! What is the most remarkable thing you have ever seen or heard?

Bible Reading – read by Robert & Maureen Esson

1 Kings 19:1-18 - Elijah Flees to Horeb
19 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.
The Lord Appears to Elijah
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Reflection Part 2 ‘Thunder, silence and hearing the masters voice’

Hymn: The Lord’s my shepherd I’ll not want

1. The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me lie in pastures green.
He leads me by the still, still waters,
His goodness restores my soul.                                                                                                                               
And I will trust in You alone,
And I will trust in You alone,
For Your endless mercy follows me,
Your goodness will lead me home.

2. He guides my ways in righteousness,
And He anoints my head with oil,
And my cup, it overflows with joy,
I feast on His pure delights.

3. And though I walk the darkest path,
I will not fear the evil one,
For You are with me, and Your rod and staff
Are the comfort I need to know.   

                                                                                          Stuart Townend Copyright © 1996 Thankyou Music

Prayers of Intercession

Response:
L. Lord in your mercy, R. hear our prayer

Closing Prayer

Almighty God,
we thank you for the gift of your holy word.
May it be a lantern to our feet,
a light to our paths,
and a strength to our lives.
Take us and use us
to love and serve
in the power of the Holy Spirit
and in the name of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

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 to the end of this day. Amen

Hymn The day you gave us, Lord is ended
1 The day you gave us, Lord, is ended,
the darkness falls at your behest;
to you our morning hymns ascended,
your praise shall hallow now our rest.
2 We thank you that your church, unsleeping
while earth rolls onward into light,
through all the world her watch is keeping,
and rests not now by day or night.
3 As o'er each continent and island
the dawn leads on another day,
the voice of prayer is never silent,
nor dies the strain of praise away.
4 The sun, that bids us rest, is waking
our brethren 'neath the western sky,
and hour by hour fresh lips are making
your wondrous doings heard on high.
5 So be it, Lord; your throne shall never,
like earth's proud empires, pass away;
but stand and rule and grow forever,                                                                                                  
till all your creatures own your sway.     

                                                                                                                (John Ellerton)

Church Notices

During the lockdown a new daily reflection consisting of prayers, Bible readings and a thought for the day is posted on the Facebook page and website. 

The minister is avalble for any faith or pastoral matter – over the phone, via face time or zoom, or an outdoor meeting maintaining an appropriate social distance.

Church Internet Coffee Morning – takes place every Thursday morning at 11.00 am. Come along, chat or listen and catch up with friends. Again, please contact Sean for the link. 

Worship – every Sunday at 7.00 pm during the lockdown.

Rev Sean Swindells
07791 755976

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Sunday 3rd May 2020

“I am the gate for the sheep”

(Please note – this is not the material being used for the evening service at 7.00 pm)

OPENI NG PRAYER

In our meeting together let us remember that we worship the God who created this world, the God who spoke through his prophets from generation to generation, led his people from captivity to liberty, healed the sick, fed the hungry and was faithful even when faced with rejection. The same God who wants all people to be drawn to his love and grace, to know his forgiveness and the joy of his Salvation. Let us put aside all that hinders and join together in worship and praise.
Amen

REFLECTION

In the passage below from John's Gospel lJesus says I am the gate or door for the sheep and then again simply I am the gate or door (both are correct translations from the Hebrew). How are we to understand this saying? And what significance does it hold for us today? Perhaps we are glad of the doors and gates that keep us safe in lockdown. Or perhaps there are times when these doors and gates feel more like barricades keeping us prisoner or preventing us from entering the homes of loved ones, friends or neighbours or even our church buildings. And we long to break them down. And once again go freely out and in. And I’ll come back to this. But first let me tell you a story.

As most of you are aware we have had two puppies join the manse in the space of a year. Last year Melville arrived, as an 8 week old golden retriever puppy. He is our fourth retriever so we thought we knew all we needed to know about puppy-proofing the house and garden… as it turned out we had forgotten quite a lot in ten years!

Over the course of the winter of 2018/19 I have been busy building raised beds in a section of the manse garden so that we could grow some fruit and vegetables. To protect these beds and their contents from the unwanted attention of dogs he put up a piece of fencing and fixed an old rusty metal gate that we found lying abandoned in the garden. Unfortunately, within 48 hours of his arrival Melville discovered he was small enough to get through between the railings in the gate. So we hurriedly blocked them up with a piece of netting. Then he discovered the fun of digging and managed to tunnel his way under the gate – until we blocked that off too. But woe betide us if we forgot to shut the gate - he was into the vegetable area like a shot enjoying the wooden beds, the smells, the vegetation, building himself a nest in the midst of it all!

Eventually we were sure we had made the vegetable patch puppy-proof. Until Spring of this year when Magnus the Westie pup arrived…. well! Last week he found a new way into the vegetable garden and encouraged Melville to follow him. There the partners in crime spent a happy few minutes wreaking absolute havoc! Whether we will get any strawberries at all this year remains to be seen. And trying to get hold of replacement garden canes to support the vegetables has been a real challenge during lock down.

For Melville and Magnus it seems that that old rusty gate to the vegetable patch leads into puppy heaven – and they are determined to find their way in there!

I share that story with you because surely it is the picture of a gate into heaven that lies behind the saying of Jesus, “I am the gate”. In the Bible doors and gates are mentioned many times and often they relate to entering or accessing the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven. We might think of the challenge of entering the kingdom by the narrow door. Or, perhaps more reassuringly of the promise, knock and the door will be opened to you. Or the words of that Easter hymn about Jesus himself

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin
He only could unlock the gate of heaven
And let us in.

BIBLE READING

John 10:1-10

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

REFLECT

In the bible the opening of that gate or door into heaven leads to two things – truth and life. First of all the person for whom the gate is opened is offered a new insight into heaven or eternity or life beyond the present. That person catches a glimpse of a new truth about God and his purposes for the world and the future. But the opening of that gate permits two way traffic. So the second thing that the opening of the gate does is to allow God’s life to flow out into the world. In John’s Gospel these two things, truth and life come together in Jesus. So Jesus is not only the one who opens the gate but he is the very gate or door to heaven. In him we see God’s life and love at work and he promises to share this life with us now and for all eternity.

It is perfectly natural to long for a time when the physical doors and gates are once again open to us. But in the midst of that longing, perhaps these doors and gates that are keeping us safe could also be reminders to us of the door and gate to heaven that we find mentioned so often in the bible. Let us pray that Christ who is that gate will open up for us fresh glimpses of the future which God desires and this world sorely needs. And let us carry in our hearts the words of the psalmist

The Lord shall keep thy soul
He shall preserve thee from all ill
Henceforth thy going out and in
God keep forever will.

PRAYERS

Please remember
• The NHS, its staff in hospitals and GP practices as well as the other emergency services and volunteers
• Scientists and others 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
• The renewal of the church and revival in Scotland

Prayers for Others

Good Shepherd Guide us and lead us
Glory to you, o Lord
You have triumphed
Over the powers of darkness
Raise us up to new life
That we may live to serve you
Risen Lord.

Father God
We give you thanks for the Church
Scattered at present
Like bread broken and spread
Through hostile valleys,
Yet one in mind and spirit
United by your love for the world.
Help us to share that love
Always ready to reach those
Who are wrestling with the
Steepness of the way that lies ahead.
Good Shepherd Guide us and lead us

Lord Jesus, You offer a light for the journey
We pray for all who walk in darkness
And in the valley of the shadow of death
We continue to pray for
All those caught up in the struggle
against Covid 19

Today we remember especially
Staff in hospitals and GP Surgeries
Care Homes and Funeral parlours
We pray for our Queen
and her government
And all world leaders
as they make
Decisions that impact on the lives
Of millions of people.
We pray for scientists, researchers,
providers of PPE
And all those providing essential services.
May our clapping and our actions
Show integrity and courage
Good Shepherd Guide us and lead us

Lord God
As you have opened for us
The gate of everlasting life
Help us to live life to the full
Even when that has to be lived
within our four walls.
We pray for all those for whom
This lockdown period feels more like prison
Than safety.
Those who are unwell
Those whose mental health is suffering
Those who have an underlying condition
And find life difficult at the best of times
Those who are on the receiving end of abuse
Those who are grieving the loss of a loved one
Those who are missing family and friends
And the celebration of life’s key milestones.
We give thanks for modern technology
That makes contact with others easier.
Help us use it wisely and well.
Good Shepherd Guide us and lead us.
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. the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Amen.

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.
Amen

Blessed be your name - Matt Redman

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Saturday 2nd May 2020

Martin Luther and Covid19

OPENING PRAYER

Glorious Trinity
make your presence
known in this time ,
through our worship, our prayer,
the reading of your Word,
and in the fellowship we shall enjoy.
Amen

REFLECTION

One of the hardest issues I have had to face as a Christian minister is social distancing. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been delivering flowers on behalf of the church to members who are ill at home or confined due to disability. On some of these visits the folk concerned have been desperate for me to enter their homes and visit. There are numerous pastoral issues here such as loneliness, isolation and anxiety. On each occasion I have resisted the invitation. This goes against all I believe about ministry. My calling from God is to teach and preach, administer the sacraments and care for his people. And yet my presence in their home could have potentially serious consequences, with me carrying in a highly virulent and contagious virus or taking it away to pass on to the next person I meet.

Writing almost 500 years ago, the Reformer Martin Luther wrote about responding to pandemics and offers advice for how Christians should react to the current situation. this is what he wrote.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash no foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
(Luther’s Works, Volume 43 p. 132 - edited)

The plague of which Martin Luther writes is of course the Black Death, also known as a Bubonic Plague. It was spread by fleas infected with the bacteria ‘Yersinia pestis’ and in certain places wiped out up to 60% of the local population. Here Luther’s advice is good, solid and practical. But Covid19 is very different. It is not bacterial but viral. It is much more virulent and can be spread by sneeze or cough or human touch. Like many viruses it can survive for several hours depending on the type of surface. This is the cruel irony of the current situation. People separate and isolated from those whom they love.

BIBLE READINGS

Matthew 25: 31-46

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.(in the King James Bible)

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

REFLECT

Faith has to be accompanied by works – if our faith is authentic then we will naturally live a life of service accompanied by good works. This includes being alongside people, especially when they are hurting, in pain or feeling alone.
What do you most miss during the lockdown?
In what ways do you feel the current situation has challenged your faith?

PRAYER

Remember the people isolated from loved ones.
Remember the people who yearn for human contact.
Remember the people who cannot visit loved ones in hospital or residential homes.
Remember the people who cannot attend funerals of a close friend or family member.
Remember all who serve in Jesus name for courage and insight in these troubling days.

Let us pray.

Lord, we are those who journey.
And who find that journey hard today.
We are those who journey.
And long to find our hope renewed.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, whether in our own company or with companions beside us,
We journey on.
Whether sure, or unsure, as to our journey’s end,
Come beside us through the risen Lord.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for others;
For carers of the living and of the dying;
For the bereaved and for the anxious;
For those fearing loss of work and of business.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for scientists and researchers;
For those seeking to understand the challenge we face;
For those creating potential vaccines;
For those advising decision-makers.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for those who shape our common life:
In local Councils and in Scottish Government.
And in the Government of the United Kingdom.
Grant to them wisdom, compassion and understanding.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for your Kingdom to come.
And for your will to be done,
On earth. As it is in heaven.
Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
Amen.

A prayer for hard times

I feel lost. Find me Lord, pull back the wreckage of my life so that I can breathe again. I feel abandoned. Embrace me Lord, cover my wounds with your healing love so that I might stand restored. I feel trapped. Cut the chains Lord, release me from the weights that drag me down. Come bring your freedom and hope. I am desperate, yet I seek you God, the one who conquered the darkness, The one who rose from death, the one who said, “follow me”! I will follow the brightness of your love. Even when it is all but a distant glimmer I will fix my eyes open it. I feel lost, yet I am found in that light. I feel abandoned, yet you are besides me. I feel trapped, yet you call me to freedom. I feel desperate, yet you lead me to peace. I draw near to you Lord Jesus.

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. 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

The Lord's my Shepherd (Stuart Townend)

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Friday 1st May 2020

‘Our daily routine’

OPENING PRAYER

This is your day
and we shall praise you!
This is your day
and we shall declare your name!
This is your day,
and we shall worship
a risen Saviour and our King!

REFLECTION

Today is the first of May, which in many countries is a public holiday. May Day is a spring festival – a reminder of the turning of season. The days are still getting longer and warmer. The birds are well into their nesting season. Whilst you can still glimpse snow on the northern corrie of Longnagar (if you are in the right location), the summer is almost upon us. (Will there be summer holidays this year?) Down in England, the May Day spring festival was celebrated with May Poles and Morris Dancing. Here is Scotland it was closely associated with the ancient festival of Beltane, recently resurrected as the Beltane Fire Festival on Carlton Hill in Edinburgh, which starts on the evening of April 30th and continues into the early hours of May Day.

Also associated with May Day is International Workers Day – a celebration of the working classes and labourers. In the Communist World this marked with massive military parades. Within the Roman Catholic tradition, 1 May is dedicated to "Saint Joseph the Worker". Joseph was of course Jesus ‘legal father’ and worked as a carpenter – a trade which we assume Jesus followed. Joseph is the patron saint of workers and craftsmen, among others.

Due to the pandemic caused by Covid19, most of these activities will not be taking place this year. Whilst the changing of the seasons continues unabated the routines of human life are stalled and hindered. Even the most routine aspects of our lives are mired in social distancing. No visits to hospitals or nursing homes. Grandparents unable to have contact with grandchildren. Bars, restaurants, pubs and cafes all closed. No wandering around the shops or garden centre. No communal activities. No golf or other sport. No going out for coffee. And no church. No personal pastoral visits, but phone calls. No communal worship. There isn’t even the sound of children playing in school playground or local park.

BIBLE READINGS

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
John 2:1-11 - Jesus Changes Water Into Wine
2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him

James 5:16

16 Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

REFLECT

One things I especially like about Jesus is the way he indulged in the daily routines of life. He wasn’t a religious ascetic who hid in the wilderness. He was an everyday Jesus – earthed and rooted in the lives of common people. He enjoyed socialising and chilling out with friends and joining celebrations like a wedding. The Bible records many extraordinary events in Jesus’ life, but must not forget that he too had his routines.

There are certain routines that are central to the Christian Life. Worship, prayer, reading and studying the Bible (so that our understanding of God increases and faith deepens) and loving our neighbours. The absence of these routines leads to a malnourished discipleship. As a consequence, we do not benefit from the ‘life in all its fullness’ that Jesus promised and the church becomes further weakened and enfeebled.

What are the routines of your faith?

Do you need to restore the place of Jesus in your daily life?
What routines do you miss the most?

Don’t forget, the lockdown will come to pass. Routines will be restored. Communal life will begin again. In a little while the Kirk will reopen and will resonate with the worship and prayers of God people and the preaching of God’s work!

PRAYERS

A Prayer of lament

Let us lament with all those who are touched by Covid19
Let us lament the cruelty of social isolation
Let us lament the fear and anxiety
Let us lament the social injustice in our land Let us lament the decline of the church and loss of faith Let us lament the loss of routine
Let us lament with the hearts broken by loss today
Let us lament all the lives cut short today
Let us lament, O God, and then let us rise from our knees to work for change.
In the name of Christ, the prince of peace. Amen.
Amen

Father God,

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those children who will go hungry with no school meals.

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those with no place to go.

May we who are merely losing some money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no money at all.

May we who settle in for quarantine at home remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country let us choose love. During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbour.

Through Jesus Christ our Saviour, whose arms of love embrace us all.
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. the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Amen.

BLESSING

May the love of Jesus Christ
bring us wholeness,
the grace of God the Father
grant us peace,
the breath of Holy Spirit
instil passion
and the unity between them
give us strength
for this and every day.
Amen

Morning has broken

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Thursday 30th April 2020

‘Captain Tom'

Today is the 100th birthday of one of Britain’s most unlikely heroes – Thomas Moore, more affectional known as Captain Tom. Tom was born of 30th April 1920 into a family of builders in Keighley in West Yorkshire and became a civil engineer. His military career began in the Second World War where he enlisted into the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, later being commissions as a second lieutenant. During the war he saw service in India, Burma (Myanmar) and Sumatra. On his return home he served as an instructor at the Armoured Fighting Vehicle School in Bovington, Dorset. After the end of military career, he worked as managing director of company producing concrete.

Captain Tom rose to fame after the media learned of his attempt to raise £1,000 for the NHS by walking 100 laps of garden supported by a walking frame. His JustGiving page reported at as of 8.00 am this morning he has raised £29.95 million, with money still coming in. His efforts have earned him international recognition including 50 interviews with the media, a number 1 hit record, two separate world records, an on-line petition signed by 800,000 people calling for him to be knighted, and even having a police dog puppy name after him. However, the most interest honour bestowed upon Captain Tom (along with a flypast of a Spitfire and Hurricane) was promotion to the honorary rank of Colonel. When interviewed about this promotion, Captain Tom expressed his gratitude, but said he ‘will continue to use the title of Captain, because that is who I am.’

The current crisis and lockdown caused by Covid 19 is affecting everyone. It has been extremely cruel in the way it has separated families from loved ones and family, especially at times of serious illness and bereavement. For people like myself it continues to be a source of frustration. I cannot do large parts of my job including visiting and caring. I cannot go offshore rowing or to the gym or wander on the hills. But my sense of frustration is selfish and trivial when compared to what many people are going through. And of greater interest the crisis brought on by Covid10 has created many heroes.

rdinary people are doing extraordinary things. Not forgetting of course how some of the lowest paid workers are now doing some of the most essential work and potentially putting themselves at great risk in the process.

So today no profound theological insight! Except to remember ordinary people like Captain Tom and countless unnamed individuals who are striving the make the world a better place. They are beacons of hope and remind us of the best of humanity. Or in the words of the Book of Hebrews – ‘the world is not worthy of them.’

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church

Bible Reading

Hebrews 11:8-39

Faith in Action

8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched round them for seven days.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.[d]
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawn in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated – 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

REFLECT

Heroes populate the highest rung of the ladder of every religion, every profession, every country, every race, every generation, and every home. A great crowd of heroes lives on in each of our minds. We look up to these people. We admire them. We want to be like them.
Who are our personal heroes?
What is it that we see and admire in them?

PRAYER

Give thanks to God for the saints (both known and unknown)
Give thanks to God for all the people who have helped you and encouraged you.
Give thanks to God for all the people that have held you and comforted you.
Give thanks to God for all the people who have served you and cared for you.
Give thanks to God for all the people who made sacrifices for you.
Give thanks to God for all the people who helped on journey of faith?

Famous Prayers by some of the heroes (saints) of the Christian Faith

1) Saint Francis (Attributed), Monk and Ascetic

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

2) Teresa of Avila, Mystic and Nun

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing;
God only is changeless.
Patience gains all things.
Who has God wants nothing.
God alone suffices.

3) Thomas à Kempis, Monk and Writer

My most gracious God,
preserve me from the cares of this life,
so that I should not become entangled by them,
and from the many desires of the flesh,
so that I should not be ensnared by pleasure,
and from whatever is an obstacle to the soul,
so that I should not be broken with troubles,
and be overthrown.
Amen.

4) John Wesley, Preacher and Founder of Methodism

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

5) Jim Elliot, Martyred Missionary to Ecuador

Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.

6) Thomas Merton, Monk and Author

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

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. the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Amen.

BLESSING

Bless me with Thy presence when I shall make an end of living.
Help me in the darkness to find the ford.
And in my going comfort me with Thy promise that
Where Thou art, there shall Thy servant be
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

 

Will you come and follow me?

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Wednesday 29th April 2020

‘Spiritual formation’


OPENING PRAYER

Into your presence we come,
God of Grace and Peace,
who was, and is and ever shall be
the eternal One.
Into fellowship we come,
bound together in the love
that died and rose again for us,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen

REFLECTION

This morning I come across an advert on Facebook for so called ‘Academic Degrees.’ They are being provided by a theological college in America (where else?). For a mere $500.00 you can qualify for a DD or Doctor of Divinity. A Masters’ Degree comes a wee bit cheaper – a mere $300.00! Of course in the UK these so called qualifications are not recognised. To pass yourself off as a graduate or highly qualified professional with a piece of worthless of paper is to commit fraud.
One has to wonder how many Christian leaders and pastors around the world as passing themselves off as experienced and qualified? Whether the so called college exists in reality is another matter. $500.00 seems an awful lot of money to pay for a fancy certificate that is probably made up on a computer. I was also surprised at how quick Facebook were to remove the advert when it was reported.

Whilst there is a lot of falsehood going on here, there is another issue. Taking short cuts, avoiding appropriate and supervised training means there is an absence of spiritual formation. There are many gifted people in and around the church, many of whom have never sat in a college classroom or gone through a supervised placement.

Some of these folk are doing great service in God’s Kingdom. But how much more effective could they be with exposing their thoughts and beliefs and practice of ministry to the rigour of study and reflection? God is worthy of our very best efforts. One of the key expressions of Christian discipleship is to seek the renewal of our minds. And regretfully even in Scotland there are sloppy shepherds!

The absence of spiritual formation is not just an issue for church leaders. It equally applies to all Christians and right across the church. Whilst the symptoms are varied the root cause is always the same. The symptoms include: fundamentalism, unthinking adherence to church traditions and intellectual arrogance – assuming we know it all or thinking we have nothing to learn from other people. The root cause is a failure to engage with a balanced reading of the Bible, sloppy preaching and teaching or a lazy and an undisciplined faith.

BIBLE READINGS

Matthew 22: 34-40

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Romans 12

A Living Sacrifice

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

REFLECT

We are often separate our feelings from our thoughts, yet our heart and mind are interconnected. So it is with faith – our belief and devotion to God is not only how feel. It is also our thoughts and our thinking.

What do you think it means to love God with ‘all your mind’ and to be ‘transformed by the renewal of your mind?’
How might your local church help you grow in faith?

One final point – don’t forget the process of inner-renewal and spiritual formation lasts a life-time. God is never in a hurry!

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church

PRAYERS

Points for prayer:

Those feeling isolated and deprived of human contact due to the lockdown.
Those facing the future with fear and anxiety.
Those wrestling with grief and loss and were denied the opportunity to say goodbye.
That God will bless our nation and those who lead it, that the pandemic would end and community life restored.
The renewal of the church and the revival of faith in our land.

O Holy One, hear our prayers, confessing all that lies uneasily in our hearts….

(time for silent prayer)

O Holy One, help us to admit that we are broken, broken by fear and hate, by apathy and greed, broken by sorrow and anxiety.

Mend the broken places, and make them stronger.

O Holy One, we miss the people that used to be a part of our lives – we grieve the death of our beloveds, the dying of our friends, the estrangement from family, relationships lost because of time and distance.

Help us to put aside the past hurts, to reach out, to reconnect, to reconcile; help us to the life lies beyond death.
O Holy One, we are lost and cannot find our way home – the path we’re on seems unfamiliar and frightening; we have wandered from our true self; we cannot see where you are leading us, if you are leading us.

Come and find us; rescue us from the frightening places.

O Holy One, there is just too much, and we are so anxious about it all – about war; about fire and flooding and earthquake; about politics and division; about scarcity; about loneliness

Infuse peace and serenity in our hearts.

O Holy One, we are so proud of our accomplishments that we are blind to the victories of others, and blithely ignore you as the source of all gifts – we think we can do it all on our own and our egos are so puffed up. Everything seems a competition, and winner takes all.

Open our eyes to the wonders of our brothers and sisters, and remind us that you empower all of us.

O Holy One, we are locked up in cells of our own making, and in the prisons our culture creates – we are bound by correctness and tradition, by habit and niceness, by norms whose usefulness expired decades ago.

Free us, liberate us, release us from the bondage that limits our full expression of love and faith and humanity.
O Holy One, our fasts only make us think about what we miss and do not point us to you – we give up sugar or screens or alcohol and we feel not humble but self-righteous. And we know this is not the fast you choose.

Lavish us with grace so that we may accept all your bounty in humility and gratitude.

O Holy One, there is so much that is not right – too many live in poverty and fear; too many live without love; too many live enraged.

Remind us that you have claimed the world, and us, as your own, good and beloved and redeemed.

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. the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Amen

BLESSING

May God's Word be in your heart.
May God's Word be on your lips.
May God's Word be in your touch.
May God's Word direct your feet.
On this day and all your days to come
May God's Word be the life you live.
Amen

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Tuesday 28th April

Disconcerting Silence

OPENING PRAYER

In the meeting of our lives,
be the focus of all that we are.
In the singing of the hymns,
the prayers that we shall make,
the reading of your Word
and the preaching of the same.
Speak to us, encourage and forgive us.
In the meeting of our lives, Lord,
be the focus of all that we are.
Amen

REFLECTION

This morning I was reading an article by a journalist in the Guardian Newspaper, Amelia Gentleman, about the so called ‘disconcerting silence’ in London. This is what she writes: ‘There is no noise of people laughing or shouting, no one bellowing into their mobile phones, no sounds of plates clattering at pavement cafes. Bins are not overflowing with coffee cups and discarded newspapers. Even the pigeons seem hungrier.’ Another person observes: “You can hear the wind rushing through the streets. It feels so eerie, like waking up in a post-apocalypse movie.” As somebody who enjoys the outdoors, I appreciate the quietness that accompanies the present period of lockdown. But for some folk the lack of noise and the bustle of human activity can be very unnerving. This silence is disconcerting.

As a very active person, sitting still and being silent does not come easy to me. I always like to be doing something. Even on holiday I like to be active. And when I am out walking or running there is always noise – especially the local skylarks! But there are times when silence comes as an unexpected but welcome intrusion. Walking out on the hills I have on two or three occasions heard the silence. An absence of noise – no wind, bird song or the sound of human activity – had led to an awareness of a soft, hushed background sound. It is hard to describe in words.

Silence is also part of the spiritual life. When life is at its darkest sometimes God is silent, in what is called the ‘dark night of the soul.’ But the most intimate spiritual experience is what the French Jesuit Priest Père de Caussade described as the sacrament of the present moment. It is when all around and within becomes dimmed and silent and we become fully attentive and aware of the presence of Christ alive in our heart.” Another writer, John Main, describes this as being open ‘…wholly, attentively and wakefully to this great gift we are given.

BIBLE READING

Kings 19:1-18

Elijah Flees to Horeb

19 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3 Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.

The LORD Appears to Elijah

And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.

REFLECT

At Sinai, God spoke to Moses and the Israelites. Thunder and lightning and an ever-louder sound of a trumpet preceded and accompanied the Word of God (Exodus 19). Centuries later, the prophet Elijah returned to the same mountain of God. There he experienced storm and earthquake and fire as his ancestors did, and he was ready to listen to God speaking in the thunder. But the Lord was not in any of the familiar mighty phenomena. When all the noise was over, Elijah heard "a sound of sheer silence", and God spoke to him

Loud words certainly make themselves heard; they are impressive. But we also know that they hardly touch the hearts. They are resisted rather than welcomed. Elijah’s experience shows that God does not want to impress, but to be understood and accepted. God chose "a sound of sheer silence" in order to speak.
Silence makes us ready for a new meeting with God. In silence, God’s word can reach the hidden corners of our hearts. In silence, it proves to be "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit" (Hebrews 4:12). In silence, we stop hiding before God, and the light of Christ can reach and heal and transform even what we are ashamed of. (Taizi)

Have you ever heard the silence’?
Have you encountered and experienced the authentic inner presence of God within your heart? (Note of caution! God treats each of us as individuals – our encounters with Jesus are always unique and different.)
What difference should this make to our lives – knowing that we are loved and valued, forgiven and redeemed by none other than Jesus Christ?

PRAYERS

Wonderful God,
God of laughter and promises,
Source of joy and source of hope: hear our prayers.

In the calm of this beautiful space, we are mindful of those who do not know the beauty of friendship and community, the calm of daily bread, the peace of life without violence of war.
So we lift up to you those people around the world who suffer this day – the poor, the hungry, those facing rampant disease. We lift up to you those places torn apart by war and conflict and by natural disaster. As if we need to lift them up to you – you are already there, compassionate and strong. Help us to follow your example, and to help as we can.

In the calm of this beautiful space, we are mindful of those in our community who are wracked with worry and anxiety – about their health of the health of those they love; about work and finances; about their kids’ well-being and their education and their social lives and their education. We lift up to you all who are anxious about so much, as if we need to lift them up to you – you are already with them, the still small voice in the midst of the storm, reminding them to breathe and to trust.

In the calm of this beautiful space, we give you thanks for this time, for this time set apart to worship. We lift up to you all our praise for the good in life and for the struggles that help us to grow; we lift up to you that which we cannot name aloud. We lift up to you our hearts, knowing that you have had them all along.
We offer our prayers in Jesus’ name

Pause to remember people who have lost their jobs and homes and shell-shocked by this new and unwanted experience and they may find the help they need.

Pause to remember people all serve at personal risk – retail staff, delivery drives, carers, medical staff, emergency services and members of the armed forces.

Pause to remember all who guide our common life – Elizabeth our Queen, Prime Minister and First Minister, knowing the heavy burden of responsibility they bear and the hard choices and difficult decisions they need to make. – pray from God’s grace and guidance, deep wisdom and great courage.

Pause to remember those who have lost their lives to Covid19 because of their service to others – pray their families may receive God’s deepest comfort and peace.

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. 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

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

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Monday 27th October 2020

‘The lark ascending’

OPENING PRAYER

This is your day
and we shall praise you!
This is your day
and we shall declare your name!
This is your day,
and we shall worship
a risen Saviour and our King!

REFLECTION

Early this morning I was out walking the dogs – a very playful Golden Retriever called Melville and a strong willed Westie called Magnus. The path I sometimes walk takes me quickly out of the village, up a hill between fields, across a burn (great for getting the dogs clean) and into an area of woodland. As I walk I am usually listening to the sounds that surround me. Overhead the sound of helicopters going to and from Dyce, ferrying workers to offshore platforms. Aircraft from Stavanger, Schiphol airport or London also heading to or from the airport. Distant traffic on the road in and out of the village.
These sounds (apart from the helicopters) are usually neither disturbing or intrusive. And then there are the sounds of creation. In the winter flocks of geese honking and near dawn or dusk the local Tawny Owl and occasional Barn Owl making their presence heard. In the spring and summer, the sound of skylarks soaring and the distant drumming of woodpeckers.
One of the few benefits of the current lockdown is the absence of noise. (Unless of course you have a house full of frustrated children!) There is a significant reduction in traffic, fewer aircraft, and less people out and about. With less noise produced by human activity, the sounds of creation have become even more noticeable. Even the skylarks appear to be singing louder! I don’t know how much longer the lockdown will last for and I yearn for the routines of life to be restored, but I am enjoying the silence.

Also present out on this morning’s walk was something slightly unusual. There was a man walking without a dog and wearing headphones. Of course that is his right and his business. Maybe he was listening to a fine piece of classic music? But it seemed a shame. In the same way that so many people miss the spiritual dimension of life because skewed priorities, busyness and materialism, the man with the headphones was missing out the sounds of creation. Missing out on the connectedness with the world around him, the ebbs and flows of the seasons, the sound of the lark ascending.

BIBLE READINGS

Psalm 46

God the Refuge of His People

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song for Alamoth.

God is our refuge and strength,
A] very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the [b]midst of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the [c]tabernacle of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be [d]moved;
God shall help her, just [e]at the break of dawn.
6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.

Selah

John 20:1-9

the Empty Tomb

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

REFLECT

Two small details for this morning’s Bible readings. In Psalm 46, verse 10 is the phrase ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ And in our reading from John’s Gospel comes the story of how Mary Magdalene in the sacred space between night and dawn journeyed to Jesus tomb. Notice the connection here. Both passages imply stillness and silence. These are places where we are most likely to encounter the reality of God and where God is doing his deepest work.
Where are the places you most frequently encounter God’s presence?
Why not use the opportunities of the lockdown to rediscover the sounds of creation?

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church

PRAYERS

Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the silent presence of the spirit of your Son. Lead us into that mysterious silence where your love is revealed to all who call.
In the silence of this time may all the suffering violence and confusion of the world encounter the power that will console, renew and uplift the human spirit.
May this silence be a power to open the hearts of men and women to the vision of God, and so to each other in love and peace, justice and human dignity.
May all who are weighed down by the problems of humanity find release giving thanks for the wonder of human life.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.
Amen

A Blessing of Solitude

May you recognise in your life the presence, power and light of your soul.
May you realise that you are never alone and that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realise that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful, good and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.
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. the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Amen

BLESSING

May all that is unforgiven in you, be released.
May your fears yield their deepest tranquilities.
May all that is unliven in you, blossom into a future, graced with love.
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

All things bright and beatiful (John Rutter)

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