As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will seek to post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer
Reflection for Monday 1 June 2020
By Fred Coutts
As I am writing this reflection I can hear a gang of young sparrows tweeting joyfully in the garden. They seem to be really enjoying themselves. They have reached a turning point in their lives, their confinement to the nest now past and a whole world to celebrate.
On Friday we reached a turning point in our national battle with Covid-19. We are now taking very limited steps out of lockdown, and most of our steps must be outside. And what a glorious sunny day our turning point Friday was!
On Sunday we celebrated Pentecost, a turning point in the growth of the early church. Some call it the birthday of the church. It was outside into the streets of Jerusalem these first church members poured to share the good news of their faith with the people they met.
“We must meet outside,” Mr Hay, the minister would have told the congregation gathered in the old church of Cruden on 14 July 1776. “We are going to pull down our old, crumbling church, and build something new and better.” It was a turning point for the congregation of Cruden. They met outside the Manse that summer and autumn. The quaint formal language of the Kirk Session minutes of the time record “that there would be one diet of public worship at the Manse next Sabbath, about the ordinary time, and every Sabbath thereafter (if the weather be good) till the church be repaired”.
The congregation of Cruden has found itself in a similar situation in 2021. No longer can we gather to worship in the familiar surroundings of Cruden Church. We are worshipping though the unfamiliar medium of the internet on Sunday evenings. We are making more use of worship provided on radio and television. Now tentative discussions are taking place to see if we can plan some outdoor services over the next few weeks. We all must wonder what worship will be like when we can return to our well-loved building. It will be very different. It will be a turning point for our congregation. Sean has written about this in the Bulletin which will be wending its way to you very soon.
The builders in 1776 were quick in their work. The grand new church was built and opened for public worship on 3 November. Mr Hay gave out his text that Sunday from Psalm 84 (from the only English Bible in use for hundreds of years, the King James Version): ”How amiable are thy tabernacles O Lord of Hosts.” Perhaps the words are more familiar to many of us in the 1650 metrical version of that Psalm.
How lovely is they dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts to me!
The tabernacles of thy grace,
How pleasant Lord they be!
My thirsty soul longs vehemently,
Yea faints, thy courts to see:
My very heart and flesh cry out,
O living God, for thee.
Behold, the sparrow findeth out
An house wherein to rest;
the swallow also for herself
hath found her place to nest;
Even thine own altars, where she safe
Her young ones forth may bring,
O thou almighty Lord of hosts,
Who are my God and King.
I wonder if the precentor led the congregation on that November day in 1776 in singing that Psalm? The corner had been turned for the congregation and a new chapter begun. (You can read about the building of the new church in 1776 in the Summer Bulletin and see the wonderful drawing which Jim MacDonald has done of what that church might have looked like.)
Reflect with me, will you, about our return to worship in our church building, with our corner turned. Perhaps one of the Psalms for that day might be Psalm 98
O sing a new song to the Lord,
For wonders he has done;
With his right hand and holy arm
The victory he has won.
That is the thought I leave with you today: the new song we will sing to the Lord, with joy and thanksgiving when this corner is turned.
And the baby sparrows are still singing their songs of joy in my garden.
What song, hymn or Psalm helps you as you contemplate this turning point in the life of our church.
Ask God to help you see round the corner and prepare for the new future.
(New International Version)
How lovely is your dwelling-place,
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young –
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;
look with favour on your anointed one.
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favour and honour;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose way of life is blameless.
blessed is the one who trusts in you.
The fellowship of the believers
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
God of the past and the future,
we praise you
for this present moment.
Fill us with your joy
and empower us with your Holy Spirit,
that our strength may be renewed
to sing a new song of your glory
in a world in which everything has changed.
God of our earthly tents, God of our guiding light:
you led your people through a desert and resisted a permanent home.
You knew that a life made together is a life on the move,
on roads we’d rather not choose.
Follow me, you said.
Come and see, you said.
Be with me, my people forever.
As we travel along through this ‘land of unlikeness,’
a terrain of unsettling truths,
your city of reunion awaits.
May the strangeness we face
and the people who change us
assure us we’re on the right path.
(Prayers for Community in a Time of Pandemic, Corrymeela Community)
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
you will be done,
on earth as 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.
So much of the road ahead is uncertain,
the path constantly changing,
but we know some things that are as solid and sure
as the ground beneath our feet,
and the sky above our heads.
We know God is love.
We know Christ’s light endures.
We know the Holy Spirit is there,
found in the space between all things,
closer to us than our next breath.
As we turn the corner,
Go with us.