As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will seek to post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Saturday 20th June 2020‘
'Grace and Law’
One of the banes of modern life is pointless rules and regulations that are alleged to make life safer. There are many examples. A few years ago in a primary school in Carlisle, the head teacher ruled that if children wanted to play at conkers they would have to wear industrial safety goggles. About the same time, the grandly titled ‘Dundee City Council Education Departments adviser and conciliation manager’ forbade schools from having home-baking on health and safety grounds. However, the ban did not apply to parents’ groups, providing the parents were able to produce evidence they have their own public liability insurance. (The rule was soon ditched after an outbreak of protest and common sense!) My personal all-time favourite was Hackney Council in North London, who once advised Swimmers at an open air swimming pool they might have to close the pool if it got too wet. This was in case rain, hail or thick fog would stop the lifeguards from seeing people in the pool, who may be in trouble!
Whilst some rules are utter nonsense, the majority exist for our safety and wellbeing. Take for example the rules about Covid-19 lockdown. Within the communities of Hatton and Cruden Bay we have not experienced the level of infection witnessed in other areas. (I was recently speaking to an acquaintance in the funeral industry who told me how his firm had handled 20 Covid-19 related cases in one week.) But rules over essential travel, hygiene, self-isolation and public distancing have undoubtedly saved many lives. In the church we are currently studying the rules and guidance for when the building can reopen for public use. Whilst this will not be anytime soon, there will be a very complicated series of checks and rules to minimise risk and ensure the safety of everyone.
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“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. 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, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 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. 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.
“Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
“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.”
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
One of the great strengths of the Christian faith is the emphasis on grace. Here we proclaim and celebrate God’s inclusive and embracing love that is for everybody. If we respond and receive this love, we encounter forgiveness and renewal and are in-grafted into God’s family. As members of God’s family we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and are heirs to God’s eternal kingdom. Unfortunately, our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness. Grace is frequently misunderstood. It does not mean we are free to pursue evil or our own limited selfish agenda. Rather, God’s free gift of grace makes the change and transformation of our lives possible. As our hearts are filled with more and more of God’s love, his law is inscribed within our hearts. So know this. Christianity is not just a series of laws and commands and ethical values. Rather, it is about a relationship with the God of love. This relationship brings inward change to enable us to live as God would have us live.
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
This Sunday is Father’s Day. Let us remember the difference our fathers have made to our lives.
God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it ... Dad
- Author Unknown
Prayer for Fathers
Today we ask You to bless our earthly fathers
for the many times they reflected the love, strength,
generosity, wisdom and mercy
that You exemplify in Your relationship with us, Your children.
We honour our fathers
for putting our needs above their own convenience and comfort;
for teaching us to show courage and determination in the face of adversity;
for challenging us to move beyond self-limiting boundaries;
for modelling the qualities that would turn us
into responsible, principled, caring adults.
Not all our fathers lived up to these ideals.
Give them the grace to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes.
Give us the grace to extend to them
the same forgiveness that you offer us all.
Help us to resist the urge to stay stuck in past bitterness,
instead, moving forward with humility and peace of heart.
We ask your blessing on those men who served as father figures in our lives
when our biological fathers weren't able to do so.
May the love and selflessness they showed us
be returned to them in all their relationships,
and help them to know that their influence
has changed us for the better.
Give new and future fathers the guidance they need
to raise happy and holy children,
grounded in a love for God and other people -
and remind these fathers that treating their wives
with dignity, compassion and respect is
one of the greatest gifts they can give their children.
We pray that our fathers who have passed into the next life
have been welcomed into Your loving embrace,
and that our family will one be day be reunited
in your heavenly kingdom.
Thankfully, the majority of fathers are motivated by love and play a very positive role. But occasionally there are fathers who become abusive and possessive.
A prayer for survivors of violence, abuse and neglect
God our redeemer and sustainer, we pray for the survivors of violence, abuse and neglect.
Be with them in confusion and pain.
Give your power to the powerless, your fullness to the empty of spirit.
Heal their wounds, free them from fear and restore them to true health. Strengthen them to face the future with faith in you.
We ask this through Jesus your Son, who was himself a victim of abuse and yet in his resurrection, triumphed over the oppression.
Likewise, God of justice, judge of all the earth, we bring before you those who abuse and mistreat others.
Turn the hearts of the exploiters from the way of evil.
Open their eyes to the truth of their conduct and full them with hatred for the damage they do.
And so by your Spirit bring them to true repentance and amendment of their lives.
And now, may your Spirit draw us together,
both in our church family, and in the community.
May we face our mistakes with complete honesty.
But preserve us from unhelpful speculation and gossip.
Help us reach out, care for the hurting, and support each other.
Strengthen us with the gospel of your grace, for Jesus’ Christ’s sake.
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.
May grace and peace be ours in abundance,
in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
May we be thankful for simple things,
for friendship, for health, for daily bread, for good news.
May we rise above the corruption of power
and become participants in the divine nature.
May we go from this place
to pursue goodness, wisdom, holiness and love.
God the Creator, call us to the work of the kingdom
God the Redeemer, keep us from stumbling
God the Sustainer, transform and inspire us.