Cruden Parish Church

7.00pm, Sunday 5 July 2020

'How long is Eternity'

 

INTRODUCTION

Whilst the church building is closed and all our activities have ceased due to the lockdown caused by Covid19, Cruden Parish Church has moved online. Wherever you are from, local or far away, you are welcome here!

Please feel free to join in the responses printed in bold and italic. We would also appreciate if you keep all background noise and conversation to an absolute minimum.

CALL TO WORSHIP

As the lockdown is gradually eased and families begin to reconnect, we begin to look forward to the return of our normal routines and the reopening of the church for worship.  But we are not there yet. As we yearn for things to return to what they once were, in this space God is with us. Here God offers us not just a return to the past, but a vision of the future. A glimpse into the mystery of eternity and a teaser of what is to come.
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.

.Lighting of Candle & Prayer of Solidarity

 “These are words of Jesus that we all need to hear. We need to hear these words because they speak into the depths of the experience of so many of us at this time.
“The words create a picture in the mind’s eye.
“The picture is of ourselves in the times when we are indeed weary and burdened by the particular loads that we have to bear.
“Alongside this, the picture is of the One who offers to us rest.
“The picture is of human need met by divine promise and finds its context in the affirmation that Jesus is the One who knows the Father and holds in God’s trust all that has been committed to him.
“He holds our lives in his keeping and offers renewal to those who seek his presence. (Matthew 11: 25-30)
“Wherever we are and whatever our load, the promise of Jesus is that we will find his renewing presence.” 

(Rt. Rev. Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly)

We pray …

We pray:
Lord, we come to you as we are
For we can come no other way.
We come acknowledging the burdens we carry
And trusting in your promise of rest.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we come to you
In the sure knowledge that we are not alone.
We come in the company
Of all who know the challenge of these days.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we come to you
Acknowledging that you have already come to us.
We journey to the place where you are to be found
And rediscover that you have always been with us.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we come to you
As the One who knows our past and sees our present.
Set us free from that which binds us to our past
And liberate us to serve you in the present.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we come to you
Through the One who is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
May he hold our lives safe
As we embrace the future and the promise of his rest.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Amen.

Question: In what ways has the lockdown changed your use of time?

BIBLE READING

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-15

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

SERMON   

 'How long is Eternity?'   

Have you noticed that time can pass really slowly or very quickly? For example, here was in day 105 of the lockdown and for me the time has just flown. I do not know where the days have gone. I have of course been keeping myself busy. But sometimes time can pass very slowly. The seconds and minutes seem to drag on forever.  For example, a last year we were heading south and called in at Brechin Castle Garden Centre for coffee. Unlike Alison I had successfully negotiated my way past the calorie laded scones, cakes meringues, biscuits and pastries and having resisted temptation patiently waited to order a black coffee. In front of me were a party of four Glaswegians. This group of four appeared to be attempting to set a new world record in dithering. First they were not sure of what they wanted. Then having established what they wanted proceeded to change their minds. Holding everybody up they journeyed backward and forward to different counters, to pick up and then return the cakes etc on offer. Having dithered and debated what they wanted to eat, they then proceeded to dither and debate what they wanted to drink again changing their minds. They left the poor serving staff confused and bewildered by getting in a complete muddle about who had ordered what. I remember leaning over and whispering to Alison, enquiring if the garden centre sold machine guns.

What is true of garden centres is also true of church. One of the key joys and privileges of being a Presbyterian are long meetings that drag on late into the evening. Where the discussion goes round and round in circles, or people keep labouring the same point. A few days ago I learned some more of the history of Cruden Parish Church. It concerns the 19th Earl of Erroll, Earl William Harry who died in 1891. When he attended Cruden Church, he was famed for showing his impatience with what he considered to be over lengthy sermons by lowering his watch on its gold chain over the side of the balcony for everyone to see  – including the minister.

There are different ways in which we understand time. We humans live in liner or chronological time. Our day begins when we awake in the morning and ends when we fall asleep at night. Each year begins on the first day of January and ends of the last day of December. And we humans can expect to live for three score years and ten, which is 840 months, 25550 days, & 613200 hours. Due to success of modern medicine this has been extended. Average life expectancy in the UK is 82.9 years for women and 79.2 years for men. And time is limited. We humans are only here for a limited amount of time.
I am reminder here of a story attributed to the former US President Woodrow Wilson. He once received a call in the middle of the night from a civil servant who informed him that one key members of staff had suddenly passed away. With complete insensitivity The caller said, “While I’m sure we are all saddened by this news, I would like to know if I can take his place.” There was a pause at the other end of the line before the president replied, “It’s all right with me, if it’s all right with the undertaker.” So what we have here is our experience of liner or chronological time, in which there is past present and future. There are seconds and minutes, hours and days., weeks and months, years and decades. There are beginnings and endings. And I am sure we are all looking forward to the final end of the lockdown, when we can mix and mingle and get on with our lives.

So far, I have talked about time as we experience it and understand it. Chronological time with beginnings and endings.  But there is another type of time. This type of time is beyond our understanding. There is a type of time that has no beginning and no ending. There is a type of time that is continuous. It is known as eternity. This is where faith transcends our understanding.  This is where our limited finite minds struggle to comprehend the mystery of God who is eternal. There are a few Bible verses that speak of this mystery.

2 Peter 3:8-9
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

Hebrew 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

And then to the Book of Revelation: 1.4 In speaking of Jesus it describes him He who is, was, and is to come. And in 22: 12 I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. All these different verses share a common thread - God is timeless and eternal.  Jesus has always existed.

And note what our reading from Ecclesiastes says on this subject.

 Ecclesiastes 3: 11 1 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

According to the words that appear in the second sentence.  God has set eternity in the human heart. The God who is eternal was planted deep within us an awareness and a yearning for eternity. Not just for the here and now.  But something deep with our consciences that causes us to reach beyond or mortality.  And yet we cannot understand it or make sense of it, until we come to rest on the arms of the one who is eternal. So let me begin to pulls these things together. Eternal time is God’s time. Don’t ask me to explain it. But God’s experience of time is different from our experience of time. Our experience of time involves far too many endings with all the pain and sadness that accompany the loss of the people we love. But in God’s kingdom there are no endings or partings. It is a continuous experience of joy that goes on and on.
A noted Baptist preacher of the late Victorian period called Charles Spurgeon, once wrote these words. “Life is short; eternity is long. It is only reasonable that this short life be lived in light of eternity.”  Let’s just think about that for a moment. What difference would it make we lived our lives in light of eternity? How would that inform your priorities and shape your choices?

And my final thought. How long is eternity? The best answer I have ever come across is contained in the final verse of the well-known and much loved hymn – Amazing Grace. 

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.’

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church.

“Life is short; eternity is long. It is only reasonable that this short life be lived in light of eternity.”

Charles Spurgeon

PRAYERS

Prayers for others
Almighty God:
from the beginning of time
to the end of eternity,
you have chosen 
to use your power and majesty
     to love us,
     to redeem us,
     to shape us as your people.
 
King of Kings 
and Lord of Lords:
you became weak
     so you could confront
     the strength of sin and death,
confounding their ridicule
with your resurrection.
 
Spirit of God, resting upon us:
may your power enflame us  with your peace;
may your peace touch us 
     with your grace;
may your grace fill us 
     with your hope;
may your hope lead us
into your Kingdom.
 
God in Community, Holy in One,
may your word be on our lips,
as we pray together as Jesus
has taught us, saying,

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.
Amen

Hymn

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we'd first begun.

 Prayer of Dismissal

For your goodness and generosity in giving us all we need,
this week help us to praise you, O God.
In every circumstance of life, in good times and bad,
this week help us to trust you, O God.
In love and faithfulness, with all that we have and all that we are,
this week help us to serve you, O God.
As we speak or write or listen to those nearby or far away,
this week help us to share your love, O God.
In all our plans and work for ourselves and for others,
this week help us to glorify you, O God.
In every thought and word and deed, by the power of your Holy Spirit,
this week may we live for you, O God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.     

Amen.


CELTIC BLESSING

Through the dark hours of this night
protect and surround us,
Father, Son and Spirit, Three.
Forgive the ill that we have done.
Forgive the pride that we have shown.
Forgive the words that have caused harm
that we might sleep peaceably,
and rise refreshed to do your will.
Through the dark hours of this night
protect and surround us,
Father, Son and Spirit, Three

Amen




Church Notices

During the period of lockdown, all our church meetings and activities are now on-line:

Discussion & Study Group @ Tuesday evening at 7.00 pm, looking at Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. (Next meet is on Tuesday 14th July)

Coffee Morning @ Thursday morning at 11.00 am

Evening Service @ Sunday evening at 7.00 pm.

Pastoral Cover- Sean will be ‘away’ next week on holiday. Pastoral cover is being provided by Ms Ali MacLeod   01771 622992, email aliowl@hotmail.com