Cruden Parish Church

7.00pm, Sunday 19 July 2020

‘The conversion of Saul – a surprising revelation!’


Conversione di Saulo Odescalchi’ by the Italian artist Caravaggio. Painted in 1600



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
“Our human experience is shaped, in part, by our past and by our present situation. Our identity is shaped, in part, by all that we have inherited and by how we affirm and are affirmed in our present situation.
“Over time, our experience and our identity are shaped by a multiplicity of influences.
“As the people of God, our experience and our identity are shaped by the community created by Jesus Christ and sustained and renewed by the Holy Spirit.
“Within that community, where the Spirit of God dwells, we find that our experience and our identity are shaped, not only by past and present, but by the future.
“As we face the future, we hear the words of Scripture within the community of the people of God: ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 8: 1 (NRSV).
“Whatever the past has been and whatever the challenges of the present are, we are liberated to face the future with the assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
(Rt. Rev. Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly)

We pray:
Living God, you are our Creator and our Maker.
You have made us in your image
And sustained us in past days.
Guard us and keep us as we remember those days.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Living God, you are our Redeemer and our Deliverer.
You reconcile all things through Christ Jesus,
The image of the invisible God.
Hold our lives in your safe keeping at this present time.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Living God, you are the giver of the gift of the Spirit.
You breathe into us the very breath of life
And renew us by your Holy Spirit.
Lead us into the future, through Christ and by your Spirit.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Living God, as you have been with us in past days,
Be with us today and in all the days to come.
Grant that we may face the future
Assured that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer. Amen

Question: What has been your most pleasant surprise?

(As the service is ‘public’ please do not share anything too intimate or deeply personal.)

Bible Reading

Acts 9: 1-19

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.

Sermon   ‘A surprising revelation!’

I am reminded me of a story about a family who lived on a remote island. For the very first time they visited a large city and checked into a grand and palatial 5-star Hotel. They stood and were amazed at the polished marble floors, the wood panelling, the exquisite drapes and works of art that hung from the walls. As they left the reception desk the man’s wife nipped into the restroom. As the man and his family waited they starred at the lift. They didn’t have any idea what they were looking at! About that time an elderly lady hobbled toward the lift and went inside. The door closed. A couple of moments later, the door opened and out came a stunningly attractive young woman. The man couldn’t stop staring, without turning his head he patted his son on the arm and said, Son go get your Mother!

Our Bible reading this evening tells the story of how a nasty, vindictive, bad tempered Pharisee called Saul met Jesus on the Damascus Road and became one of the greatest Christian figures in recorded human history. However, you look at it, it is an incredible story. The background here is how Saul was commissioned by the religious leaders in Jerusalem to arrest and imprison Christian believers and return them to Jerusalem for trial. He would have been accompanied by some of the Sanhedrin guards to assist him on his quest. And his destination was Damascus about 150 miles from Jerusalem. Damascus was the ancient capital of Syria and had a large Jewish population. And Saul was good at his job. He was very efficient and highly motivated and already implicated in the stoning of Stephen the first Christian martyr.
There is a story told of a famous American football coach called Paul Bryant, who led the team for the University of Alabama. He once gathered all his coaching staff together for a meeting. He told them, “There are different kinds of boys out there and we don’t want all of them playing football at Alabama. There is one kind of boy who gets knocked down and stays down. We don’t want him at Alabama. There is another boy who gets knocked down and gets up. But if you knock him down again, he stays down. We don’t want that boy at Alabama. But there are some boys that you can knock down and they get up. You can knock them down over and over again and they will always get up.” One of the assistant coaches piped up, “That’s the kind of boy we want at Alabama, isn’t it coach?” “No,” Paul Bryant, “We want the boy that’s knocking the others down.” So, it comes as a surprise as to whom God wants on his team to. If you were selecting missionaries in the first century, you would never pick Saul of Tarsus. He was the church’s number one enemy. Saul first became a Pharisee in the Roman City of Tarsus. He was the brightest of the bunch. He parents sent to Jerusalem to study under the renowned rabbi Gamaliel. One historian suggest that Saul became the High Priest’s point man for the systematic de-Christianization of Jerusalem. But as we all know, God had other plans for this rather fiery Pharisee!

So what lessons can we learn from this rather extraordinary passage. There is a lot that could be said here. I could give a thirty-minute sermon on how there is crisis and dislocation when God disrupts the routines of our rather mundane world." I could give a thirty-five-minute sermon about Saul’s’ conversion experience. Of how everything in his life is instantly challenged and turned upside down.  I could give a forty-minute sermon, about Saul’s encounter with God’s anger. He’s been doing great damage to God’s people. I could give a forty five-minute sermon about the how Saul was passionately religious but did not know the reality of God and needed his spiritual eyes to be opened. I could give a fifty-minute sermon about how Saul’s’ mission was motivated by hatred, anger and revenge. Just before setting out on his journey he was breathing murderous threats – not a good source of motivation. I could give a 60-minute sermon of the change it made to Saul’s life – how he became Paul the Apostle and became arguably the greatest evangelist in history. And I could give you a two-hour sermon asking you if you are truly converted, and challenge you to search your hearts to see if you made that final step of commitment. But I’ll save all these sermons for next Sunday.

Let me very briefly explore one small detail of this Bible passage. Saul is travelling along the Damascus Road when there is a bright flash of light and he falls to the ground. Then Jesus speaks. Note carefully, Jesus rather curious choice of words, as recorded in verse 4. This is what Jesus said: Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me? You might have expected Jesus to say, Saul, Saul why are you persecuting my people? Or Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my church. But that is not what Jesus says.  Note his actual choice of words. Why are you persecuting me, was Jesus question to Saul the Pharisee? I should also point that the Book of Acts was written by Luke. One of the things that makes Luke such a good writer is his attention to detail. Everything he records, is there is for a purpose. So what exactly is going on here?   

This passage contains a surprising revelation about the nature our relationship with God. This passage reveals the deepest and strongest connection between us and Jesus. To put it another way, God shares in all our experiences. What affects us, also affects him. When we weep, God weeps with us. When we feel pain, God feels pain. There is an old hymn called There’s a wideness in God’s mercy. It was written by a Roman Catholic priest called Frederick Faber in 1862. There is a stanza in the first verse which reads like this: There is no place where earth's sorrows are more felt than up in heaven.    

So this for me this is not only most the surprising revelation, but the most important revelation that comes out of the story of Saul on the Damascus Road. People do get converted, especially during times of spiritual renewal. God does use the most unlikely people for his work. We do need God to open our eyes if we are to comprehend spiritual things. But here we are told how God shares in our pain and suffering. God delves into our experience.
Yesterday I was in Braemar. I was amazed how busy the place was. You couldn’t even get parked in the Linn of Dee. But as the lockdown is being eased and we can again return to the hills, I got a sense of how people were desperate to get out and stretch their legs. The lockdown has been hard and difficult. Behind the closed doors of people’s houses there has been much suffering, isolation and conflict. I have already become aware of increasingly number of people who have mental health problems. I think when things fully return to normal, the local GPs are going to be very busy. But for us as Christians we have another source of help. We have abiding presence of God deep within us, he shares our experiences and feels out pain. He is with us every step of the way and one day he will lead us home to glory?

Hymn: What a friend we have Jesus

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you;
You will find a solace there.

Prayers for ourselves
Call our names, Lord. 
Call us as you called Saul,
when we are travelling in the wrong direction, 
when we are breathing threats, 
when our hearts are full of evil intent. 
Speak to us in unexpected voices 
and set us on a new path. 
Call our names, Lord.

Call our names, Lord. 
Call us as you called Ananias to be an instrument of healing, 
to be agents of change, 
to speak truth to power. 
Even when we are fearful of the cost, 
give us trust in your sending. 
Call our names, Lord.

Call our names, Lord. 
Call us as you called the disciples and invited them for breakfast, 
even though they did not recognize you. 
Help us to see that there will be enough food for everyone 
if we persist through the long night of waiting, 
if we take the risks of faith and sharing 
to reach the abundance of daybreak. 
Call our names, Lord.

Call our names, Lord. 
Call us as you called Simon Peter and asked for his love, 
then told him to feed and tend your people. 
May we see the connection 
between love of you and love of your people; 
that we too may feed and be fed, 
and follow you. 
Call our names, Lord.

Prayers for others

Let us bring before God the whole human family, especially those like Saul, who promote mischief, malice and acts of violence…

God of the whole human family, we pray for drug addicts, dealers, alcoholics, gamblers, those who cheat and rob their own families, and those who mug vulnerable passers-by.

In your mercy, gracious God, Hear our prayer

God of the whole human family, we pray for violent teenage gangs, for rebellious kids who run away for good homes, those who milk the social welfare system, and respectable business men who cheat the elderly out of their life savings.

In your mercy, gracious God, Hear our prayer

God of the whole human family, we pray for terrorists, religious fanatics, for underworld bosses, minders and hit men; for rapists, stalkers, seducers, and those who commit domestic violence.

In your mercy, gracious God, Hear our prayer

God of the whole human family, we pray for bank robbers and tax evaders, shop lifters and vandals, con-men, pickpockets, computer criminals, and burglars who attack the elderly in their homes.

In your mercy, gracious God, Hear our prayer

God of the whole human family, we pray for people who gravely abuse their positions of trust or power; corrupt lawyers, doctors, politicians, teachers, police officers, prison officers and ministers of religion.

In your mercy, gracious God, Hear our prayer

God of the whole human family, we pray for the people who damage our community, who hurt our family and have bought pain into our lives.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

In your mercy, gracious God, Hear our prayer

Let us remember all those whose lives have been touched by Covid 19

Let us remember Cruden Parish Church, our members and mission and the communities we are called to serve.

Father, hear our prayers and answer them in ways that surprise and confound us!


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.

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



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 28st July)

Coffee Morning @ Thursday morning at 11.00 am

Evening Service @ Sunday evening at 7.00 pm.

Meeting of the Kirk Session @ 7.30 pm, Thursday 30th July via Zoom. (A phone in option is also avalible)

.Please contact Sean for the appropriate link to these meetings – no special apps or software required – at

Pastoral Care - Please advise Sean of any pastoral matters. (tel. 07791 755976)