Cruden Parish Church

7.00pm, Sunday 23 August 2020

‘Longing for light'

Lighting of Candle & Prayer of Solidarity

How well do we respond to a challenge? The answer we give will, no doubt, depend on many different factors. Whatever our answer, we know that our response is strengthened when it is made in the company of others.
“Our response to the challenge of living out our calling as a member of the body of Christ is one that depends, in principle, on our response being a shared one.
Living out our calling, in response to the mercy of God, lies at the heart of what it is to worship. Within the body of Christ, we have shared gifts and a shared identity. (Romans 12: 1-8) At the same time, living out that calling in these strange and challenging times is by no means easy. We do so in the assurance that we are not alone and acknowledging our continuing dependence on the mercy of God.

We pray:
Living God, whose name is mercy,
We acknowledge that we live in dependence on your mercy.
Hold us, and all whom you call,
In your gentle keeping.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Living God, through whom we receive mercy,
We respond to your gracious gift
And offer our lives into your service and the service of others.
Accept us as we are and embrace us in your love.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Living God, as the one who inspires mercy,
Make us ever merciful to others.
As we respond to the challenge of these times,
May we live out our calling ever conscious of the body of Christ.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Living God, who wills to be merciful to all,
Renew our calling to worship you.
In the place where we are, whether in shared company or in our own company,
Receive our worship through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Living God, whose name is mercy,
May your name be known throughout the world.
As those who have received mercy,
May your name be known in the place where we are.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

(Scottish Church Leaders Forum)


Exodus 34:29-35

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.
When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

Sermon        ‘Longing for light’

Students are not known for getting up early!  But there was one day when we did when we were students at St Andrews in the 1960s – May Day.  We would gather in the grounds of the castle to greet the May Day sunrise.  The more hardy would make their way down to the sea for a May Day dip.

I met Mary, my wife to be, at St Andrews.  During our third year she was living in a farmhouse a couple of miles or so outside the town, on the Anstruther road.  You could bike there, but in the winter it was cold and windy and uphill.  My trips to Kinkell Farm were usually taken by bus.


It wasn’t the yellow Alexander’s buses in Fife – they were red, and the St Andrews bus passed the farm road end.  There was a problem though, the last bus was at something like 9 o’clock and manys the time I missed it and ended up walking down the Kinkell Braes to my bunk, as we quaintly called our digs in St Andrews in those days, looked after by a “bunk-wife”.

On one of my night-time walks back to St Andrews I had a strange experience.  It was pitch dark.  Out over the cliffs I became aware of a light.  Was it a fire?  Or was it something more sinister.  This was the time when UFOs were being sighted all over Scotland.  Was this what I was seeing glowing in the dark?  I took careful note of where the light was, lining it up with a fence post and some trees, so that I could go back in the day light… It was then that the golden harvest moon made its appearance over the horizon.

I had convinced myself of what I was seeing, and the true explanation came as a total surprise…and relief!



The church of San Pietro in Vinculi  (St Peter in Chains) in Rome is the home of what is said to be the chains that bound St Peter before his execution.. There you will also see Michelangelo's statue Moses with the tablets of stone bearing the Ten Commandments.  But why has Moses got horns?  In the 1500s when Michelangelo was working, the Bible in use was in Latin. This was called the Vulgate sand had been translated by Jermone.  In this translation of the Bible there had been a misunderstanding of the origin al Hebrew word used to describe Moses as he came down from the mountain – the word actually means “shining”, like rays of light, but a similar Hebrew word means “Horns”, so Moses grew horns!

There was something different about Moses after he had spoken with God on the mountain.  The people had expected to see the same old Moses but he was different as he explained the law to them.  It was not what they were expecting.
as he explained the Law to them.

It is all too easy for us to look at the Bible and find what we want to find, to confirm out prejudices, rather than to be confronted and challenged by the experience, like the Israelites staggered by what Moses was telling them about the demands of God.  It was not what they had always thought, it was new, it was radical, like the frightening light that seemed to shine from Moses’ face that day.

It is all too easy for us to pick proof texts from the Bible that agree with our own prejudices and quietly forget the others.  We live in every present danger of looking in the Bible for what we want to see, rather than allowing the Bible to speak to us as a whole, revealing to us the flow of God’s revelation from Moses to Jesus.


Have a look at this strange picture.  Is that a stone floating in the air?

Turn it round and you see that it is a reflection of a rock in a loch.


Sometimes we need to take time to turn things upside down so see what is actually there.


Peter James and John had a very strange experience when they went with Jesus to the top of the hill that we now call the Mount of the Transfiguration.  There was clearly something different about Jesus as he prayed:  his face changed and his whole being seemed to flash with light.  How similar to Moses and his mountain experience. As Luke tells the story, the disciples were sleepy and not quite sure what they were seeing.  But as they looked it became clearer to them - this was a vision of Moses and Elijah with Jesus. 



The penny dropped and things clicked into place for them.  The Jewish teachers said that when the Messiah came Moses would return with Elijah.  So that was what they assumed was happening, and the response was to use their well tried traditional spiritual tools. It was the time of the harvest festival of Sukkot when Jewish people built shelters in the fields to celebrate the harvest and to remember how their ancestors had lived in shelters as they made their way from Egypt through the desert in the time of Moses. Jewish people still celebrate Sukkot by building shelter and eating there during the festival.


But all their traditional spirituality and way of doing things was challenged when they heard a voice declaring that Jesus was the son of God and they were to listen to him, not to follow the ways that they had always done things.  Then their vision of Moses and Elijah faded and they found that Jesus was alone with them.

They found that they had entered onto a new stage in God’s plan of salvation, moving on from what he had revealed to their ancestors in the past. Now Jesus the light of the world would be their guide and things would be different.

German theologians in the past came up with a word for it – Heilsgeschichte - history of salvation - seeing the hand of God in history and his gradual revealing of his plan for the world from Moses to Jesus…and beyond.


When confronted by a problem, or a new and difficult situation, managers will often say that their team should “think out of the box” – do some “Blue sky thinking”. 

The months of lockdown have been a very strange time for us in the church when all our traditional ways of doing things have stopped.  Now we are beginning to look to a gradual opening up of things – indeed plans are underway for a return to our church building, but to be there is a very different way to what we have been used to.

We are about to turn a page in the book of the Heilsgeschichte of God’s people in Cruden with a chance to do something different. To move on from the history that created the church in its current pattern. 

None of us can see what it will be like, and we are longing for light to help us pick our way along the dark paths. Two lights to guide us – allowing God to guide us through study and reflection on the words of Scripture symbolised by the tablets of stone which Moses carried and explained to his people with the bright shining face.  And the person of Jesus who challenges us to listen to him, and follow him as the light of the world. We have the chance through prayer, study and reflection to see the Word of God come alive and to see the shining face of the Lord leading into something different.

Moses did it horns and all
Peter did it, but it cost him a life in chains.

The solution to our problems may be uncomfortable.  But to use “manager speak” again. We need to look on our problems as opportunities!

Photographers talk about the golden hour round about sunrise and sunset when light is at its most beautiful.  When I look at my photographs, I see that I have taken lots more sunset photographs than sunrises.   But when I do get up and watch the sun rise – what a wonderful experience that can be. It is worth the effort.

May God shine his light on us so that we can find what we are longing for and what God is planning for us.

CH4 543        Christ be our light

Recorded at ‘The Big Sing’ during Guild Week November 2014 at Perth North Church

Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.
Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has power to save us.
Make us your living voice.
Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.
Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.
Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

                                                            Bernadette Farrell (b1957)


Lord Jesus, we would walk with you in this coming week,
We are your people, the people of your promise;
Help us to hold fast our confidence in your saving glory.

God of Glory, the God of Cruden
as you once revealed yourself to Moses face to face,
so you have shown yourself to the world in the glory of your Son.
Help us by your Spirit to know him by faith,
to love him with all our heart,
and to serve him with all of our being.
Help us to hold fast our confidence in your saving glory.

God of Glory, the God of Cruden
your disciples once saw Moses and Elijah point to Jesus
as the fulfilment of the covenant of Sinai and all the prophets’ words.
Reveal yourself now to us in the words of scripture
that we may behold him whose suffering and death
give life to the whole world.
Help us to hold fast our confidence in your saving glory.

God of Glory, the God of Cruden
you once came to a world lonely and afraid
and showed to us the face of love and hope.
Use us to reflect your glory and grace in our world
and so represent you here to those who are alone,
those troubled by fears and sins,
and those whose hearts are grieved by their own faulty decisions
or the harm of others.
Help us to hold fast our confidence in your saving glory.

God of Glory, the God of Cruden
your Son came to reveal your kingdom
through words and works of mercy.
Give to sick people your healing and to those who are suffering your hope, especially those whose lives have been caught up in the Covid pandemic
May your saving will and the glory of your steadfast love
support all who call upon you in the day of trouble.
Help us to hold fast our confidence in your saving glory.

God of Glory, the God of Cruden
you once spoke through a cloud to your disciples of old
that they might see Jesus by faith even when earthly eyes cannot see.
Grant to us this bold and courageous faith
that we may see Jesus,
trust in him for our salvation,
and serve him in our daily lives.
We are your people, O Lord, the people of your promise;
Help us to hold fast our confidence in your saving glory. Amen.

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.


Bless us,
then today as we try to live in your way.
Give us the blessing of
a faithful spirit
a willing heart,
and love beyond our imagining.

[The service was conducted by Rev Fred Coutts]



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

Discussion & Study Group  will resume in September

Pastoral Cover – if you need pastoral support whilst Sean is on holiday, please contact: Ms Ali MacLeod, tel. 01771 622992 email

Evening Service, every Sunday at 7.00 pm until 6th September     

  • Sunday 30th August – Moderator of the General Assembly (via Video)
  • Sunday 6th September – Online Celebration of Holy Communion – Rev Sean Swindells

Morning Service, every Sunday at 10.00 am in Cruden Parish Church
As we want members and visitors to feel safe and confident about attending, we will be strictly adhering to the guidance provided by the Scottish Government and Church of Scotland. The service will also be broadcast live over the internet.
More details soon.