Materials for Worship at Home for 24th October 2021

Nerys writes: At Night Service this Sunday we are joined by Hugh Donald, former director of Place for Hope and an old friend of St Mary’s. Hugh is part of a team that leads reflections at Refugio, a monthly evening gathering at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. Refugio is a reflective, quiet space in which people are invited to stop, and listen, and to simply be with God. I have invited Hugh to share with us a written version of his reflection and to give us a taste of Refugio in our Materials for Worship this week.

The service usually starts with a stilling practice that helps set aside the busyness and concerns of the day and enables you to become aware of who you are and of what you are feeling and experiencing in that moment. Before you read Hugh’s reflection, I invite you to take some deep breaths allowing the muscles in your body to relax so that you’re comfortable in your seat. Take a moment to fix your gaze on a candle flame or the view through your window, to listen to the sounds in the room and clear your mind of any anxious thoughts.

Hugh writes: A few years ago I was introduced to the word ‘hefted’. In his book The Shepherd’s Life, James Rebanks who is a shepherd in the Lake District talks about a kind of sheep which are described as hefted. These special sheep live out on the wild mountainsides of the Cumbrian hills. Without fences or walls, they are free to roam, always knowing the land to which they belong.

The word re-emerged for me following a recent conversation with a friend , as we talked about what church means to us, and on reflecting upon how the past 18 months bears upon that question. We explored together our need for community, places where we can encounter God through being alongside others in a mutual spirit of openness and vulnerability. So I began to wonder. Am I hefted? Where am I hefted? What might this mean in living life? As I am enjoying exploring these questions, I offer them to you.

Where am I hefted?

I look upon those sheep
roaming so freely,
out on the high crags
no fencing or walls to enclose.

Hefted sheep I am told, who
through the generations
from ewe to lamb taught
to know the land to which they belong.

Finding the right paths to take,
the places to shelter from the storms,
freely wandering, always
knowing the land to which they belong.

Where am I hefted
in these changing and uncertain days?
Anxious thoughts and doubts
that fence me in.

Might I like these sheep
need to know that I am hefted,
that place where I belong,
am held, loved, free to roam?

Take your time to think about the idea of being hefted, the sense of belonging and the freedom it contains.

Where are you hefted? Is it to a place, or to a way of being, or to someone? What does it feel like to be hefted?

Might there have been times when you have wondered away from where you are hefted and sense a need to return? These sheep seem to know the right paths to take. Do you know how to find those pathways? Who can guide you?

Having reflected on the image of the hefted sheep you may wish to turn to the verses in John chapter10 where Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd.

 

You may finish your time of reflection by listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd and responding to it in a time of prayer.

Materials for Worship at Home on 17th October

Nerys writes: I wonder what picture comes into your mind this morning when you think of Jesus? Perhaps, with Christmas goods starting to fill the shops, you’re thinking of the child in the manger. Perhaps it is a depiction of Christ on the cross – a familiar painting or a sculpture – or an image of Christ in majesty from a stained glass window.

What we find in today’s Gospel reading, however, is a dynamic image of Jesus striding purposefully towards Jerusalem with his amazed disciples just behind and a fearful crowd following at a distance as in this painting by James Tissot.

He leads the way, fully aware of the horror which lies ahead, having just warned those closest to him of it for the third time: ‘The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. They will condemn him to death and then hand him over to the Gentiles, who will make fun of him, spit on him, whip him, and kill him and after three days he will rise again.’ With this picture in our minds, I wonder what we make of today’s passage, Mark 10.35-45?

James and John must have heard all Jesus had said but they clearly hadn’t grasped it. Their request for seats beside him in his glory couldn’t have come at a more incongruous moment. How could they have so badly misunderstood what their teacher was saying to them?

I wonder if these naturally ambitious young men had heard only what they wanted to hear? Had they fastened on to the words ‘the Son of Man’, that majestic title with its association of glory in the Old Testament, and filtered out what Jesus had said about the way his mission would be achieved? They knew he was the Messiah, the one sent by God. They had seen God’s power at work in him. It would be natural for them to think that when the victory was won and the triumph was complete, they might become chief ministers of state in God’s kingdom. If they were thinking of a Messiah of earthly power and glory, Jesus’ talk of humiliation, rejection and death didn’t make any sense. It would be easy to blot it out.

Or had they misunderstood Jesus because of wishful thinking, because they were desperate that the story of his life and theirs would have a glorious ending? I wonder if like many of us, their focus was on the end result, not the process, like children on a car journey who are only interested in the destination. Were they so fixed on the glory to come and their part in it, that they were unable to countenance the notion that the way to it would be through death on a cross?

You can’t blame them for being confused. God, through Jesus, was turning everything upside down and inside out, including the world’s ideas of power, authority and glory. Jesus had come, not to lord it over others, but to serve and to suffer and in doing so he would fulfill the great prophecy of Isaiah 53.4-12, our Old Testament reading today. He would become God’s suffering servant and any of his followers who wished to be great would need to follow his example.

Jesus makes it clear that to seek greatness is to miss it completely. The first will be last in God’s upside-down kingdom and glory will come to those who are servants of all. It’s about living for what we can do for other people rather than what we can get for ourselves. It’s about wanting to be useful – not important – enjoying working for the good of others without recognition, happy for what we do to go unnoticed and unappreciated because we are doing it in love. In God’s kingdom, glory comes from being willing to serve and to suffer. This is far from the kind of glory James and John had in mind. It is no wonder that they get it so badly wrong.

I find it so helpful that Mark here presents James and John as ordinary people, bewildered and blinkered – people that we can identify with. And yet, there is an amazing confidence and loyalty in their response to Jesus. Misguided they might be about the nature of his glory, their hearts are in the right place. They accept the challenge of their master, naively confident that they will be able to drink the cup of suffering he drinks and be swallowed by the baptism he will endure. And Jesus, in his love for them, acknowledges that they will. These are the people with whom Jesus chooses to set out to change the world. And we know that these two did suffer and die for their faith: James as one of the first Christian martyrs and John, according to tradition, after many years in prison.
October is the month in which we remember St Francis. As you prepare to pray for others, take some time to reflect on the song attributed to him which asks for a servant heart.

Make me a channel of your peace,
where there is hatred let me bring your love,
where there is injury, your pardon Lord,
and where there is doubt true faith in You.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace,
where there is despair in life let me bring hope,
where there is darkness only light
and where there’s sadness ever joy.

Make me a channel of your peace,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in giving to all men that we receive
and in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Make me a channel of your peace,
where there’s despair in life let me bring hope,
where there is darkness only light
and where there’s sadness ever joy.

Rector’s October Letter

Dear friends,
This month, the Season of Creation comes to an end with our services of thanksgiving for the harvest and we move on to the Season of Remembrance and the end of the Church Year. It is important, however, that we continue to express our concern for the environment in prayer and action.

The gardeners among you have been telling me that it’s been a very good year for some produce and an unexpectedly bad one for others. After a bumper crop of blackcurrants last year, I was disappointed to see the bushes bare this summer. In the world’s poorest communities, most families’ lives depend on growing crops to feed themselves and to earn an income. In order to do so they need a reliable water supply which most of them don’t have, and the changing climate is making things even more unpredictable. Our Harvest Appeal for Water Aid will help make sure that some of these families will be able to produce crops that flourish year after year, whatever the weather. In order to establish a meaningful relationship with the charity which works to provide clean water in 28 countries, from Nepal to Ethiopia, one of Water Aid’s local speakers, Anne Murray, will join us at the 10.30 service on 17th October. There will also be opportunities this month to get involved with Christian Aid in the preparations for the COP 26 Conference in Glasgow in November.

Vestry has been busy putting together an action plan for St Mary’s to ensure that concern for the environment is woven through every aspect of our life as a church. The stimulus was a request by the Diocese’s Climate Change Group to consider how we will play our part in the Scottish Episcopal Church’s quest to reduce our carbon emissions to zero by 2030. Vestry members agreed to undertake an environmental audit which was wider than that required by the diocese, looking at our care for the natural environment and for those worst affected by the Climate Crisis in addition to ways of cutting our carbon emissions. The resulting action plan covers our spiritual living (our worship, prayer and teaching), our practical living (our buildings, grounds and supplies), and our global living (how we influence and learn from the lives of one other, our local community and overseas concerns). Please take some time to read it, to prayerfully consider how you could get involved and to share any thoughts and ideas that come to you with a member of Vestry before our next meeting on 20th October. This is an ambitious plan to be implemented over a period of months and years rather than weeks. For it to succeed, it needs the prayers and involvement of each one of us.

We will also continue to pray for one another and especially those who are frail or unwell, and on Sunday 31st October, All Saints and All Souls Sunday, we will remember those we have loved and lost. As the numbers of those with Covid in the local area remain high, I will not visit you without an invitation but please get in touch on 824225 if you wish for me to come to your home with or without communion, or if you would like a chat on the phone.

With love
Nerys

Materials for Worship on the Fourth Sunday of the Season of Creation

Nerys writes:  As you prepare for worship today, I invite you to take a moment to look back at a crisis in your life. It may have been a health scare or a bereavement, a falling out among  family or friends, difficulty at work or something else. I wonder how you responded?

The Letter of James was written in troubled times, giving advice to members of the early Christian church who were suffering from struggles from within and pressures from without. It is known as the most practical of the epistles and yet in its final section which is set for today, James 5.13-20, the emphasis is on prayer. Whatever the crisis, James calls on his readers to take their concerns for themselves or for others to God, Prayer is a powerful weapon which enables us to do God’s work of bringing  forgiveness and healing, reconciliation and renewal to the world. But with power comes responsibility, something which Jesus warns his squabbling disciples about in the harshest and most shocking way in our Gospel passage, Mark 9.38-50.

We have a responsibility not to keep the power of prayer to ourselves or to obstruct the path of others to God. We have a responsibility also to ourselves to look out for things in our lives that are causing us to stumble and to make changes so that we can be like salt, preserving and enhancing the lives of others. Take a moment now to reflect on this and take your thoughts to our loving and merciful God in prayer.

We are approaching the end of the Season of Creation, a time when we’ve been focusing on our response to the crisis which is facing our planet. Vestry has put together an Action Plan to ensure that concern for the environment is woven through every aspect of our life as a church. Just as in the Letter of James, the emphasis is not on practical matters only, but also on  our spiritual living and on the way we can influence others for good. I would encourage you, when you get your copy of the church magazine, to set aside some time to read the plan,  to consider how you could get involved through prayer and/or action and to share any thoughts and ideas that come to you with me or a member of Vestry. I would invite you also to join me in considering any changes that we need to make in our own individual lives as we look at the world through God’s eyes so that we alleviate the suffering of those worst affected by Climate Change today and lessen the burden on generations to come.

‘The Tree of Life’ by John Coburn

As you read the following intercessions prepared for this week’s 10.30 service by Lee Emery, please add your own prayers and intentions.

Loving God, Creator of all things, we recognize more than ever in this Season of Creation our shortcomings as stewards of our beautiful planet.  We pray that you help us to have the courage, diligence and wherewithal to make amends and to help give our support to positive and bold environmental changes wherever they are occurring.  Help us to see and implement the necessary changes we need to make in our own lives, homes, and communities to slow the adverse effects of climate change.  We especially ask for assistance to those living in areas that are, and will be, most harmed by the climate crisis.

We ask for your presence in meetings when and wherever world, national and civic leaders in authority convene, not only to develop policy and action around fighting climate change, but also in helping to make the world a more just and humane place.  Help us to find, for those who arrive on our shores in great need of a safe haven, protection and sustenance, a place in our hearts and in our land.

Loving God, we ask that you bestow upon all those who are subjected to violence, hunger, poverty, loneliness, grief and sickness, your continued love, care and blessings.  For those who are prisoners, who lack shelter and who live with addictions, repression, illness and pain, we ask you to be with them in their suffering and to offer them comfort.

Loving God, help us to recognize our collective responsibility in building a strong community, one that is inclusive, safe and responsive.  We pray for our church community and its clergy.  We pray for the entire world Christian community.  We pray for all people, of all spiritual traditions, of all nations as we know your love to be universal.  Help us to see your love in the faces of the strangers we encounter and in the friends we enjoy spending time with.

Loving God, we are often perplexed, confused and troubled by the world we are living in with all its tragic ills and problems which seem at times to be insurmountable.  In the midst of this world-wide pandemic which has seen so many people lose their loved ones and which doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, help us to strengthen our faith and to know and experience your love and care which are always present.  As we, who live in comparative abundance, sit down for a meal today, keep us ever mindful of those who are not so fortunate.
We pray all of this in the name of Jesus. Amen

Materials for Worship on the Third Sunday of the Season of Creation

Rachael writes: Have you ever walked into a room full of people and they’ve all fallen silent? Silent like you can hear them holding their breath, their hearts racing a little, the cogs of their minds turning as everyone waits to see who will break the quiet and how. For they must decide without words, by sideways glances, with racing hearts, and awkward shifting in seats, whether they’re going to let you in on their conversation. What did the room feel like in that moment? How did you feel?

I imagine that it was that kind of silence that greeted Jesus in our Gospel passage – Mark 9.30-37 – when he’d got into the house at Capernaum, taken his sandals off, reclined on the cushions, and casually asked the disciples, “What were guys arguing about on the way here?”

Nobody answers: Mark writes that they stay silent, we can assume because their conversation was not one they expected Jesus to approve of. The thing is, Jesus already knew the topic of their discussion and now had something to say about it.


The disciples’ question of “Who is the greatest?” seems to me to be the quintessential human conundrum. Even in our origin stories, like that of Adam and Eve, it’s what gets us into trouble in the first place: “Could we be greater than we are? Greatest even? Equal to God? Maybe just one small bite of the forbidden fruit and it will all be within our grasp?”. Human beings are creatures who strive. Who reach. Who, as James puts it in our New Testament reading, James 3.13-4.3, 7-8, crave, want, and covet. We expound, develop, spread, control. We seek to dominate our world and each other, in order to be greatest.

James writes in verse 14 that where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. We see that in our created world at the moment: selfish human ambition has led to the disordering of our planet and our strivings have polluted waters, depleted habitat, and destroyed eco-systems.

Christ’s response to the disciples is to take a child into his arms.

Whenever this scene is depicted in art it’s always sickeningly sweet: a neat, tidy, and serene, scene. Can you picture something quite the opposite? The muddiest, stickiest, wildest child you can remember?

There was no sentimentality about childhood in the first century – their only real value was as replacement adults, though making it to adulthood was by no means guaranteed. And until adulthood they often weren’t so much beloved members of the family, as they were like dogs: barely housebroken, roaming free, scrounging what they could.

So, to teach his disciples about greatness, Jesus puts this kind of child, in their midst, folding them into his arms and saying, “When you welcome the likes of this child, you welcome me”.

I think that that child is each of us. Jesus welcomes not just our put-together, happy, smiley exteriors but the parts of us that are like this dirt covered, bruised, snot and tear smeared child. The very parts of us that have no ability to make us worthy, Jesus folds into his arms and says “welcome”.

What a difference it would make to our world if we really believed that! If we could let go of selfish ambition, of striving and greed, of the expectation that the material things of this world will give us satisfaction and wholeness. What a difference it would make if we drew nearer to God in the assurance that God draws near to us; indeed has done so in Christ’s incarnation and the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

What if we trusted that peaceful, gentle, merciful welcome? Then, there might just be a harvest of righteousness.

Loving God,
may we know and accept your love for us,
so that we need no longer strive for the fleeting satisfactions of this earthly life,
which bring damage and destruction to your creation.
Instead, let us draw near to you, as you draw near to us,
and hear the fullness of your “Welcome!”,
that we might serve you in the care of all the world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Materials for Worship on the Second Sunday of the Season of Creation

This is the season for letting our prayer be inspired anew by closeness to nature … to reflect on our lifestyles … for undertaking prophetic actions … directing the planet towards life, not death’. (Pope Francis)

Nerys writes: As you prepare to worship today, I encourage you to have with you something that reminds you of the natural world. It may be a bloom from your garden, something you found on a walk or a picture of a familiar landscape. As you gaze on it or on the autumnal photo below, let it remind you of times when you felt at one with God in creation.

C. S. Lewis described Psalm 19 as ‘the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world’. It is certainly the meditation of a close observer of the natural world and of human life. With a spirit of wonder, awe and deep reverence, the psalmist firstly celebrates God’s glory as it is revealed through the cosmos before praising God’s goodness made manifest through Scripture. Then with honesty and humility, he addresses God directly, expressing his concern that, despite its pervasiveness, we humans so often miss God’s presence in creation, and that despite the clarity of God’s law, we often become lost. Yet, the psalm finishes with an expression of profound confidence in God to whom the psalmist has given over his whole life.

In our Gospel passage, Mark 8.27-38, Jesus challenges his disciples’ perception of who he is and what kind of life lies ahead of them as his followers. Peter may have the right title in calling him Messiah but he clearly has the wrong understanding of what that title means. Jesus is not a leader who will establish God’s rule with power and authority and bring his followers glory and reward. Instead, he will bring freedom from injustice and oppression through his own humiliation, suffering and death. Try to imagine how shocking and scandalous this would have sounded to those first followers. And, to add insult to injury, they are told that to serve this Messiah they would need to be ready to suffer and to give up their own lives also.

Jesus tells Peter that he is getting it wrong because he is looking at things from a human perspective rather than through God’s eyes. This is a challenge to all of us, as we the Church in every generation struggle not only to see and think, but also to live out our lives, as followers of our crucified Christ. The first readers of Mark’s Gospel lived at a time of political crisis which led to the severe persecution of those ready to take the risk of being known as Christians. Today, we are in the midst of a series of crises, health, environmental, food, economic and social, which are all deeply interconnected. These demand sacrificial changes to our way of life if we are to continue to follow the teaching of Christ.

Last Wednesday, on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew took the unprecedented step of issuing a joint statement. In it they call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, ‘to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.’ They call especially on Christian communities world wide to act and pray together, sharing with the rest of humanity a vision for a world where everyone flourishes.

At our whole church service last Sunday morning, those present wrote down their dreams for the world. I have woven them into a prayer which I invite you to make your own by adding your own hopes and dreams.

Creator God,
We listen as the heavens declare your glory and seek to join in with the song of Creation.

And yet sometimes our words fall short and our very actions cause us to fall on our face.

Lord, even if we appear foolish to the world, let us proclaim Christ crucified.

Let your presence be in us, around us, breathing new life into us, so that we may do the work you have called us to.

We pray for a world where there is peace, fairness and tolerance
• where we live in harmony with all of creation
• where every person and living creature is equally valued
• where the unloved are loved as much as the lovely
• where everyone is cared for
• where there are no refugees, no weapons, no war
• where resources are shared
• where everyone has enough to live
• where there is clean water for all
• where all children get a proper education
• where plants and wildlife flourish
• where the seas team with fish and the land is full of bees and birds and butterflies
• where animals are not hunted for their skins, tusks, fur or bodies
• where there is no plastic pollution in the seas endangering fish
• where oil-spills and overfishing have no place
• where everyone respects each other and the natural world
• where we can all live without fear of deadly weather events.

Now let the words of our mouths
and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you,
o Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Material for Worship on Climate Sunday

Nerys writes: You can’t but feel sorry for Jesus in our Gospel passage today, Mark 7.24-37. His attempts to lie low are constantly doomed to failure. Even in Phoenician territory to the north of Galilee, the home of Israel’s traditional enemies, he is sought out by someone in need. And it’s hard to imagine a more inappropriate request from a traditional Jewish point of view. As a religious teacher, Jesus should not have any dealings with a woman or with a Gentile and the fact that her daughter is possessed by an unclean spirit makes the situation even more inappropriate. Other rabbis would have turned from her in horror. Even Jesus struggles with her request, intent on bringing his message of salvation first to the Jews, but he listens to her, gives her an opportunity to challenge him and responds to her persistence.

Today we are called to follow Jesus’ example – we are called to listen, to be challenged and to respond. Today is Climate Sunday when we join with over a thousand churches in Britain and Ireland to consider the damage we are doing to our natural environment and to start prayerfully preparing ourselves for the crucial COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.


You may be wondering why we should spend our worship time thinking about these things, why church should get involved in politics. You wouldn’t be alone in thinking like this. In today’s New Testament reading, James 2.1-17, we find that the Letter of James was written to a Christian church that had the attitude that belief doesn’t need to affect ordinary life in any way. Its first readers call themselves Christians and meet regularly to worship but they don’t see the Gospel as a matter that affects the rest of their lives or their understanding of the society and the wider world they live in. Instead, they seem to regard their faith as a kind of insurance policy which allows them to carry on with their normal lives without any worries about the consequences of their selfish actions. They are not ready to listen to the Gospel, to be challenged by its demands and to respond in their everyday lives. Are we?

Faith changes the way we live, says James. Faith is a commitment to trying to see the world with the eyes of God. As that desperate mother showed Jesus, God doesn’t have favourites. God loves all his children and we are called to do the same. Over and over again, the Gospels tell of Jesus interacting with those who would have been considered marginal by the rest of society. Today it is the woman who is also a Gentile and a deaf man who cannot communicate but there are many others. Indeed, it is mostly marginal figures whose lives are transformed by their encounters with Jesus, suggesting that being an insider, comfortable in the world we live in, makes it harder to hear the message of the Gospel for our time.

Are we ready to listen today to the voices of the young and the poor which tell us of the human cost of Climate crisis caused by the way we in the West live our lives? Will we allow them to challenge us to play our part in attempting to limit the rise in global warming and to join with them in putting pressure on our governments to make tackling climate change a priority as they seek to rebuild the economy? In St Mary’s over the next five weeks we will be focussing in our services on these challenging issues and praying for the leaders who will be at those crucial talks in Glasgow in November. We will also reflect on our own lifestyles, on what we can do as individuals and as a church to make a difference and how we can influence and inspire our wider community in Dunblane.

I wonder how you feel about this? Before you pray, you may wish to read Shirley Erena Murray’s hymn or reflect on the picture by an unknown artist entitled ‘Fragile, handle with care’.

Where are the voices for the earth?
Where are the eyes to see her pain,
wasted by our consuming path,
weeping the tears of poisoned rain?

Sacred the soil that hugs the seed,
sacred the silent fall of snow,
sacred the world that God decreed,
water and sun and river flow.

Where shall we run who break this code,
where shall tomorrow’s children be,
left with the ruined gifts of God,
death for the creatures, land, and sea?

We are the voices for the earth,
we who will care enough to cry,
cherish her beauty, clear her breath,
live that our planet may not die.

Collect for the Season of Creation
God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, you created humankind in your own image and entrusted the whole world to human care: give us grace to serve you faithfully, that we might be trustworthy stewards of your creation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Message from Castlemilk

The third Castlemilk collection since Covid travel restrictions were lifted was taken away on August 9th – a large van full of donations of second-hand baby items and children’s clothes and toys, bedding and towels from Dunblane families along with a sizeable amount of new ‘Back to School’ items donated by members of the St Mary’s congregation and the wider community. Thank you all for your generosity. The next collection with a focus on warm clothes, winter coats, boots and wellies for children of all ages will happen in mid September.

In the meantime, here is a little of the story of the of our church community which has been working with asylum seekers and refugees in Castlemilk for 20 years now.

The Castlemilk Churches Together Refugee Centre opened in the Baptist Church in response to Gilles from Africa, turning up at the Parish Church to ask for help for him and the other asylum seekers being delivered to our local flats by overnight buses from London.

We started with the practical help asked for: heaters for cold flat, winter clothes, English classes, a safe place to meet, somewhere to play football. We’ve grown and changed over the years but sadly the need for help for new arrivals is a great as ever. Fast forward to 2021 and we are still based in the Baptist Church. We’re now a mixed group of local Scottish people, well established “New Scots” refugees and asylum seekers all working together to help whoever comes in the door in need. Our new asylum seekers “settling in” programme of English classes, discussion and activity groups and international lunches has just been fully funded.


We also help local people who are struggling as well as our international friends, with furniture, household goods, baby/toddler equipment and clothes. It’s amazing that the donations we receive all the time enabled us to help over 350 households last year. For this we thank God and those he uses, such as our long-term supporters in Dunblane, for this generosity.
Two months ago we grieved with Wonder over the death of her brother in Africa. Last Sunday we rejoiced with her as she has now been granted leave to remain in the UK. This means she can start the process to have her 7 year old daughter join her. But we continue to pray for Aruba whose young children are still in Africa. “You don’t understand” she said to us recently “what I’m going though”.

Your prayers and support are appreciated.

Eileen Baxendale
Project Coordinator

Rector’s Letter

Dear friends,
The beginning of Jean Hudson’s poem in Autumn, Ruth Burgess’ latest collection of liturgical resources published by Wild Goose, seems to me to sum up the month ahead for us at St Mary’s.

A month of change as one season dips into another,
never an easy transition.
Misty mornings, occasional frosts,
gleaming sunshine, sharp showers,
rainbows, an Indian summer,
anything is possible
and often we have it all …

It will be a month of change as we respond to the further relaxation of Covid-related restrictions, as we enter into the Season of Creation after the long sequence of Ordinary Time Sundays, and as we are offered more opportunities for social interaction both in person and on line. I hope that in our services and gatherings there will be a great deal of variety with something that will appeal to everyone.

I am delighted that Bishop Ian will join us to lead the 10.30 a.m. service on 12th September followed by coffee in the hall to which you are all invited. I am also looking forward very much to introducing you to Rachael Wright, a ministry student with the Scottish Episcopal Institute who will be undertaking a five-week placement with me from 5th September to 10th October. And it won’t be long now until Ven. Peter Potter returns from Switzerland …

This year, the Season of Creation assumes a greater significance because of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) held in Glasgow in early November. On the first Sunday of the season, we will join with over a thousand local churches across the United Kingdom and Ireland to hold a climate-focused services to pray and commit to action as individuals and as a church community. During the weeks that follow, our families with children and our young people will meet outside if the weather allows, to worship, and to explore the natural environment and find ways to help make it more wildlife-friendly. Our Night Services will focus on aspects of the natural world that are crucial to the wellbeing of our planet. We will hold a Celebration of Bees and Beekeeping on September 12th and also a reflection on ‘The Water of Life’ on 26th September. The latter will be led by Jeanette whose passion for the work of Water Aid, the UK’s dedicated water charity, is infectious. Its aim is to provide clean water to the 771 million people in the world (one in every ten of us) who don’t have a well or a tap close to home. Without clean water, overcoming poverty is just a dream for them. By supporting their work, our Harvest Appeal this year will help transform the lives of many of these people who are also affected by Climate Change.

Look out for a mischief of mice (yes, that is the correct collective noun!) which will appear in the porch of the church over the next few weeks. They are colourful, cute and knitted and are to be given as a thank-you gift to everyone donating to our Harvest Appeal. Some of these mice are being crafted at the fortnightly Monday Gathering which has been well attended during the last month and is enabling some of you who are unable to come to church services to meet and pray with other members of the congregation. At the first meeting in September, we will be joined by Kate Clement from St Columba’s Church in Crieff, the local organiser of the Christmas Shoe Box Appeal which will be launched in early October. I look forward to finding out who receives our gifts, what they need and how the boxes are transported to them and to having an opportunity to pray with Kate as she and her team start their work.


At least two on-line groups will start this autumn. Liz Owen will organise another opportunity to watch and respond to The Chosen, the acclaimed multi-season TV series about the life of Christ, and Moira Langston has offered to start a quarterly book discussion group. Look out for more information later this month.
Finally, I would like to ask your prayers for another group which will be launched before the end of this year called ‘Living with Loss’. On my way back in the hearse from my first funeral as Rector of St Mary’s, Bob Robertson, the undertaker, asked me if I would consider setting up a bereavement support group as there wasn’t one for the Dunblane area and there was a great need. After a time of prayer and discernment, it became clear to me that this was a project which we at St Mary’s could and should provide. During Lockdown, June Sproston did a great deal of research and planning; recently we met to start the ball rolling. We agreed that the team of coordinator and a pair of facilitators would provide a warm welcome, friendship and support, a listening ear and a good cup of tea or coffee and cake. Information and signposting to more specialised services would be available. Members would be referred to the group by local undertakers and health staff and would also self-refer as the service would be advertised in the local community and on line. There would be supervision and training for the team, including an introductory session by Revd Marion Chatterley, who has worked extensively in bereavement support including people living with HIV, and offers chaplaincy to Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh.

With love to you all,
Nerys

Material for Worship at Home on 22nd August, 2021

Nerys writes: This week’s dreadful news stories from Afghanistan, Haiti and Plymouth have reminded us of our helplessness in the face of evil, injustice and natural disaster. There is so little we can do, but we can turn to our God of compassion who is there in the midst of the suffering and is also here with us. As you light your candle and prepare yourself for worship today, pray that God’s light of love would transform the hearts and minds of those who are spreading darkness in our world, bring hope to those who are living in fear and in need and use us as vehicles of her peace.

Today we come to the last part of the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel which we’ve been reading for the last five weeks. It started with the feeding of the five thousand and finishes with Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum using the image of the living bread to explain who he is. Our Gospel reading is John 6.56-69.

When I first read this passage, what came to my mind was this image of a piece of graffiti I saw when I visited Rome many years ago. It was scratched on the wall of a schoolroom on Palatine Hill sometime in the late second century.

It shows a man on a cross and a boy who seems to be raising his hand in worship. The victim has the head of a donkey. Underneath, the schoolboy artist has scrawled in rather dodgy Greek ‘Alexamenos worships [his] god’.

Hi classmates would probably have thought that young Alexamenos deserved this insulting joke. To outsiders, the early Christians were stupid fools. The Greek satirist Lucian called them ‘misguided creatures’. That they were foolish was the main claim of Celsus, the first author who wrote against Christianity. And Paul, writing his letters about the same time, doesn’t deny it, saying, ‘We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness’.

Jesus claims that his words are ‘spirit and life’ but his talk of his followers needing to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to receive that life is deliberately shocking. These words are disturbing for us today. They would have been anathema to any Jew and were hotly debated in synagogues across the Mediterranean during the second half of the first century. In our Gospel passage, they cause many of his followers to leave him, saying, ‘This teaching is too difficult, Who can accept it?’ Jesus then turns to his remaining disciples and gives them a choice, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’

In our Old Testament passage, Joshua 24.1-2a, 14-18, Joshua also gives his listeners a choice. On the threshold of entering the Promised Land and making their home there, he calls the people of Israel together to make a decision. Will they serve the Lord who had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and led them through the wilderness, who had been present with them in their suffering and in their joy, or the ancestral gods of the land of Canaan, the gods of the past who offered security, safety and comfort?

Some scholars think that the story of the giving and making of this choice was a rite, a kind of liturgical drama, re-enacted by subsequent generations on many occasions. It would have spoken very powerfully to readers in exile in Babylon, for example, those choosing to keep their costly promise to worship God alone in a foreign land.

Joshua offers the children of Israel this choice without any judgement, making his own profession of faith clear but offering them legitimate alternatives. Jesus in our Gospel passage also gives his followers a similar free choice between the security, safety and comfort of religion with its tidy rules and rituals, and a costly commitment to a way of life that demands a leap of faith and will be ridiculed by many.

Peter answers on behalf of the remaining few: ‘To whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ There are other gods which we can worship on our own terms, but none that lead us to a way of living and loving that deprives fear and death of the upper hand. Christ, the Holy One of God, offers us a free choice. Peter will go on to deny Jesus and desert him in his hour of need, only to recommit to following him on the beach after the resurrection. The people of God were called by the prophets to return to the Lord over and over again. Wrestling with faith doesn’t mean being judged and found wanting by God. The offer to follow Jesus remains open throughout our lives.

In a nearby room in that former school on the Palatine Hill is another graffito by a different hand. It says, ‘Alexamenos is faithful’. Alexamenos despite the mockery of his classmates, chose to worship Christ, the crucified and resurrected God, whose teaching was foolishness to the worldly wise. Will we, like him and like Peter continue to make the same choice?

To finish, you may choose to reflect on this image by an unknown artist and on these words from Philippians 2.6-11 and then read them out loud as an affirmation of your faith in Christ.

Though he was divine,
He did not cling to equality with God
but made himself nothing.
Taking the form of a slave,
He was born in human likeness.
He humbled himself
and was obedient to death,
even the death of the cross.
Therefore, God has raised him on high,
and given him the name above every name:
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
and every voice proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the Glory of God the Father. Amen.

Material for Worship 15th August

Nerys writes: If you could choose any gift you wanted, I wonder what it would be and why you would choose it?

You are invited to start your time of worship today with an ancient Irish prayer which asks God for may gifts. Read or sing along as David Sawyer plays the tune.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
be thou ever with me, and I with thee, Lord;
be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
be thou mine inheritance now and always;
be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

8th century Irish prayer translated by Mary Byrne and versified by Eleanor Hull

In our Old Testament reading today, 1 Kings 2.10-12, 3.3-14, we hear what happened when young Solomon became king of the people of Israel. Can you imagine being made king – how exciting and how frightening that would be? Solomon’s father, David had been a great king who was loved by the people and blessed by God. He would have been a hard act to follow. Can you imagine how Solomon must have felt?

Solomon chose wisdom as his gift. Take a moment to consider what it is to be wise. I wonder what you think the difference is between wisdom and cleverness or learning?

Here are some sayings about wisdom for you to ponder:

‘Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens’.

‘Wisdom is often more a matter of asking the right questions than of knowing right answers to other people’s questions.’

‘Wisdom is about knowing when to be silent and when to speak.’

‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’

‘The greatest wisdom is knowing that we know very little.’

The story suggests that Solomon received the gift of wisdom with just one prayer, but it seems to me that the young king had already been learning to be wise. Wisdom is the ability to make good decisions and Solomon made a great decision with his choice of gift. The wisdom that he already possessed helped him see that he didn’t yet have all is took to be king. He was wise enough to ask God for more wisdom!

Solomon became famous for his wisdom and many wise sayings were attributed to him including this one from the Book of Proverbs: ‘All wisdom comes from God and so do common sense and understanding’. Solomon got to be a wise and successful king by walking in God’s ways.

When Jesus was teaching once in the synagogue in Capernaum, some clever and learned men, religious experts, were listening. But instead of hearing and understanding Jesus’ words, they started arguing amongst themselves about what Jesus was saying. Our Gospel is to be found in John 6.51-58.

Jesus said: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven.’ But his clever listeners couldn’t grasp his meaning. Instead of seeing Jesus’ words as a wonderful picture of himself, they started arguing about the details of what he was saying. Down the centuries there have been people who have found it impossible to see Jesus’ teaching as wisdom, but only as foolishness.

It would be much easier if our faith in God was something we could use our intelligence or learning to decide about. It took me many, many years and many prayers and tears to really understand what Jesus meant when he said that he was the living bread. I just couldn’t accept that Christ really came as a human person, that he really died and rose again, that he was more than a gifted teacher and healer, that he is not an optional extra but the only possible source of life which will last for ever. I prayed for God’s wisdom like Solomon did, and one day I came to know and experience Christ through God’s Holy Spirit. I realised that it’s not about sitting back in the pew, coolly considering him as if he was an abstract idea, but that I needed to be ready to let him take over my whole life just has he had given his whole life to me.

Christ calls us to get up, come forward, hold our empty hands and take the bread as a sign that we are one with Him, ready to live our lives so that He can live through us. This is why the eucharist it at the centre of our worship. When we take the bread, we are saying that we trust that what Christ said and did is true, that he is who he says he is, and that we are ready to receive him into our lives so that we can share his life with those around us.

Today is the last Sunday of the summer holidays for our families with children. I invite you to pray for them, asking that God would give them wisdom for the year ahead.

Pray for all those who are starting nursery, primary, secondary, or home learning for the first time – as well as students starting apprenticeships, college and university.

Pray that our educational establishments would be places of learning, creativity, encouragement and discovery for all our young people, asking that God’s peace and joy would fill classrooms, playgrounds, and lessons.

Pray that extra-curricular activities might safely resume and that through them, pupils will grow in skills, understanding and friendship.

Pray for headteachers, teachers and support staff, asking that in challenging moments, God would give them patience, energy and a sense of His presence.

Pray that staff rooms would be places where words of encouragement, support and hope are spoken and where friendships grow.

Pray for those who make decisions about education at local and government level, that they would lead with integrity and that they would be influencers for good.

Pray for those who serve on Parent Teacher Associations and Boards of Governors.

Pray for School Chaplains, asking that assemblies, SU groups and other Christian support might be allowed to happen this year.

Pray for wisdom for our ourselves, asking that God would help us bring encouragement to our children and their families at St Mary’s both practically and through ongoing prayer.

Materials for Worship at Home on 25th July

Nerys writes: Historians show us that great evil and great good don’t simply happen out of the blue. They both usually begin in small incidents, barely noticed – incidents whose significance only becomes apparent once the evil or goodness has snowballed. The current pandemic and many major international conflicts can be traced back to a number of small wrongs, misjudgements, misguided attitudes or sometimes an early absence of communication. Thankfully, the same is true of goodness. Our readings today, 2 Kings 4.42-44 and John 6.1-21, give us an opportunity to celebrate the way that small acts of obedience and faith, generosity and love, can be blessed and transformed for great, widespread good, giving us glimpses of the growth of the kingdom of God in action.

First we read about the distribution of twenty barley loaves among a hundred men by the prophet Elisha at a time of famine. The bringer of the food, a man from a town dedicated to the fertility god Baal, shows remarkable selflessness and trust in God. The first of his new crop would have been welcome either to feed his family or to sell for the highest price in the market. Instead, he brings it to Elisha, a representative of God, the true Lord of the harvest. It is an impossibly small amount among such a large number, but the combination of this man’s obedience and Elisha’s faithfulness results in many more people being fed than could have been imagined.

In our Gospel reading, the generosity of the boy and Jesus’ compassion result in a vast crowd of hungry people being fed.

Most depictions of the loaves and fishes, including this one by Ilse KLeyn, aren’t accurate according to the account you’ve just read. John tells us that the loaves are made of barley – they would have been coarse and brown – and the Greek word he uses for fish means a small dried or pickled fish, not the fresh fish you’d expect so near a lake. Through these details, John is stressing not just how meagre the offering is, but also that it is the food of the poor.

It is no wonder that Andrew is tempted to despair like his friend Phillip did. What was the point of offering such a small amount when there were so many thousands of people to feed? I suppose it’s always a temptation when we look at the huge problems and needs of our world to dismiss what we have to offer. It seems so pathetically inadequate that we are often discouraged and end up doing nothing. But Jesus taught that the kingdom of God grows from small beginnings, like the tiny mustard seed that develops into a huge tree. Small acts of generosity, like that of the boy and his packed lunch, can be transformed by God who is love, for the good of many.

The work of Saint Teresa on the streets of Calcutta was sometimes dismissed by her critics as being too little to make any difference, but, in her mind, every little act of loving kindness was something beautiful for God, and infinitely worth doing. ‘Not all of us can do great things’, she used to say. ‘But we can do small things with great love’.

It is my experience that God is very good at giving us more than we asked for in our prayers and giving in ways we hadn’t even imagined. In order for God to do this, however, we need to be ready to offer, not just what we have to give, but who we are, for God to use.

In our Gospel story, John says that Jesus ‘gave thanks’ over the bread, using the Greek word which gives us ‘eucharist’, the term we use for our communion service.  In our eucharistic prayer we give thanks to God but we also offer ourselves along with the bread and the wine as a gift to God, just as Jesus offered himself when he was on the earth. When we give ourselves to God like this over and over again at the eucharist or in our prayers at home, God can use our lives in ways we haven’t even thought of to be a blessing to others.

I like to think of it like this. Each of us has a lifetime’s worth of moments to offer for the use of God who is love. Each of these moments in themselves are very small, but over our lifetime, if they are filled with God’s love, they can make a huge difference to those we know and also to people we maybe will never meet.

Take a moment now to think what little things you might have to offer God this week. They might include

• a commitment to pray the news each day,
• solidarity with all who suffer or are in need.
• your homes and your relationships for God to work in,
• your conversations and your smiles,
• your involvement in God’s Church,
• every moment of every day.

Loving Father, accept the little that we offer to you in obedience and faith for we do this in the name of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

News Update

 

 

Dear friends,

I’m sure that many of you will be glad to hear that from Sunday, congregational singing will be allowed at St Mary’s once more. We will still need to wear masks during the service to protect each other but at the 1030 a.m. service we will once more stand for hymns, the Gloria, the Peace and the Blessing. We will continue to keep alternate pews vacant for now but more people can sit in each pew if they wish to do so, so long as a 1 metre space is kept between households. Please let the Welcomer know what you would prefer. This means that you will no longer need to book a place at a service in advance although welcomers will continue to make a note of your name for Contact Tracing. We will be reviewing the arrangements for attending church at our next Vestry meeting on 18th August. Please get in touch with any thoughts.

Our next Monday afternoon gathering will be on 26th July in the church hall. This is open to anybody who would like to meet with other members of the congregation over a cup of tea or coffee between 2.30 and 4 p.m. There will be a short time of prayer and you are welcome to bring a crafting project, a table-top game or just yourselves! Two-metre distancing will be observed in the hall and all other precautions will be in place.

A new way of providing refreshments after the 10.30 service is being explored. The idea is to hold mini coffee mornings so that church members or groups from the wider community can raise money for a charity they support. If you would like to know more, to volunteer or to get involved by ordering supplies or keeping the calendar, please get in touch with me. The scheme will be trialled on a monthly basis from mid August.

The deadline for contributing ‘back to school’ items for needy families in Castlemilk is 30th July. Please bring them to the Rectory or get in touch if you wish for them to be collected. The Rectory garage is starting to fill up once more with donations of children’s clothes, toys and baby equipment kindly donated by Dunblane families.

With love to you all,
Nerys

Materials for Worship at Home on 18th July

Nerys asks: I wonder when you last ran and why you did it?

In the first century, a middle Eastern man never ran. If he were to do so, he would have to hitch up his tunic and show his bare legs which was a humiliating and shameful thing to do. A man of standing would only run if his life or the life of others depended on it. You’ll remember the loving father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, running to save his son from the violent rejection of his community, taking upon himself the shame his son deserved. In both of today’s short Gospel passages, Mark 6.30-34 and 53-56, we hear of men running, although the Greek verb is not always translated as such in our English Bibles. These are connecting passages, part of the framework of one of the multi-layered sandwiches which Mark is famous for. Between them are the accounts of the feeding of the five thousand and of Jesus walking on the water. Before them is the sending out of the disciples and the story of the death of John the Baptist we heard last week

Jesus’ fame is spreading. He is being recognised and followed by crowds wherever he goes, with little time to rest or even to eat on occasions. People are responding to the message but not always in the way Jesus would wish …

(James Tissot)

Have you ever thought what motivated such a large group of men (the word is specifically masculine in Mark) to run around the lake to meet Jesus in such a remote spot? After all, they and their families could have heard him preaching in Capernaum any time. John tells us that after being miraculously fed by Jesus, this same crowd tried to take him by force to make him king. Mark is not so explicit, but there are a few hints to suggest that these men might have seen him as the charismatic figure they needed to rise up against Roman occupation, The wilderness was the traditional place to prepare for an uprising. Were they desperately running in the hope that Jesus would lead them in an armed rebellion?

As Jesus and the disciples seek another deserted place in order to rest, they meet with another crowd, even larger in number and needs than the one they left behind. The town of Gennesaret with its numerous hot mineral springs had attracted the sick and the injured for centuries. Recognising Jesus, people ran to fetch those who couldn’t walk, believing that touching a tassel on Jesus cloak would be enough to heal them. Could it be that the news of how the woman with the haemorrhage was healed had got around. What is certain is that there was a large element of superstition mixed in with their faith. They had no idea who Jesus really was and no interest in getting to know him further. All they wanted was for him to satisfy their need for physical healing.

And yet, Jesus responds to them all with compassion, despite his tiredness and grief, and his need to be alone with his disciples. As he sees the eagerness of these people who are ready to throw away public decorum in order to get to him, his heart is moved. These are people desperate for leadership and desperate for healing. He describes them as sheep without a shepherd, drawing on the rich Jewish imagery familiar to him since childhood, and he responds as the shepherd-king of Jeremiah 23.1-6, our Old Testament reading for today.

In these short passages Jesus through his actions shows himself to be the one who has real concern for God’s scattered, confused and undisciplined sheep. He gives the people what they need, right teaching, feeding and healing.

Here are some questions to ponder and to take to God in prayer:

• Are there times when we run on ahead of Christ instead of following him?

• Are there times when we demand of God physical healing for ourselves or others?

• How does our compassion for all God’s sheep measure up to that of Jesus?

• How can we obtain a greater trust and understanding of God?

From stories like this of Jesus’ ministry we know with certainty that God never ever turns any of us away. None of our needs or wounds or sorrows are hidden from him. Whenever we run ahead of him, whenever we demand healing, he will minister to us, because he loves us. What about finishing your time of worship by reading slowly or singing the well-known paraphrase of Psalm 23, giving God thanks and praise.

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for his own name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me; and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.

My table thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house forever more
My dwelling place shall be.

Materials for Worship at Home for Sunday 11th July

Jeanette writes: Both our readings today are about dancing: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, and Mark 6: 14-29. The first tells of King David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant, the second Salome dancing before King Herod.

Take a look at the two pictures. What differences in attitude or intention can you see between them? How do each of them make you feel?

       

Certainly, the actions are similar, but the intentions behind the actions could not be more different. David is dancing in worship and love before God, Salome is dancing to seduce King Herod into killing John the Baptist. To be fair to Herod, that was something he didn’t want to do. John intrigued him – he was a little in awe of him and a little afraid of him as well – but as he didn’t want to lose face before his court, he had no alternative. He had foolishly promised the girl whatever she asked for.

These passages very clearly illustrate for us that any action cannot simply be labelled “good” or “bad”, but that everything that we do has to be looked at within its context and intention, before we label it one or the other. Is the action a loving one, or one calculated to cause harm? In other words, is what we are doing drawing us closer to God, or driving us farther away from our creator, the source of our being.

This may seem like a simple choice to make, but think again. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an eminent German theologian and pacifist, a member of the Confessing Church which was politically opposed to Hitler, was also a member of the German Resistance, working to get many Jews out of Germany. He was involved in the failed attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20, 1944. His involvement was discovered and he was arrested and later hanged for his part in the plot. As a Christian and a pacifist, was it right for him to be involved in an assassination attempt, or did the greater good of the fall of the Nazi regime, and the many thousands of lives which would have been saved as a result, justify the action? Was his involvement in the plot an action of love for God’s world or not? He obviously believed it was, and he died for his belief.

So, it isn’t so simple after all. Now I know it isn’t likely that any of us are likely to be involved in such world-shaping events, as Bonhoeffer was, but the principle still applies to us in our daily lives and in the choices we make. Are the motives and intentions of what we do based on love of God and our neighbour, or our own self-interest? Even, are we keen to be seen to be doing good?

Many years ago, I learnt, very painfully I might add, that if I was looking for God in any situation, God, who is love, would be found where I found love in that situation, however unlikely a place that might seem to be. It has informed my thinking and theology ever since, and sometimes led me to some surprising conclusions. I commend it to you.

So let’s pray. (Please ponder each petition and its implications for you before you go on to the next one.)

Loving God, help us to see the world through your eyes.

Loving God, help us not to deceive ourselves about our intentions.

Loving God, guide us in the decisions we make.

Loving God, give us the courage to work for your love and justice in our broken world.

Loving God, give us the will to make the necessary changes in our living, so that our environment may be healed, and the future of our planet safeguarded.

The God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.