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.

Materials for Worship in 4th July, 2021

Jeanette writes: There are times for all of us when God has something to say to us that may involve opening us up more to God’s love in our lives and hearts. Perhaps we need to have some of our fixed or self-centred attitudes or behaviour chal¬lenged, or to do some spiritual growing-up. At these times God will tell us. But if we aren’t ready to hear, or prepared to hear, what is being said to us, then we just won’t hear it. Often, we won’t even notice God is speaking to us. Later we might look back and wonder why we couldn’t see the obvious, but at the time we’re far more likely to either completely ignore what God is saying or to react with hostility and defensive¬ness, rather like the people did in Jesus’ hometown.

Read Mark 6: 1 – 13.

We can hear their indignant, self-righteous wounded egos as they mutter their complaints about Jesus. When they look at the facts, he’s not even on a level with them for background; he’s only a carpenter’s son, so who does he think he is? He’s just an upstart who’s far too big for his boots. What right has he to be displaying more wisdom and miracle working than any of them can do? Sadly, it is not unusual to resent holi¬ness, or any other gift, in those close to us, those we want to be ordinary like us, not to set us an example which makes us feel inadequate — holi¬ness in strangers is far easier to cope with as we don’t tend to take that as a personal criticism.

But any rebellion on our part, any defensiveness or hostility, however discreet, does not go unnoticed by God. Whatever we proclaim with our lips, whatever we claim that we believe, and however cleverly we disguise our rebellion from other people, God sees and knows exactly where our hearts really are, and which way we are really facing. It simply isn’t possible for us to pull the wool over God’s eyes. This however isn’t something that should make us scared of approaching God. It’s actually quite a relief to find there’s no point in pretending or try¬ing to impress the God we worship.

If you are like me, there are some people who, when they come to visit have me checking the house to make sure everything is spick and span, as I’d hate them to find me in a girdle. It usually results in a spate of frantic tidying. There are others who know me so well, and who I trust not to judge me but to love me and accept me as I am, so that I don’t have to rush around — they know and love me whatever the house looks like! I don’t have to try and impress them – they’d see though it anyway! Thank God, God’s one of them!

When Jesus sends out his disciples, it is in pairs so that they can support each other, and they are to preach the Gospel of repentance and God’s forgiveness, whether the people are ready to listen or not. Jesus prepares his disciples for the like¬lihood that there will be people who are stubbornly resistant or rebellious and not take kindly to their challenge. He helps them to be ready to face rejections. He knows that some people will be like the people of his own town and not be ready or want to listen to what they have to say.

Brushing the dust from their feet is not a vindic¬tive move, but a visual sign — a testimony — that the Gospel of repentance has been offered to them and has been refused. It is also important from the disciples’ point of view, and from ours too. There are times for all of us when we fail, times when it is right for us to put the failure behind us and to move on, leaving the Holy Spirit to continue working in people’s hearts and minds, and for us not to wallow in failure, or be overwhelmed and bogged down by the rejection we feel at the time. Things happen in God’s time not ours. God knows we will fail in some of the things we try to do. Sometimes he plans it that way so that we can learn and grow.

This too comes down to a matter of trust; faith and trust in the God who loves us, longs for our good and longs for us to show the world how much it is loved by God and God’s people.

Let’s pray

Loving God, there are times when we do not want to hear what you want us to know, about how we can serve you better and become more faithful disciples. Open our hearts and minds so that we can hear you and listen to you, knowing that whatever you say to us is said in love for our learning and wellbeing.

We pray for a fair and just distribution of the Covid vaccines. And we pray that all those who need the vaccine will have access to it, whether they can pay for it or not.

We pray for countries where people are still dying in huge numbers from Covid.

We pray for the peoples of the west coast of North America, as they struggle with temperatures of almost 50 degrees Celsius, many have already died.

Finally, we pray for Dunblane, and its community. For all those who are struggling, for whatever reason. For its churches and the work they do in supporting the community. Amen.

Materials for Worship on 27th June

Nerys writes: This Sunday we dedicate to the glory of God a candle stand gifted in memory of Shareene Potter who died a year ago this week. This is not an ornament but, as Peter explains in a piece he has written in the magazine, it is a tool to help us to pray at those times when words don’t come easily or at all.

It is appropriate that the dedication is happening on a day when our Gospel reading illustrates the healing power of Christ, and especially the way he can take us from a place of fear and brokenness to a place of faith and wholeness.

Our Old Testament reading from the Book of Lamentations 3.22-33, also encourages us to hold on to a belief in God’s goodness even when things are difficult. Listen to the passage being read by Moira.

As you listen to the familiar story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter from Mark 5.21-43, being read by Morag, imagine that you are in the crowd watching it all happen. I wonder what you would have learned from the experience?

You may choose to listen to  the account again putting yourself in the place of one of the characters at the center of the drama. I wonder what kind of healing that person receives from Jesus and what kind you may wish to receive for yourself or for  a loved one?

Jean Holloway’s hymn to the Welsh tune, ‘Ar hyd y nos’, played on the organ by David, is especially appropriate for all of us at St Mary’s at this difficult time of transition. I invite you to use it as a prayer of healing for our worshiping community.

Lord, we come to ask your healing,
teach us of love;
all unspoken shame revealing,
teach us of love.
Take our selfish thoughts and actions,
petty feuds, divisive factions,
hear us now to you appealing,
teach us of love.

Soothe away our pain and sorrow,
hold us in love;
grace we cannot buy or borrow,
hold us in love.
Though we see but dark and danger,
though we spurn both friend and stranger,
though we often dread tomorrow,
hold us in love.

When the bread is raised and broken,
fill us with love;
words of consecration spoken,
fill us with love.
As our grateful prayers continue,
make the faith that we have in you
more than just an empty token,
fill us with love.

Help us live for one another,
bind us in love;
stranger, neighbour, father, mother –
bind us in love.
All are equal at your table,
through your Spirit make us able
to embrace as sister, brother,
bind us in love.

It was the woman in the story within today’s Gospel story who drew my attention this last week, especially after I came across this unusual depiction of her encounter with Jesus.

It is from a stunning mural by Daniel Carriola in the Encounter Chapel in Duc in Altum, a place for prayer, teaching and worship on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It is often referred to by tourists and pilgrims as ‘the picture with the feet’, but it is to the hand that my eye was drawn,  the delicate hand of a once-wealthy woman – a woman whose fear and brokenness led her to Jesus. She is not named but is known as the woman with a hemorrhage, rendered untouchable because of the flow of blood which had blighted her life for twelve long years. Her fear was not only that she would never be well again but also that she would always be alone, isolated from those who could help make her life bearable. This fear had changed her from the easy-going, confident person she used to be. It had worn her down. She was now poor, cowed and tired. She didn’t have the confidence even to ask Jesus for healing, but in her desperation reached out her hand to touch his clothes.

There are many like this woman in our communities today, people  whose mental and physical health has been affected by the pandemic, whose personalities have been transformed because of fear and loneliness. We are called to pray for these people and to respond to their need. Despite being surrounded by a jostling crowd, Jesus is aware of the woman’s desperate touch and makes time to acknowledge her faith and to give her a voice. We are not told what becomes of her but it is clear that these are the first steps to her recovery and restoration.

Our Night Service this week will be a service of prayers for healing based on that which takes place every Tuesday evening in Iona Abbey. In the service, prayers are said not only for the healing of the bodies and minds of named individuals but also for the healing of oppressed communities and divided countries, of natural environments and of the planet itself. These prayers presuppose that asking something of Christ will lead to a deeper relationship with him and will inspire us to act to tackle the sources of injustice and violence which cause suffering.

Loving God, we hold in your healing presence

  • those who suffer pain and ill-health, with their families, friends and those who care for them …
  • those who suffer in mind and spirit, and all who care for them …
  • the suffering people of our world, and the places where people are experiencing division, injustice and violence …
  • natural environments destroyed by pollution and threatened by climate change …
  • those who are struggling to overcome addiction or abuse, those supporting and working with them, and all whose suffering has distanced them from those who love them …
  • those facing bereavement or experiencing grief …
  • those whose needs are not known to us …
  • those whose names we do not know but who are known to you.

May they know the deep peace of Christ.  Amen.
(Prayers taken from Iona Abbey Worship Book and adapted)

We finish our time of prayer and worship with Bernadette Farrell’s song of longing for the  light of Christ. Here is David playing the tune.

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.
Christ, be our light!

Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.
Christ, be our light!

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.
Christ, be our light!

Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.
Christ, be our light!

Materials for Worship at Home for Refugee Sunday

Nerys writes: Once you’ve lit your candle today, look around the room you’re sitting in. If you had to leave home in a hurry not knowing when you’d be back, I wonder what would you take with you? What would you leave behind?

No one wants to leave home but all over the world, people are forced to move because of danger. Every 2 seconds, a person is forced to flee for safety. Every day, 44,000 more people are driven from their homes. Most people don’t seek refuge in another country but every year up to a billion people cross a border and become asylum seekers, asking for protection as a refugee. Can you imagine what it’s like to arrive somewhere where everything is different from home, with no money, few possessions, no family, no friends? Can you imagine how lonely and frightened you might feel?

Our Gospel story today is set in a storm. As you read or listen to Mark 4.35-41, imagine what it was like for Jesus’ disciples. How might they have felt?

If it was you in that boat in the storm – with Jesus, your teacher, asleep, I wonder what would you have done, what would you have said to him?

According to Mark’s account, the disciples responded with the words, ‘Don’t you care that we’re in danger?’ A strange question but an important one to ask God and each other. Don’t you care about me? Don’t you care that I’m lonely and frightened?

It’s a question that the people of God have asked down the centuries. It’s a question the people of Israel sang about in their psalms.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 13.1-3)

Sometimes it feels like nobody cares about us, nobody is listening. Everyone is busy with their own lives and it feels like God is asleep. At a time like this we need to call out to God like the psalmist did and like the disciples did in the boat. We do this because God has promised to be always with us, God is always listening. We do this because knowing that we’ve been heard makes a difference.

It can take away the fear. It can take away the loneliness. It can help us face the storm.

‘Why are you so afraid?’ Jesus was puzzled that his disciples had got into such a state. He was expecting them to trust in him, no matter what, and that’s what we’re called to do also.

Don’t you care that we’re in danger? Sometimes to people who have had to leave their homes, their families, their friends to become refugees, it seems that nobody cares about them. They call out but it seems that nobody is listening.

This is the last day of Refugee Week 2021. Some of us have been making people chains to remind us that ‘We cannot walk alone’.

Hugh Grant has been involved in Refugee Week in Dunblane but also volunteers with an organisation called Forth Valley Welcome.

I asked him, is there anybody out there caring for refugees?
Yes, as you know, Forth Valley Welcome supports refugees who have come to Stirling and Clackmannanshire, up to 154 people now including 88 children. We have 75 volunteers, some of those go into the house or flat before people arrive and turn them into a nice homely space with cheerful bedspreads and curtains and toys for children.

Some volunteers are assigned as befrienders to families, visit them regularly, especially at the beginning, help them get to know the area, the shops, the buses, and practice speaking in English. As they become settled in the area, we introduce them to local community organisations.

Pre-Covid we used to run a ‘Snack and Chat’ every six weeks or so people could come together and meet each other and volunteers, and again practice their English. Over the last year, when we’ve not been able to visit families, we’ve provided occasional food deliveries, especially at Eid and Christmas, and run online competitions through our WhatsApp group.

There are groups like us around the UK. Other organisations who help are the Scottish Refugee Council, who provide advice and support to refugees and to asylum seekers who are still in the process of being assessed by the Home Office as to whether they will be allowed to stay in the UK. Positive Action in Housing in Glasgow helps with people like asylum-seekers who end up on the streets if their claims to stay are not successful, and some individuals take people into their homes. Stirling’s Aid4All provides food packages and other items for people in one of the camps that is not run by UNHCR. And there are people who go to provide voluntary support to people in the unofficial camps in Calais, and in Lesbos island in Greece.

In what way can we show our care?
All of us can try to understand better the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers. The media often highlight extreme cases, not always in a sympathetic light, so we can try to keep a clear mind about the whole picture.

If we’re out shopping in Stirling or elsewhere and see people who might be refugees, people different from us, we can smile and say hello and let people feel welcome.

Some people in Dunblane are volunteers, or have been in the past, visiting families and helping in other ways. Some give donations to Forth Valley Welcome and other organisations. We have a store that’s been provided to us free in Dunblane where we keep clothes, toys, and other items but we have quite a lot in there at the moment, more than we need for now, but from time to time there’s a need for items and we can let you know about those requests when they arise.

Our Men’s Group have been discussing what we might do as a church, perhaps welcoming some here from time to time so that we can get to know some of the people affected.

There’s an organisation called Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees which provides a network for people of all faiths on the issue. They have a study course available that was produced by CBTI (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland). We could think about using that course in future.

We can pray together about refugees, their situation, the reasons why they have to flee from their homes, asking for God‘s love to be present to all – the refugees and asylum-seekers themselves, and those who work to help them.

After you have reflected on Hugh’s words, you are invited to read the words of a new hymn by Martin Pratt and use it perhaps as a prayer of confession and commitment. Here is David Sawyer playing the tune.

There are no strangers to God’s love,
yet we have privatised God’s grace.
Bounded by nationhood and lies,
in fear we shrouded love’s own face.
Acknowledging our sin and greed we come
confessing common need.

These are our neighbours and our friends,
the ones who run in fear from war,
who read abuse by power or state,
or seek the means to be less poor;
these are the ones we have denied,
as in each one the Christ has cried.

When people seeking sanctuary come
to our shores and need our aid,
then in Christ’s name let’s offer care
through this our debt of love is paid.
God’s grace is free, this grace receive,
let actions show what we believe.

Martin Wisher who is a board member for Forth Valley Welcome, invites us to join him in the following prayers of intercession:

Heavenly Father as we come to you in prayer we lament that in this world of plenty and in this age of ‘civilization’ so many of our fellow human beings have been forced as refugees to flee from their homes and countries, leaving possessions, family and friends because of wars, persecution, poverty and climate change. Children are separated from family and friend and make perilous journeys to try to reach safety. We cry out to the God who executes justice for the orphan and the widow and who loves the stranger.

We pray for those individuals and organizations seeking to provide refuge, to alleviate suffering and to bring justice for refugees and asylum seekers. We ask that your Holy Spirit empower this ministry and bring love, peace and justice out of suffering.

We pray for those in authority and particularly our UK government as it administers care to refugees and asylum seekers. We pray that there would be more compassion shown and that resources would increase to positively affect this refugee crisis.

We pray for the Church worldwide and at St Mary’s locally. May we be empowered by your Holy Spirit to find ways to care for refugees and asylum seekers and to effectively represent their needs to our society.

We pray for those known to us who are ill, those mourning the loss of a loved one..

We pray for those dealing with stress, financial concerns, the loss of their job, loneliness and depression caused by the COVID pandemic.

We pray for ourselves that we may love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbour, the refugee, as ourselves.

We finish our time of prayer with the well-known hymn, ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you’ which reminds us on our dependence on God and on one another. Here is David playing the tune.

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
And companions on the road;
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
Speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping,
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

Richard Gillard

Materials for Worship 13th June 2021

The Rev Moira Jamieson writes: As you prepare for worship this morning, you might like to take a few moments to think about your faith and how its strength has helped you through the difficulties of the past 18 months or so. Even faith that seems to us to be so little or so insignificant can grow into something larger and more visible. The readings set for today show us that with the help and encouragement of our God, our faith can bear fruit and flourish.
Listen now as David plays for us ‘All My Hope On God Is Founded’. Sing along if you wish.

All my hope on God is founded; he doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance he guideth, only good and only true.
God unknown, he alone calls my heart to be his own.

Pride of man and earthly glory, sword and crown betray his trust;
what with care and toil he buildeth, tower and temple fall to dust.
But God’s power, hour by hour, is my temple and my tower.

God’s great goodness aye endureth, deep his wisdom, passing thought:
splendour, light and life attend him, beauty springeth out of naught.
Evermore from his store new-born worlds rise and adore.

Daily doth th’Almighty giver bounteous gifts on us bestow;
his desire our soul delighteth, pleasure leads us where we go.
Love doth stand at his hand; joy doth wait on his command.

Still from man to God eternal sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising for the gift of Christ, his Son.
Christ doth call one and all: ye who follow shall not fall.
Robert Bridges

In the first reading from Ezekiel 17 vs 22-24, God sets out how from a small twig he will grow a large tree under which many will seek shade and will know that God is their Lord and that Gods faith in His people will accomplish all that He sets out to do. Listen now as Martin reads this passage.

During this pandemic, many people have had to step up and endure difficult situations, putting others before themselves and reaching out a helping hand. None more so than those working at the forefront of the NHS and those caring for families and friends. During Carer’s Week it was a great opportunity to pray for those who care for others quietly and in the background. I like to think that our prayers, as they ascend to God, provide a shelter over carers and those they care for and help to give them strength to continue the loving care they provide each day.

 

The parable of the mustard seed in our Gospel passage is a well known story, but until I began preaching on this passage I hadn’t realised just how enormous a mustard plant can grow to. Just look at the size of this plant compared to the height of the man standing in front of it! It really does look like a tree that the birds of the air could shelter under and find shade, and it does seem strange that in this passage, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God with a tiny mustard seed. However, when we realise just how large this plant can grow, it makes more sense. Listen now to June reading the Gospel passage from Mark 4 vs 26-34 and think about why it is that Jesus chose to speak to people in parables and only explained later in private to his disciples what they meant.

In his ministry, Jesus always tried to sew small seeds of faith, hope and love into the people, to allow them to seek things out for themselves and to let their faith grow gradually into something big. If you love nature and like to grow things in your garden, you will know the joy of planting seeds, waiting for them to germinate and with nurturing, turn into beautiful plants. When we decide to plant seeds, we need to research the best ways to encourage germination. In other words, we need to gain knowledge. Then after we plant the seeds we have to have faith that they will indeed begin to sprout and grow. Once they are established, we hope that with love and care they will flourish and grow to their own potential. Such was Jesus’ ministry. He told the people just enough to get them interested in what he was saying, then he gave them time to think about what he said so that their faith would begin to grow. Jesus gave them hope for the future and encouraged them to grow in love for one another. The ministry of Jesus was a time of sowing; a time that would lead to the seed which he sowed growing to a glorious harvest. Jesus was sowing the seeds of the harvest for God, and His disciples would be harvesting those hearts long after His death and resurrection.

In the parable of the mustard seed, its tiny beginnings were compared with the tiny beginnings of the kingship of God. The preaching of an unknown prophet (Jesus) in a corner of Palestine is compared with the greatness of the end result; and I wonder of the birds in this parable are meant to symbolize the Gentiles, those whom Jesus is welcoming into the fold? Then again, they may just simply be meant to indicate the great size of the tree, big enough to make nests in it! Small things – small events – hidden forces and insignificant things, these are the things that often bring about deeply significant results, so why can’t we trust in the things we cannot see? We seem helpless to resist our obsession with the important, the highly visible, the fast and the dramatic in this world! The message is challenging and difficult for us to grasp; God’s reign is sown into the hidden places as a small seed that slowly and quietly grows until it finally becomes large enough to provide shelter or a harvest. It is the small and hidden things that God loves to use far more than the loud and visible, it would seem. Like farmers, we can nurture the soil of our hearts and our communities, and we can watch for the signs of growth, but we cannot make God’s reign come into being. That’s God’s work, not ours! We are invited to turn our eyes away from the obvious, the strong, the wealthy, the loud, the large and to search out the hidden, the small, the insignificant and the silent places where the seeds of God’s reign are sown and are growing almost without us noticing.

As we pause now to bring our prayers to God, you might like to say these verses from Psalm 92 set for today.

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” Amen.

Pray today for those who are at the beginning of their faith journey, that they would flourish and grow in God’s love.

Pray for those who have lost faith and are struggling to find God’s peace in their lives.

Pray for all who care for others in whatever capacity that they would find rest and support when they need it.

Pray for those who are on our minds this day and entrust them to God’s care and His love.

Listen now to David playing ‘Now the Green Blade Riseth’ and join in if you wish.

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain, wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
love lives again, that with the dead has been: Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid him, Love whom we had slain, thinking that never he would wake again,
laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen: Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain, he that for three days in the grave had lain;
quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen: Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain, your touch can call us back to life again;
fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
J. M. C. Crum

May God bless you and your family this coming week as you seek to follow Him in faith, in hope and in love. Amen.

Material for Worship for Carers Week 2021

Nerys writes: As you light your candle this morning and prepare your heart for worship, I invite you to think of the people you know who care for others. Once you start counting, I’m sure you’d be surprised to find that there are quite a few – folk who are looking after family members who have a disability, a mental or physical illness or who need extra help as they grow older. You may be receiving care yourself or have been a care-giver in the past. You’ll be aware how difficult it has been for carers during this past year and how important it is to recognise the contribution they make to their families, to the local community and to society as a whole, and ensure that they get the support they need.

Today I will be joined at the morning and evening services by Kate Sainsbury from Comrie. I first got to know Kate as a fellow Lay Reader many years ago but when I asked her how she would describe herself, this is what she said:

I have been a carer for almost thirty five years, since my son, Louis, developed meningitis aged three days, leaving him with profound brain injury. This is the non-negotiable WHO I am. Caring involves all kinds of activities: personal care, project management, advocacy, translating, research; it requires a lot of mental agility: planning ahead, reflecting, noticing, collaborating. Caring often requires you give away your own desire, but it can compensate, too, with moments of joy. Somebody said, ’if you can’t do what you want, want what you can do.’ Another spoke of ‘being an ambassador’, communicating the value of the person you care for by how you speak of them. I’d say, too, caring wasn’t a role I chose: it chose me. It shaped me. I used to resent it, now I love it.

Today is an opportunity to reflect on the vocation of caring. The strapline for this year’s Carers Week is ‘Make Caring Visible and Valued’. We can offer to God the serving of the carers we know and ask God’s blessing on them.

 

But first, I invite you to read or sing the words of a hymn that is well known to you as David plays the tune. It was chosen by Kate because it’s Louis’ favourite hymn. Let’s use it as a prayer of preparation.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Caring can be so difficult without proper support, so exhausting, so isolating and lonely. Everything else is put on hold and it’s easy for resentment to creep in. In our psalm today, Psalm 130, read by Morag, the author’s honesty encourages us all to bring any negative feelings or thoughts to God, knowing that we are not alone or without hope.

The Gospel for today is Mark 3.20-35, read here by Morag.

I asked Kate is there was anything in the passage that spoke to her:

What struck me was the way it shows Jesus’ biological family being replaced by a new ‘family’, made up of his followers, who we know were from all walks of life, all united through commitment to him. There is a resemblance for me, of the ‘family’ of care, who form around somebody needing support.

It reminds me of all the people who’ve ever helped me care for Louis, from his first childminder, though school, to the team growing around him, who will care for him when he moves out of hospital into his own house, at Appletree. I always needed help because Louis’ needs were too great for me to meet alone. That is still true. And as I get older, the best thing I can do for Louis is to build him a long-term future, working with the parents of the housemates he will share with, and a professional care organisation, Scottish Autism.

Appletree is the community, at Aberuthven, where Louis is going to live. He is offering two places in his spacious converted steading home, in order to benefit from community living. Scottish Autism’s values are to enable all people to live healthy, happy, fulfilled lives. At Appletree, families and professional carers are building relationships of mutual regard. Offering and receiving hospitality will be a core part of regular activities, along with the creative arts, living healthily in nature.

Appletree was founded and continues in prayer and faith. We hope that our story brings something to your life.

Take some time now to pray for your own situation,

for those you care for now or have cared for in the past,
for those who care for you,
for family and friends.

Pray for those known to you and for the 6.5 million people in the UK who are carers.
Pray for children who care for their parents or siblings.
Pray for those in positions of influence, who could provide more appropriate and generous support for carers.
Give thanks for the hope that the Appletree Community represents, praying that the vision may be realised and that we at St Mary’s may be part of the circle of support for Louis and others for years to come.

You may wish to finish your time of prayer by reading or singing the words of ‘Take my life and let it be’ as David plays the tune.

Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days,
let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
always, only, for my King;
take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold;
take my intellect, and use
every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it thine:
it shall be no longer mine;
take my heart: it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store;
take my self, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.

Frances Ridley Havergal

Material for Worship for Trinity Sunday

When you think about it, the belief that God is Trinity is the foundation for our belief that God is also love, it’s all about relationship. If God were not Trinity, the most we could say with absolute confidence would be that God occasionally – or even regularly – chooses to act lovingly, but not that God’s very essence is love.

Let’s hear Margaret read our first Lesson from Romans 8:12-17

Belief in God the Trinity says that before there was ever anything external to God, towards which God could act lovingly, God’s being was still expressed in the love between Father, Son and Spirit. This ‘love’ of God is not an abstract quality, unrecognizable by the usual marks of what we humans would call love. It is personal, dynamic, and creative. It is full of delight and generosity. We, God’s creation, came to be, out of the exuberance and sheer vitality of that love, and we are designed to share in it, to be drawn more and more into the reality of the loving God.

As we view the image, let’s respond in the hymn ‘Holy, holy, holy one’ CP 489 played by David.

Holy, holy, holy One,
Love’s eternal Trinity;
we who hear your call, respond:
“Here I am, my God, send me.”

Holy source of all that lives,
through creation’s mystery,
your love speaks and we reply.
“Here I am, my God, send me.”

Holy Lamb, Loves sacrifice,
mighty in humility,
overawed we humbly say,
“Here I am, my God, send me.”

Holy Spirit, Deathless Joy,
though we face Love’s agony
touch our lips and we will cry,
“Here I am, my God, send me.”

Three Times Holy, loving God
call our name, and we will be
each Love’s living sacrifice
“Here I am, my God, send me.”

Alan Gaunt CP 489 A&M

So, let’s now listen to Morag reading this morning’s gospel. John 3:1-17

The verse we all know so well, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” is the climax of the odd, teasing conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. ‘This is the point of it all,’ Jesus says, ‘that God’s beloved people may live with us forever.’

Does Nicodemus understand that? It is very hard to tell, just as it is hard to tell what he is doing there at all, creeping about in the dead of night like a young revolutionary rather than a weighty religious leader of a people who have made a sensible compromise with their irreligious rulers.

Right from the start of the conversation, Jesus wrong-foots Nicodemus. Nicodemus has rehearsed what he is going to say to open the conversation. He pays tribute to Jesus’s ministry, while at the same time making understated claims for his own credentials. ‘I’m someone who can recognize the activity of God,’ he says in effect, ‘and you’re really doing very well, old chap.’ To which Jesus answers, in effect, ‘How would you know?’ All through the sharp-edged conversation, Nicodemus is trying to get things back on track, back into normal conversational and debating mode, and Jesus won’t let him. The activity of God cannot be ordered by your, or anybody else’s little checklists, he says to Nicodemus. You must tear them up and be prepared to start again.

Nicodemus, like all religious people throughout the ages, believes to some extent that God is love. But he believes that God’s love is measured and sensible and follows a set of rules. He believes that Jesus’s healings are, largely, consonant with the activity of God, but he has some worries about them, which is presumably why he is here, to get Jesus to fill in the proper forms. And he does deserve some credit for this, many of his colleagues couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see even this far into the love of God. But it is not far enough, because all Jesus’s replies to Nicodemus suggest that Nicodemus has to let go of all the measures that he has been using and launch out into the unfathomable reality of the totality of God’s love.

God does not love; when we have met the requirements, or when we have changed enough to be lovable, or when we were lucky enough to be born, in one race or sex. God just loves. And trying to measure the love of God is like trying to control the wind. God will do anything for this world he loves, including coming himself, the Son, to die for it. To understand this is to be, in Jesus’s words, born again, to start the world again, learning to walk and speak and think and grow in a world where the love of God is the breath that we breathe, so that our every response to the world around is informed by that love.

So don’t try to measure the wind of God’s love, Paul argues, just go with it, let it breathe through you and power you – God’s Spirit, in modern parlance, a totally renewable power source. To be filled with the vitality of God’s love is to share in God’s relationship with God, and to know ourselves beloved.

It is also to share in God’s wild love for the world, so that like Isaiah we say, Send us! Paul and John, both warn us that our love must be as insane as God’s. No reintroducing the checklists, no loving on our terms only. God the Son preferred to go to the cross rather than force his creation into a dutiful, fearful obedience to the Father, if our loving in any way reflects God’s love then that must be our choice also, if necessary.

It’s wonderful, it’s exhilarating, it’s scary and we are called to it by our baptism. Let’s pray that out into the world. Amen.

Intercessions

Loving God, help us to love your world and ours as you love it, so that we work for justice for all your people: we work for an equal sharing of the resources of our world; we work to be good stewards of the creation you have given us so that the earth and all that is in it is not damaged by our exploitation and greed.

Where we have failed to love your world as you do but have damaged it and exploited it. Forgive us.

Where we have failed to care for your people who are unable to care for themselves. Forgive us.

Where our greed has damaged your world and its people. Forgive us.

Grow your love in us so that we may be lights to the world, and your love may be known through us. Amen.

Our final hymn, written by Michael Hare Duke has the title ‘Daring, Dancing Trinity’ and is sung to the tune Blaenwern.

Lord, your love has called to being all that fills the earth below,
myriad stars beyond our seeing, tiniest creatures that we know;
earth and air and fire and water woven in the grand design,
witness to the final meaning of your love for humankind.

Human lives are made for sharing; joined in trust and truth we grow,
speech of silence opening pathways to the hearts we seek to know.
Welcome love, by your renewal worn out ways turn upside down;
weak is strong, success is failure, and the wise becomes the clown.

From yourself we take our nature, Maker, parent, love divine.
Bound into your life we flourish, leaves and branches of the vine.
Through the Christ we see your pattern, life surrendered, life restored:
echoing through all creation sounds the spirit’s deep accord.

Love releases us for taking one more risk than we might dare;
glory breaks through dark and danger, shows the Lord transfigured there.
God who planted our affections, help your gifts to grow more free,
fan in us the fires of loving, daring, dancing Trinity.

Michael Hare Duke (former Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane)

Materials for Worship at Home on the Feast of Pentecost

Nerys writes: Today as you light your candle and prepare for worship, you are invited to say the words, ‘Come Holy Spirit; Holy Spirit come!’
In our Gospel today, Jesus, at the Last Supper makes a promise to his disciples that when he leaves them, they will not be alone. He will continue to be with them spiritually through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. Our reading from the Book of Acts, gives a dramatic account of how those disciples, on the day of the Jewish festival of Pentecost experience being filled with the power of the Spirit.
As you listen the passages, look out for the very distinct imagery used by the two authors to express their different understandings of the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

Susi reads John 15.26-27, 16.4b-15.

Heather reads Acts 2.1-21.

The way Luke describes the coming of God’s Spirit with the imagery of fire and flame has fascinated me for a long time, as it has captivated artists down the ages. We may never know exactly what happened in Jerusalem during that first Pentecost festival after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like all the other key events which we mark during the Christian year, Pentecost is shrouded in mystery. Luke, who wrote the only account we have of it, wasn’t present, didn’t witness it first hand and uses similes to convey what it was like – a sound from heaven like the blowing of a violent wind and what seemed to be tongues of fire coming to rest on the apostles as they were filled with the Holy Spirit. A literal understanding led some medieval artists to represent the scene like an old advert for British Gas, with a neatly-formed single flame on each individual’s heads. Modern artists tend to show flames engulfing the whole company, making them one, as in this batik by Solomon Raj, a Lutheran pastor and artist from Andhra Pradesh in India.
The idea of God as fire was nothing new in Jewish scripture. You will remember how Elijah’s sacrifice on Mount Carmel was consumed by fire from heaven as were the sacrifices of David and Solomon, and how, at the giving of the law to Moses, Mount Sinai was covered in smoke as God descended on it in fire.
But when we think of God’s Spirit as fire, there are a range of images we might be drawn to.
We could think of the beauty and tranquility of a single candle flame which lightens the darkness and guides our steps. God’s Spirit is the spirit of truth who stills our restless minds, giving us clarity, helping us to find our way in life and to lead others to Christ.

We could think of a fire in a hearth which provides warmth and comfort. The advocate-spirit of God, the opposite of Satan, the accuser, is a reassuring presence who reveals Christ’s love for us and enables us to bring consolation to others.

Or we could think of a fire fanned by wind, like a forest fire that consumes everything in its path, cleansing the land and stimulating new growth. God’s spirit has the power to renew us, stripping away the old, preparing us for the next challenge as we respond to Christ’s call.

I wonder what kind of holy fire you need in your life today?
At the heart of the 1982 Eucharist is a simple prayer. You may wish to make it yours, changing the pronouns to the first singular:
Hear us, most merciful Father,
and send your Holy Spirit upon us …
[that] we may be kindled with the fire of your love
and renewed for the service of your Kingdom.

This renewing is not a one-off event but a process. We need to be filled with the fire of God’s Holy Spirit time and time again because the flame burns low. We lose clarity, the sense of God’s comforting presence with us becomes dim, our lives become cluttered, squeezing out and diminishing the power of God’s love.
Let us pray that God’s Spirit would also fill others:
We pray for world leaders and all those in situations of power and influence that they would be filled with the Spirit of Truth.
Come Holy Spirit.
We pray for all those who suffer that they would know the comforting presence of the Spirit of Love.
Come Holy Spirit.
We pray for God’s Church, here in Dunblane and across the world, that we would be renewed and blaze with the Spirit of Justice and Compassion.
Come Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit come. Amen.

Here to finish is Julia singing ‘Spirit of God’ by Margaret V. Old on the tune of the Skye Boat Song.

Spirit of God, unseen as the wind,
gentle as is the dove,
teach the truth and help us believe,
show us the Saviour’s love.

You spoke to us, long, long ago,
gave us the written word;
we read it still, needing its truth,
through it God’s voice is heard.
Spirit of God….

Without your help, we fail our Lord,
we cannot live his way,
we need your power, we need your strength,
following Christ each day.
Spirit of God….

Material for Worship on the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Our Gospel reading today is part of Jesus’ prayer to the Father at the Last Supper, writes the Ven. Peter M. Potter. He prays about his departure from his disciples after his death and after the Ascension.

Blessing them, He withdrew. Jan Richardson

We follow the words of the Ascension hymn, Hail the day that sees him rise, played by David. CP 167

Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia,
to his throne above the skies; Alleluia,
Christ, the Lamb for sinners given, Alleluia,
enters now the highest heaven. Alleluia!
There for him high triumph waits;
lift your heads, eternal gates.
He hath conquered death and sin;
take the King of Glory in.

Lo, the heaven its Lord receives,
yet he loves the earth he leaves;
though returning to his throne,
still he calls mankind his own.

See, he lifts his hands above;
see, he shews the prints of love;
hark, his gracious lips bestow
blessings on his church below.

Still for us he intercedes,
his prevailing death he pleads;
near himself prepares our place,
he the first-fruits of our race.

Lord, though parted from our sight,
far above the starry height,
grant our hearts may thither rise,
seeking thee above the skies.

Then listen to how the number of apostles was restored to twelve, Acts 1.15-17, 21-26, read by Martin

and then a reading from the Fourth Gospel (John 17. 6-19), read by June

Sometime in the 1590s, the theologian and reformer William Melville addressed King James VI with: “I must tell you that there is two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland …” the one ruled by James and the kingdom ruled by Christ Jesus, “in which Jamie Saxt is but God’s silly vassal.”. At first sight, what Jesus says in these verses from John’s Gospel does sound as if there is a sharp division between earthly kingdoms and the kingdom of God: “They [the disciples] do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”

For reflection: Does this verse apply to you and, if so, how?

Actually, it is rather more complicated: two verses further on he says to his Father “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. At the Ascension, the disciples ask Jesus “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” They had recognised the connection between the fulfilment of God’s promises in the resurrection and the coming of the kingdom. It also leads us to look for connections too.

Now you don’t need me to tell you that we have just had an election and also that we are just coming to the end of Christian Aid Week. Are the aims of Christian Aid part of God’s manifesto and were they reflected in the manifestos of the politicians we have just elected?

To what extent was the way you cast your vote influenced by Jesus’ teachings?

In verse 18 of our reading today, Jesus says to his Father “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. Here Jesus is signalling that the disciples are being given a mandate to carry on his work in the world. At Pentecost the disciples become apostles – the word means one who is sent out – and the embryo Church which comes into being is to be agent of the restored kingdom. As Tom Wright, professor of theology at St Andrews, says we have been saved through the resurrection in order that we might be God’s rescuing stewards over his creation. Salvation does not mean that we are saved by being snatched out of the world but precisely the opposite. We are saved in order to be salt and light in the world.
When Jesus ascended into heaven he was not washing his hands of the world but, again precisely the opposite. The Ascension affirms that he is everywhere present and at all times. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, he proclaimed “The kingdom of God is among you” or “within you”. Our Eucharist Prayer picks this up with words that point to what our response to this should be “Worship and praise belong to you, Father, in all places and at all times”.

Can you think of other parts of the liturgy where the features of the kingdom are illustrated?

The kingdom of God is already here, and we can see signs of it at many times and in many places, often when we least expect it. Yes, when we look at the world today, we can see that there is evil and wickedness – in Yemen, Northern Ireland, racism, the heartless scams people have fallen victim to during the pandemic. But we have to set against this the sheer amount of good there is too – often small, unnoticed. The pandemic has also engendered an increase in good neighbourliness; many churches have embarked on new activities in their local communities. I think too of the acts of spontaneous kindness shown to us by neighbours and complete strangers when they saw that Shareene’s disabilities were getting us into difficulties.
Can you recall some of your own Good Samaritan moments?

These are all signs that the kingdom is among us and we are to be witnesses to them. They are instances that Christ is being glorified in the world today.

So, was Melville right? Or does the fact that James (and we) are “God’s silly vassals” mean that the two kingdoms are one and the same?

INTERCESSIONS

We pray:
for the world that Christ came to save ….
May all who exercise authority learn his ways of justice and integrity.

for those you have given us in love to be our family, friends and neighbours …
Guide them with the grace promised to all who are your own.

for those who have heard and sought to follow but have fallen away …
Come tenderly to them and bring them back in the way that leads to eternal life.

for the sick …
Have mercy on them and grant them healing and peace.

for the people of your Church …
Draw them together in unity, inspired by the oneness of the Father and the Son.

for those who in faith have entered into the fullness of eternal life …
May we with them grow into the vision of that glory.

Our closing hymn is an encouragement to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”, the instruction with which we are dismissed at the end of every Eucharist and the proper response to all that Jesus did for us for us.

Sent forth by God’s blessing, our true faith confessing,
the people of God from this table take leave.
The supper is ended: may now be extended
the fruits of his service in all who believe.
The seed of his teaching, our hungry souls reaching,
shall blossom in action for God and for man.
His grace shall incite us, his love shall unite us
to work for the kingdom, and further his plan.

With praise and thanksgiving to God ever-living,
the tasks of our everyday life we will face,
our faith ever sharing, in love ever caring,
embracing as neighbours all those of each race.
One feast that has fed us, one light that has led us,
unite us as one in his life that we share.
Then may all the living, with praise and thanksgiving
give honour to Christ and his name that we bear.

Materials for Worship at Home on the 6th Sunday of Easter

Nerys writes: As you prepare to worship today, on the first Sunday of Christian Aid Week, I invite you to look closely at this photo of Rose Katanu Johathan, a 67 year-old widow from Kitui county in eastern Kenya.
She and her family are caught in a cycle of climate chaos. From severe drought to flooding, extreme weather robs her of what she needs to survive. Without a reliable source of water, she is often hungry and thirsty and struggles to provide for the six grandchildren who are in her care.

(Photo: Rose Katanu Jonathan by Adam Finch, Christian Aid)

Our readings today remind us of the way Christ calls us to relate to Rose and people like her. In John 15.9-17, read here by June , Jesus, after washing his disciples’ feet, commands them to love one another just as he has loved them. In this way, they will no longer be God’s servants, but beloved friends, sent to ‘bear fruit that will last’, reaching out in self-giving love to the world around them. In our epistle, 1 John 5.1-6, read here by Martin, the writer goes a step further, using the idea of the family to emphasise that the love of God and the love of others are inseparable. If we love our parent God, he suggests, then we should also love God’s other children as brothers and sisters. And, if we think of every single human being as a member of our own family, then obeying Christ’s command to selflessly love them is not a burden. William Barclay in his commentary on this passage tells a memorable story of a boy walking to school carrying on his back a smaller boy who is unable to walk. A stranger asks him, ‘Do you carry him to school every day?’ ‘Yes’, answers the boy. ‘That’s a heavy burden you carry’, remarks the man. ‘He’s not a burden’, responds the boy, ‘he’s my brother’.

Luke Connaughton’s song ‘Love is his word, love is his way’ gently sums up the messages of both readings. You may wish to listen to David playing the tune Cresswell as you follow the words or sing along.

Richer than gold is the love of my Lord:
better than splendour and wealth.

Love is his word, love is his way,
feasting with all, fasting alone,
living and dying, rising again,
love, only love, is his way.

Love is his way, love is his mark,
sharing his last Passover feast,
Christ at the table, host to the Twelve,
love, only love, is his mark.

Love is his mark, love is his sign,
bread for our strength, wine for our joy,
‘This is my body, this is my blood’,
love, only love is his sign.

Love is his sign, love is his news,
‘Do this’, he said , ‘lest you forget
all my deep sorrow, all my dear blood’,
love, only love, is his news.

Love is his news, love is his name,
we are his own, chosen and called,
family, brethren, cousins and kin.
Love, only love is his name.

Love is his name, love is his law.
Hear his command, all who are his,
‘Love one another, I have loved you’.
Love, only love, is his law.

Love is his law, love is his word:
love of the Lord, Father, and Word,
love of the Spirit, God ever one,
love, only love, is his word.

Our sister, Rose, is struggling to survive. The climate crisis has made the weather in her part of Kenya unpredictable. It doesn’t rain for months at a time. Rivers run dry, crops wither and die, cows, sheep and goats become weak and unable to produce milk. During these times of drought, Rose sets off every morning on a long and dangerous journey to look for water for her family. She walks under the hot sun on an empty stomach. Rose is doing all she can to give her grandchildren a happy childhood like the one she enjoyed but the unpredictable weather caused by climate change is driving her to the brink. The rain when it comes is often so heavy and relentless that it causes flooding, destroying any crops that have survived. Rose believes that God gives her strength and helps her persevere but she knows that life can’t continue like this for much longer.

In Kitui county in eastern Kenya, 8 out of 10 people grow crops for food and to earn a living. Without a reliable source of water, whole villages are facing starvation. Christian Aid, through their local partners, are helping these communities to build earth dams which capture rainwater. With a dam full of water nearby, Rose would be free from her exhausting daily journeys. She could grow vegetables for her family to eat and to sell at the market. A dam would help her withstand long droughts and relentless rainstorms. It would help her protect herself from coronavirus. It would make it possible for her to see her grandchildren grow up and live life in all its fullness.

In her message for Christian Aid Week, Revd Sally Foster-Fulton, the head of Christian Aid Scotland, speaks about the way the Covid crisis has made us realise how connected we are. It has also shown us what is possible when we put each other first. But when a crisis is not on our doorstep, we often don’t respond. We, in this country, are coming through the Covid crisis, but there is no end in sight for Rose and the two billion people across the world facing persistent threats to their livelihoods because of the climate crisis. Christian Aid is working with local partners in 29 countries to bring practical immediate solutions like the building of earth dams in Kenya. They are also seeking to introduce long term solutions like drought-resistant crops and renewable energy. And they are campaigning for climate justice, calling for changes in global policies and finance, and preparing to make sure that the voices of people like Rose are heard at the COP 26 summit in Glasgow later this year.

Sally says, ‘Too often we forget how much we belong to one another. The need is huge, but so is hope, especially if we stand together.’

This Christian Aid Week, we are invited to give, act and pray for a better world.

As we pray now for our own families and those known to us who are in need, let us also pray for Rose and all our brothers and sisters whose lives are affected by climate chaos.

We can make Sheila Erena Murray’s hymn our prayer of commitment, following the words or singing along as David plays the tune.

Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently,
nourish the life of the world in our care:
gift of great wonder, ours to surrender,
trust for the children tomorrow will bear.

We who endanger, who create hunger,
agents of death for all creatures that live,
we who would foster clouds of disaster,
God of our planet, forestall and forgive!

Let there be greening, birth from the burning,
water that blesses and air that is sweet,
health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children,
regeneration that peace will complete.

God of all living, God of all loving,
God of the seedling, the snow, and the sun,
teach us, deflect us, Christ reconnect us,
using us gently, and making us one.
(Sheila Erena Murray)

You may wish to finish your time of prayer with this Christian Aid Week prayer by Rachel Addis.

God our Mother and Father,
we praise you for the blessings you shower upon us.
Bless the lives of all our sisters and brothers
and their precious children.
In life’s saddest moments,
may we feel your love most, O Jesus.
Continue to dwell in our hearts, Lord.
May your love keep us strong. Amen.

For more information about Christian Aid’s work with local partners in 29 countries affected by Climate Crisis, not only providing immediate, practical solutions but also seeking to introduce long term solutions campaigning for climate justice, please visit www.christianaid.org.uk
For the Christian Aid Week message of Revd. Sally Foster-Fulton, click on this link: Sally’s message for Christian Aid Week 2021 – YouTube
This year there will be no doorstep collection of Christian Aid envelopes in Dunblane. Instead, donations can be dropped off at church next Sunday or at the Rectory, Meldrum’s, Charisma or Smallprint on the High Street during the week. If this is not possible, please contact John Hamilton (824552) who will collect your envelope. You could also make a donation electronically by visiting the Dunblane Christian Aid JustGiving Page. (Details of how to find it is on page 20 of the St Mary’s Magazine.) Please don’t forget to Gift Aid your donation if you can! Thank you.

Material for Worship on the Fifth Sunday in Easter

Our reflection this week for the Fifth Sunday in Easter was prepared by Rev Moira Jamieson.

Let’s listen to the gospel of John, chapter 15:1-8 read for us today by Colin.

In today’s gospel passage from John, we are reminded that Jesus is the true vine and that his disciples are those who are grafted to him. The images contained in this passage are so appropriate in this season of planting and growing. Those who are keen gardeners and those who just like to plant a few flowers in their gardens, know that without nurture, the plants will not thrive. A few weeks ago, when Sandy and I were walking our dog Brachan in the Colzium Lennox Estate, I noticed that some branches had been broken off the trees with all the recent high winds. The leaves were beginning to wither and turn brown. Lying close by were branches with no leaves on at all, probably more accurate to call them sticks! Anyway, I think we all realise that had I tried to plant either of these branches in new soil, there would be no chance of a new tree growing up from them, and that’s because the branches cannot live without being attached to the tree, and the life-giving sap which comes from the trunk and roots of the tree. This is also true of our Christian life as disciples of Jesus. If we are not grafted, or rooted, in the life of Jesus and His Father, our faith will wither and die.

Perhaps here you would like to think about the ways in which your life is rooted in God. As you reflect you may wish to look at this Byzantine icon of Jesus the True Vine. (Athens, 16th century)

Our passage this morning contains wonderful imagery and metaphors of the vine grower and his vines. Whatever the reason for using these metaphors, the image of the vine was the central focus for Jesus’ teaching that day and His use of the vine not only enabled Him to depict Himself as the true vine and His Father as the gardener, but also to depict His disciples (and us) as branches of that vine. We can assume that Jesus as a young boy, would have grown up with rabbinical teaching of the Torah, or Old Testament, and that He would have been familiar with the prophets. In the Old Testament, Israel was often depicted as a vine or vineyard and in the book of Isaiah chapter 5 verse 7 it says, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are His pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!” This verse points out that the vineyard, which was planted by the Lord of Hosts, was expected to produce good grapes and instead it produced only bad grapes, which had to be destroyed. So the metaphor of the vineyard suggests something belonging to God, which is tended by Him and which is expected in due course to yield fruit. No one can be considered a branch in the Lord’s vine unless there is a connection to Him. No one can bear fruit for the glory of God unless they are attached to the vine. It’s interesting to note that no less than six times in these verses, Jesus uses the phrase, “in me” and He is talking about a situation that is an absolute necessity for life and fruit bearing. It seems to me that Jesus is saying to us in this passage, that we cannot be a fruitful branch for the Glory of God, until we have a vital, life-giving connection to the vine. Without that connection, the “sap of life” cannot flow in us and through us. Before we can have anything else from God or with God, we must have that vital connection, which is our relationship with God. For us to have a hope of heaven and life eternal, we must first have a good relationship with God, where He is the vine and we are the branches, united in love and forgiveness

Think about what way we might, in our daily lives, show that we are rooted in God’s love?

Listen now, and sing along if you wish, to the hymn “O Jesus I Have Promised”

O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end:
be thou ever near me, my Master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle if thou art by my side,
nor wander from the pathway if thou wilt be my guide.

O let me feel thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
my foes are ever near me, around me and within;
but Jesus, draw thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.

O let me hear thee speaking in accents clear and still,
above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, thou guardian of my soul.

O Jesus, thou hast promised to all who follow thee,
that where thou art in glory there shall thy servant be;
and, Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my Master and my friend.

O let me see thy footmarks, and in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly is in thy strength alone.
O guide me, call me, draw me, uphold me to the end;
and then in heaven receive me, my Saviour and my Friend.
John Ernest Bode

We now listen to the first letter of John 4:7-21 read by Mary.

Having a good relationship with God and abiding in Him are what we, as disciples of Jesus, should be striving to do. And what does it mean to abide in Him? In our second reading from the first letter of John we heard, “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” Abiding in God therefore, means abiding in His love, and sharing that love with everyone. The letter also says that those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, abide in God and goes onto say that those who say that they love God but do not love their brothers and sisters are liars and therefore do not abide in God. In verse two of our Gospel reading, Jesus speaks of how the branches of the vine are removed when they bear no fruit. He ‘cleanses’ the branch by removing from it anything that saps its vitality and strength. Those of you who are gardeners will know that in order to produce beautiful roses every year, or a good yield of fruit from fruit trees, they need to be pruned in the Autumn and sometimes also in the spring. Anything that consumes life from the plant, but produces no flower or fruit, must be pruned away. So it is in the life of the believer. We as Christians, must not allow things into our lives that will hinder our walk with God, otherwise we are in danger of being “pruned” by Him. In order to become good followers of God, we must allow him to prune the things in us that will cause our faith to wither. After the ‘pruning’ we have a wonderful promise. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” This is our challenge this week, that we bear much fruit in the name of Jesus and bring glory to our Father in heaven. Amen.

In your prayers today, ask God to help you cling more closely to him and to his word and pray for all missionaries who spread the good news of his gospel.

Pray for families who are struggling in this time of change. The hungry, the lonely, the bereaved.

Pray for any known to you who are ill at this time and for all who care for the sick at home, in hospital, in care homes and hospices.

Pray for peace in our world and give thanks for those who seek to find peaceful solutions to conflicts. Pray for Myanmar, for Yemen, for Palestine, for Northern Ireland and for any countries where greed, injustice and violence prevail.

Pray for your own family and the family of the church, giving thanks to God for his promise to abide in us if we abide in him.

Heavenly Father, you alone can bring harmony to the minds of your faithful people. Give us grace to love the things you command and to desire the things you promise. Amen.

The final hymn this morning is “Will You Come and Follow Me.”

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown in you, and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare, should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen?
And admit to what I mean in you, and you in me?

Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell that fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around
through my sight and touch and sound in you, and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go, where your love and footsteps show,
thus I’ll move and live and grow in you, and you in me.
John I. Bell

Materials for Worship at Home on Good Shepherd Sunday

Nerys writes: Today is known as Good Shepherd Sunday because the gospel reading is taken from the tenth chapter of John where Jesus describes his ministry as that of a shepherd. Unlike cattle who are herded from behind with shouts and prods, sheep prefer to be led. In Jesus’ day, a shepherd would know each of his sheep by name and they would respond to his voice as he called them to follow him to new pasture.

As you light your candle and prepare yourself for worship, you are invited to think about people who have been ‘good shepherds’ for you. Who shared with you the love of Christ and showed you His way? Who has helped lead you in right paths or walked with you in dark valleys? Who has given you comfort and calmed your fears? Who has shown you hospitality and grace, making a place at the table for you? Take a moment to give thanks to God for them.

Our three passages from Scripture today are very closely intertwined. It’s easy to forget that Psalm 23 which is so well-known to us, was equally well-known and loved by Jesus. He would have prayed it often, acknowledging the God of Israel as his shepherd, his leader and guide, especially as he walked through the darkest valley of suffering and death. By using the image of the Good Shepherd, so familiar to his listeners, Jesus in Chapter 10 of John’s Gospel is identifying himself with God’s saving work of gathering up and caring for his flock, ready to lay down his own life for their protection. And John in his first letter reflects on this, calling his readers to imitate Christ by sharing with one another and with those in need the love he showed, a forgiving, self-giving, sacrificial love.

Listen to Hannah reading John 10.11-19 and her sister, Laura, reading 1 John 3.16-24.

The image of the Good Shepherd has captured the imagination of artists down the ages. In fact the three earliest images of Jesus, found in the Catacombs of Rome, portray him as the Good Shepherd. And over a thousand years later, artists all over the world continue to be inspired to create images of the Good Shepherd according to their own styles and cultures. As you reflect on today’s readings, you may wish to spend time with this print by the contemporary American artist Daniel Bonnell where the Good Shepherd and the Crucified Christ are one.

Today we join with many other churches across the world in keeping ‘Vocations Sunday’. In the main service in church, Godwin Chimara from Aberdeen Diocese, who is being trained for the priesthood by the Scottish Episcopal Institute, shared the story of his calling with us. You can see a video of him in conversation with Nerys below:

The Good Shepherd calls each one of us to use our gifts in God’s service wherever we are and whatever stage of life we’re at. Vocations are not limited to public ministry in the church. We are all called to ‘lay down our lives for one another’. Think back to those people who acted as ‘good shepherds’ for you. How can you be a ‘good shepherd’ for others through prayer or action? What new possibilities is Christ calling you to?

Many writers also have been inspired by the image of the Good Shepherd, including Jane Eliza Leeson whose hymn ‘Loving Shepherd of thy sheep’ was first published as a poem in 1842. It is, in fact, a prayer of thanksgiving and commitment to Christ, our loving Saviour. You may wish to make it your own by changing the pronouns to the first singular as you read.

Loving Shepherd of thy sheep,
keep us all, in safety keep;
nothing can thy power withstand,
none can pluck us from thy hand.

Loving Saviour, thou didst give
thine own life that we might live,
bought with blood and bought for thee,
thine, and only thine, we’d be.

We would praise thee every day,
gladly all thy will obey,
like thy blessèd ones above
happy in thy precious love.

Loving Shepherd, ever near,
teach us all thy voice to hear,
suffer not our steps to stray
from the straight and narrow way.

Where thou leadest we would go,
walking in thy steps below,
till before our Father’s throne
we shall know as we are known.

Here is David playing the tune.

During your time of prayer for others today, you are invited to
• pray for the nations of the world and their leaders, for the people of India suffering so badly from Covid 19 and for a fair and effective distribution of vaccines.
• pray for all those in need and those for whom the future is uncertain.
• pray for those who are suffering in body, mind or spirit.
• pray for our community and for those seeking to support our young people and the elderly.
• pray for your friends and loved ones and those you find difficult to love.
• pray for the Church, for those who serve in authorised ministry and those who support them.
• pray for the Scottish Episcopal Institute, its tutors and students, for those who are responding to their calling to ministry and those guiding them.

Merciful Father,
You gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the Good Shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again:
keep us and all your children, always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps. Amen.

You may wish to finish this time of worship by singing along to the paraphrase of Psalm 23 from the Scottish Psalter as David plays Brother James Air. (The second half of every verse is repeated.)

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 in 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 forevermore
My dwelling-place shall be.

Material for Worship on the 3rd Sunday of Easter

Nerys writes:

You may wish to start your time of worship today by listening to David playing the tune of ‘Lord of the Dance’.

Sydney Carter saw Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us to dance with him. As you follow the words, think of the pattern of this last week and especially the moments of resurrection and new life you may have experienced.

I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
and I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth;
at Bethlehem I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe and the pharisee,
but they would not dance and they wouldn’t follow me.
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
they came with me and the dance went on.

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame;
the holy people said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me on high,
and they left me there on a cross to die:

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black;
it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
but I am the Dance, and I still go on:

They cut me down and I leapt up high;
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me:
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

As you light your candle today, on the third Sunday of Easter, and welcome the risen Christ into your heart and home, bring to mind the stories that you are familiar with of his meetings with his friends and followers after his resurrection.

‘The Risen Lord’ by He Qi

I would be surprised if you managed to remember the incident outlined in today’s Gospel reading! It is not one of the well-known stories that have inspired artists and poets down the centuries. It’s understandable that it is overlooked. It is so concise and crammed full of all the different elements found in all the other stories that it is difficult to summarise it or to give it a convenient label. But I think that it is worth taking some time to unpack it and ponder the disciples’ experience. This is their story of coming to believe in Christ, this is my story. It may well be your story too …

Listen to Morag reading Luke 24.36-48.

I wonder why the disciples at first think they are seeing a ghost? Why so you think they are unable to recognise the risen Christ among them?

Could it be that they have not yet realised that a new reality has been born, shattering our limited human understanding of life and death, spirit and matter, of who God is and how God works?

Did you notice that it is through seeing his wounded hands and feet, feeling his flesh and bones, eating the broiled fish with him that the disciples recognise Jesus? It is through experiencing an intimate encounter with him that the risen Christ becomes real. And, as all the possibilities of this new divine reality dawns on the disciples, their fear turns to joy.

And yet they are still disbelieving and wondering. They need Christ to open their minds so that they know that all that has been written about the Messiah had now been fulfilled. It is not an academic or intellectual understanding that they are given. They don’t have all the answers – so much is still a mystery – but now Scripture makes sense. Deep in their hearts they know that they have been given new life in relationship with Christ. They failed their teacher and friend so many times and they will fail him again, but they know now the freedom of forgiveness as they begin to live the resurrected life.

‘You are witnesses of these things’, declares Christ as he promises to clothe them with God’s power and instructs them to share who they are and what they’ve experienced with all nations, starting in Jerusalem. We are not told by Luke what the disciples thought and how they felt at this point but one of our other reading today gives us a good idea of how they responded. John’s letter, probably written in Ephesus a hundred years later, shows that the early Christians, still living with their questions and doubts, continued to be faithful to their calling to be witnesses despite the cost, and that the risen Christ continued to be present and active among them.

Listen to Margaret reading 1 John 3.1-7.

Just as the risen Christ was to his first followers and to the Early Church, he is to us now:

Christ our loving God, longs to meet us wherever we are so that he can become real to us – a living presence in our lives.

Christ longs to free us from the faults and fears that hold us captive, to give us peace and deep joy in the midst of the challenges of our lives.

Christ longs to open our minds to possibilities beyond our human understanding, to make sense of the past and to fill our hearts with hope for the future.

Christ longs for us to become witnesses of his forgiveness and his unconditional, limitless love.

Christ longs for us to testify through our transformed lives, through our hunger for justice and our concern for those in need that He is alive in us.

And Christ longs to clothe us with resurrection power, the power of God’s loving spirit within us.

Take a moment now in the presence of the risen Christ to reaffirm your relationship with him and to rejoice in the freedom of his unconditional love.

You are invited to pray for all those who are locked in today, adding the names of those you know and situations you are familiar with.
For all in our own community who are still shielding because of frailty or medical conditions,

For those who are trapped by addiction or mental ill-health,

For those who are isolated by hurt, loneliness and grief,

For those whose lives are limited by poverty and insecurity,

For those in coercive or violent relationships,

For all those across the world who suffer because of oppressive regimes,

For those caught up in situations of armed conflict, in natural disasters, drought or famine,

For all those who are imprisoned justly or unjustly,

For prisoners of conscience,

For refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in holding camps,

For those sold into slavery and trafficked,

For those who are forced to worship in secret,

For those struggling with unhelpful understandings of God,

For those beset by anxiety and self-doubt,

Loving God, help us to respond with compassion to those who call out and those who are silent.

In the name of the risen Christ, Amen.

You may wish to finish your time of worship by listening to David playing the tune of Edward J. Burns’ hymn, ‘We have a Gospel to proclaim’

We have a gospel to proclaim,
good news for all throughout the earth;
the gospel of a Saviour’s name:
we sing His glory, tell His worth.

Tell of His birth at Bethlehem,
not in a royal house or hall
but in a stable dark and dim,
the Word made flesh, a light for all.

Tell of His death at Calvary,
hated by those He came to save,
in lonely suffering on the cross;
for all He loved, His life He gave.

Tell of that glorious Easter morn:
empty the tomb, for He was free.
He broke the power of death and hell
that we might share his victory.

Tell of his reign at God’s right hand,
by all creation glorified.
He sends his Spirit on his church
to live for Him, the Lamb who died.

Now we rejoice to name Him King:
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
This gospel-message we proclaim:
we sing his glory, tell his worth.

Material for Worship on the Second Sunday of Easter

In today’s reading from St John’s Gospel, writes the Venerable Peter M Potter, we are still at the first Easter Day, but it is now evening and the scene has shifted to the upper room where the disciples have taken refuge.

When it comes to matters of faith and doubt, C. S. Lewis advocated embracing the most plausible hypothesis currently available to us. Importantly, this means we do not have to look for absolute certainty. Religious commitment is essentially about faith, which, in its turn, is a matter of trust in the plausibility of its claims.

Hymn: Now the Green Blade Riseth, CP153. As you follow the words, listen to the tune played by David .

Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain,
Thinking that He never would awake again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain,
Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain;
Quick from the dead the risen One is seen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Jesus’ touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

A prayer of confession
In baptism we died with Christ,
so that as Christ was raised from the dead, we might walk in newness of life.
Let us receive new life in him as we confess our sins in penitence and faith.
Like Mary at the empty tomb,
we fail to grasp the wonder of your presence.
Lord have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Like the disciples behind locked doors
we are afraid to be seen as your followers.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Like Thomas in the upper room
we are slow to believe.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Collect

Almighty God, in your great goodness, grant that we, as pilgrims through the Easter mysteries, may hold them fast in our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

Readings
Acts 4.32-35 (read by Margaret)

John 20.19-31 (read by Les)

Reflection

There’s not much I can do about it now, I suppose. Not after all these years. But, you know, it really isn’t right. I mean, every time my name is mentioned – Thomas. Oh yes, people say – Doubting Thomas.
Why me? The other disciples didn’t get it at first, did they? When the women came back from the tomb in the garden, they didn’t believe what they’d told them. But nobody says Doubting Peter or Doubting Andrew, do they? Why not? It doesn’t seem fair. The name has stuck. Even in India – you know I travelled to India in those early days, preaching the Gospel? The name travelled with me and they even called their Church after me: The Mar Thoma Church.

Doubting Thomas… I mean, what would you have done? You saw him die on the cross, didn’t you? But then, in the upper room … I knew it was him. He said to me, “Put your finger here … reach out and put your hand in my side”. But I didn’t need to. I knew it was not a hallucination or a ghost. It really was him. Alive.
And there was something else. Oh, it was him all right. The one we had walked the length and breadth of the country with, gone fishing with, shared bread and wine with. But there was something else now. When Mary saw him in the garden, she called him “My teacher”. But no, in the upper room there, he was more than that. “My Lord and my God!” That’s what I called him and that’s who he is.
And no, I don’t mean I had turned this man who was our rabbi, our teacher, into a god – the way the Romans do with their dead emperors. He really is God. Now I come to think of it, when he walked and talked with us before he was – you know – crucified; well, it was like God walked and talked with us. Not that we realised it then of course. But that’s how it was. The one with us was the same as the Lord God who walked and talked with the first humans in the Garden of Eden.
So, I don’t know what came over me there, in the upper room. It was like some power had got hold of me and I blurted out the name of God. You know, the name we’re not supposed to say. I had seen God – like Moses; you could have touched him – like Jacob, who wrestled with him. Because that’s who Jesus is. Walking and talking with us in the cool of the evening – ah yes, the Garden of Eden. That’s what he is doing. Recreating and restoring it. Getting it back to how it was between us before it all went wrong. No wonder Mary mistook him for the gardener.
He was doing all this so we could be at one with him – an atonement, if we’re being precise about it. Think of the locks on the door of the upper room that evening. Didn’t stop him, did they? What about the wounds in his hands and feet? “I’ve still got them. You can touch them if you like?” That’s what he said to me. But those wounds didn’t stop him either, did they? Still at one with us.
You know – all this time; for centuries since we lost that easy-going close feeling of being at one with God, we’ve been trying to keep him at arm’s length – been afraid of him as if he were a bad-tempered parent; or we thought we were too big to hold his hand anymore; or we thought we knew better then him. What a shame, what a waste.
How often have you said to yourself – if only we could get it back; if only it could be like it was. When we really could be at one with God – not have that nagging feeling inside us that something’s wrong between us, something’s keeping us apart. But we can. We did. That’s what suddenly hit me there in the upper room. Jesus had been with us on the roads, in the fields. We had eaten and talked together; all natural and completely at one, even if we didn’t always get it. And there he was – my Lord and my God. It was me who said it first – for all to hear. They got the message.
And you call me doubting!

Prayers of Intercession
We pray for a world where many put their trust in force, weapons, oppression….. Open the way to freedom so that the peace of Christ may prevail among nations and in the hearts of all.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Grant to us, our families, friends and neighbours the grace of the Resurrection. Break through the closed doors of our fear and doubt. … Give us confidence to face the challenges of daily living.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Grant to the Church the wisdom to know and power to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection. … May her ministers be strong in the Holy Spirit to bring pardon and healing in the name of Jesus.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Have mercy on all who suffer persecution for their faith, who must meet in secret and cannot worship openly. … Give them strength in their need and the knowledge that they are not alone.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Remembering that our risen Lord still bore the scars of his suffering, we pray for anyone for whom life is difficult just now. … Be close to them, grant them courage and healing.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
We pray for the departed, especially those who have died recently and our loved ones whom we see no longer. … May they know our risen Lord in the fullness of his glory and may we share with them in his promised blessing.
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
We make our prayers together with those of the saints triumphant in heaven, through your Son Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Closing hymn: Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord, CP136. As you follow the words, listen to the tune played by David.

Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord,
Alleluia, alleluia, give praise to His name.
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
He is the King of creation. Refrain.
Spread the good news o’er all the earth.
Jesus has died and has risen. Refrain.
We have been crucified with Christ.
Now we shall live forever. Refrain.
God has proclaimed the just reward:
Life for all men, alleluia! Refrain.
Come, let us praise the living God,
Joyfully sing to our Saviour.
Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord,
Alleluia, alleluia, give praise to His name.

Material for Worship on Easter Day

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Happy Easter to you and your family!

As you light your candle today, what about saying out loud the joyful words of the Gloria:

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.
Amen.

You may also wish to read the words or sing along as David plays the tune to a version of the Easter Proclamation.

Sing, choirs of heaven! Let saints and angels sing!
Around God’s throne exult in harmony!
Now Jesus Christ is risen from the grave!
Salute your King in glorious symphony!

Sing, choirs of earth! Behold, your light has come!
The glory of the Lord shines radiantly!
Lift up your hearts, for Christ has conquered death!
The night is past; the day of life is here!

Sing, Church of God! Exult with joy outpoured!
The gospel trumpets tell of victory won!
Your Savior lives: he’s with you evermore!
Let all God’s people shout the long Amen!

Nerys writes: There’s nothing more frustrating than spending many hours on a jigsaw puzzle only to discover that there is a piece missing – or is there? Can you imagine coming to the end of a good novel, a whodunnit perhaps, to find that the final page is lost? This is what many scholars think has happened to Mark’s Gospel. They believe that its end is missing, that the last leaf was torn off a very, very early copy and that alternative endings, based on the other Gospel accounts, were added by later editors. As you listen to Martin reading Mark 16.1-8, think how being left with this ending makes you feel.

I wonder whether this image from the Jesus Mafa series conveys for you the mood of the scene as depicted by Mark? Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome are bathed in the light that radiates from the angel but their surroundings are dark and bleak. We can understand their amazement. The had come to the tomb looking for a dead body but had found a living angel instead. They hold on to their now useless spice jars, their eyes wide as they listen to the heart-stopping news: ‘He has been raised; he is not here.’

What’s not as easy to grasp in Mark’s account is their fear. At a time when all hope had gone, these followers of Jesus are given a promise of new hope. Returning to Galilee means leaving Jerusalem with its terrible memories behind. It means a new beginning in the place where they were first called to discipleship. And surely, the words, ‘He is going ahead of you: you will see him’, would have been a cause for joyful celebration rather than terror. Why would these courageous, determined women who had stayed at the foot of the cross and ventured to the tomb, be rendered fearful and speechless by the angel’s words?

Could it be because in the midst of their grief and despair, they had been brought face to face with the shocking, disturbing reality that all Jesus had claimed was true? God was not dead but very much alive and was now at work in a new way in their lives bringing them to new birth, challenging them to overcome their fear and doubts, calling them to undertake the difficult task of spreading this revolutionary message of hope by returning to a hostile Jerusalem. It is no wonder they were overcome by fear and reduced to silence.

The abrupt ending of the Gospel encourages us to imagine how we would have responded if we were in their shoes. Let’s take a moment to do so now.

I wonder how the blank at the end of Mark’s story was filled in the gatherings of the early church? Would eye-witnesses have been called upon to give their testimony of the risen Christ, like those named by Paul in his letter to new Christians in Corinth? Our second reading today, 1 Corinthians 15.1-11, read by June, reminds us that the foundation the faith of the church is built upon is that message of hope first given to Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome, that God raised the dead Jesus to new life, defeating evil and death once and for all. It was on this message of hope that Peter, Paul and countless others down the centuries founded their ministries. The unexpected way Mark’s book finishes, encourages us to explore the faith that motivated the leaders of the early church, but it also challenges us to think of our own faith. As Easter people, do we take the empty tomb for granted or do we find ourselves, like the women, awestruck at this strange new work of God? You may wish to take a moment to wonder where Christ is now going ahead of you and what part he is calling you to play in his ministry and mission, among your family and friends and in your community.

On this Easter Day, we offer up our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows to God who is alive and at work in our world.

Let us pray,
• for our world and all its people …
• for all in positions of authority and influence …
• for those in need …
• for the who are suffering …
• for the Church which is Christ’s body …
• for ourselves and those we love …
You may wish to finish your time of worship by reading the words or singing along as David plays the tune to the joyful Easter hymn , .’Jesus Christ is risen today’.

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
now above the sky he’s King, Alleluia!
where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!