Wednesday 23rd September 2020.

Thought: Back in August I spoke about Cain’s response to God when asked about his brother Abel, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper.’ In other words, Cain was saying to God, ‘I’m not responsible for keeping watch over him.’ I’m sure most of us have been saddened, perhaps even alarmed, by reports of a resurgence of the Covid 19 virus. While we all knew there were risks in easing of the lockdown and a return to some kind of normal life, I’m sure we had all hoped that it could be done without a fresh rise in infections. However, it is clear that the virus still poses a serious threat to health and life. As I thought about how long this might go on it reminded me of the difference between a one hundred metre sprint and a marathon. It seems that coping with this virus will be a marathon rather than a sprint and, like marathon runners, we will all need to pace ourselves to run the race of looking after ourselves and others for a long time to come. Which won’t be easy, especially when we had all begun to think we could relax a little, but we all need to continue being our brother’s and sister’s keepers. Being careful and observing the rules on social distancing and meeting together for however long this race lasts. I’m sure the day will come when we can again meet, shake hands, and give one another hugs and, what I also long for, the day we will all be able to worship and sing together. However, we haven’t reached the tape just yet so, we have to keep running the race, trusting in God, and looking out for one another. God bless. Stay safe. Morris

Prayer: Father, we are disappointed that the crisis is still with us and yet, we knew that this was not going to be a short race. Strengthen us for the task of caring for ourselves and others as we face the challenges ahead. Grant wisdom to all those who make important decisions about how to deal with the virus. Those whose lives are disrupted by the rules, people who miss socialising, those made unemployed or unable to work. Parents coping with insufficient childcare and teachers and youngsters facing up to the new rules at school. We thank you for carers and medical staff, for families and neighbours keeping others safe and well. Be with the sick, the dying and the bereaved that they may know your presence and your peace. Hold us all in your love and grant that we might continue to support and help one another in these difficult times. For we ask it in and through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Sunday 20th September 2020 – 16th After Pentecost.

Approach: ‘The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. Psalm 145: 8- 9 (N.R.S.V.)

Hymn 465: 1. Be thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that thou art; thou my best thought in the day or the night, waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

2. Be thou my Wisdom, be thou my true Word; I ever with thee, and thee with me, Lord; thou my      great Father: thine own I would be; thou in me dwelling, and I one with thee.

  3. Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight; be thou my dignity, thou my delight, thou my       soul’s shelter, and thou my high tower; raise thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

  4. Riches I heed not, nor earth’s empty praise, thou mine inheritance, now and always; thou, and thou only, the first in my heart, High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

  5. High King of Heaven, after victory won, may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun! Heart of  my own heart, whatever befall, still be my Vision, O Ruler of all Irish, 8th century. translated Mary Elizabeth Byrne, revised Eleanor Henrietta Hull.

Prayer: Almighty and eternal Lord God, in this new day we rejoice again that we are your children, forgiven, loved, and free through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Keep that vision of your grace and love revealed in him before us always. Forgive us when we fix our gaze on lesser things and try to find satisfaction in life apart from your love and presence. Be in our thinking and surround us with the light of your presence by day and by night. Grant your Spirit to direct what we say and keep us true to your Word, Jesus Christ. Remind us that we are one with you, our gracious, heavenly Father. When life is difficult keep us true and strong in faith, with our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the beginning and fulfilment of our faith. Lord God it is in your grace and love that we find fulness of life and in Jesus Christ that we see the truth about life in your presence and love. Keep us in that truth that we might know your love and may serve you and our neighbours with grace and love. Until, having won the victory of life through Jesus we might know the joys of dwelling with you forever. For we ask it in and through Jesus Christ, our Lord, to whom with you Father, and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, be all praise and glory now and forevermore. Amen

Readings: St. Matthew 19: 16 – 20: 16.

Sermon:  In today’s gospel Jesus told a parable about a landowner who went out early in the morning and hired day labourers to work in his vineyard. Those men worked hard for him all day. However, as the day progressed the owner went out and found men who had no work and hired them as well. He did this at nine o’clock, then again at noon, at three o’clock, and he did the same again about five. When evening came and it was time to pay them, he paid those hired later a full day’s pay even although they had only worked a part of the day, and some only a few hours. He then paid the same to those who had worked hard throughout the whole day. They began to grumble and became jealous and angry feeling that, if they others had a full day’s pay, then they deserved more because they had worked longer, and through the heat of the day. However, the landowner refused reminding them that they had received their full pay as agreed. He pointed out that he could be generous if he wanted. He then took them to task that instead of being thankful they showed no gratitude for his generosity which paid everyone the same so that they all had a decent day’s pay come evening.

Of course, this parable doesn’t make economic sense because it is a parable about the grace of God who doesn’t reward us with what we deserve but from his grace and love and the background to the parable is about those who think that they deserve God’s grace and love. Earlier in the gospel there is the story of the rich man who came to Jesus. An example of someone who was first in wealth and perhaps even first in observance of religious law. He came to ask what he needed to do ‘to have eternal life’ or to deserve eternal life. He went away sad because he was unable to give up his wealth, position, and perhaps even his view of his own goodness, to follow Jesus. After this we read that the disciples began to wonder what they would get, and Peter reminded Jesus that, unlike the rich man, they had actually left everything to follow him and asked him if they would get what they deserved. Jesus reassured them that in following him they would be rewarded abundantly. However, he then told them the parable about workers some who worked all day and deserved a day’s pay, and others who only worked a few hours and obviously didn’t deserve a full wage but who were all rewarded the same out of the landowner’s generosity. A parable that teaches that even those who work the hardest and the longest in the Kingdom of God don’t deserve more but that all are rewarded from the generosity of God’s grace and love.

As an example of economics and employment this story can be found wanting but it isn’t about economics, or even fairness. It is a story of God’s generosity, grace, and love to those who don’t deserve them but find them because they have flung their lot in with Jesus. We also need to remember that the parables are stories about us. So, who might we be in the story? Are we like the rich man, wealthy in goods and religious zeal, or the disciples who had given up everything to follow after Jesus? Or are we like the workers who have toiled long and hard in the Kingdom? There again perhaps we know that we are more like those who started work towards the end of the day who have received more than we can ever deserve. The fact is that no one can earn or deserve God’s love. It is a free gift to faith in Jesus Christ through whom God in his generous grace and love gives us more than we can earn or ever deserve. We can only thank God and try to treat one another with that same generosity of spirit and love. Remembering that, while the world thinks in terms of what people deserve, in the Kingdom of God it all depends on God’s generosity of grace and love. Thanks be to God and to his name be all praise and glory now and forevermore. Amen.

Prayer: Lord God, we cannot earn, we cannot deserve your love. We cannot win heaven climbing the heavenly slopes by our own efforts. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we learn of your grace and love, discover that we are forgiven and can know that fulness of life that he came to bring. Grant us true humility of heart, spirits open to your prompting and the generosity of spirit that forgives others and has compassion on them as we are forgiven and loved by you. We pray for those who face further lockdowns and uncertainty because of fresh outbreaks of the virus, for those who are sick, and those who are dying. Bless the staff who care for them, relatives who watch and wait, and the bereaved. Lord it is easy to criticise leaders in government, the health service, and the emergency services but help us to see the good that is done and to be supportive of all those struggling with difficult decisions. Grant wisdom, clearness of expression and honesty to all those entrusted with positions of authority and power. We pray for all whose lives are limited by war, poverty, or violence. For refugees and migrants seeking a better life and grant us generosity of spirit and a welcoming compassion. We thank you that Aberlour has found a new minister and pray that the years ahead may be blessed and fruitful. Guide all the churches in these difficult times, grant unity of spirit and purpose that we all may faithfully serve you in our communities and the wider world. For we ask it in Jesus’ name and in his words pray together saying: The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn 159: 1. Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided, urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way, sought us and saved us, pardoned and provided, Lord of the years, we bring our thanks today.            

2. Lord, for that word, the Word of life which fires us, speaks to our hearts and sets our souls ablaze, teaches and trains, rebukes us and inspires us, Lord of the word, receive your people’s praise.                 

3. Lord, for our land in this our generation, spirits oppressed by pleasure, wealth and care; for young and old, for commonwealth and nation, Lord of our land, be pleased to hear our prayer.                        

4.Lord, for our world; when we disown and doubt him, loveless in strength, and comfortless in pain; hungry and helpless, lost indeed without him, Lord of the world, we pray that Christ may reign.             

5. Lord, for ourselves; in living power remake us, self on the cross and Christ upon the throne; past put behind us, for the future take us, Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone. Timothy Dudley Smith.

Blessing: The blessings of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rest upon you, remain with you, and with all those you love, now and forevermore. Amen

Wednesday 16th September 2020.

Thought: The other day I was listening to the wireless – I can’t get used to calling it the radio – and an inspiring story of forgiveness and reconciliation. The story began in 1972 in Londonderry in Northern Ireland at the height of the ‘Troubles’ there. A boy of 10 called Richard Moore was running home from school for his lunch. His route took him past a Police Station guarded by soldiers which was under attack by a mob. The captain in charge, Charles Innes, fired a rubber bullet to disperse the crowd. He hit no one in the crowd but the round continued and struck young Richard in the face. He was blinded for life.

It would be understandable if Richard had become bitter and angry with a hatred for the man who had fired the bullet. However, Richard refused to let what had happened colour his life and he grew up feeling no hatred for the soldier. He went on to become a successful businessman and director of the charity Children in Crossfire which helps children all over the world. Years later Richard Moore and Charles Innes met and developed a deep friendship and respect for one another.

In his letter to the Romans St. Paul wrote, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ (Romans 8: 28 N.I.V.) Richard said that, while he would not have wished to be blind, it has brought many blessings into his life that he did not think he would have had without his blindness. It is also true that many others have been blessed through Richard and his charity work. In a situation where violence and revenge were widespread and in a world in which we so often hear of hatred and a desire for revenge I find him a truly inspiring example of how a refusal to hate, true forgiveness and a desire for reconciliation can bring great good out of the worst of events. Without knowing anything about his faith I also believe that God has worked with Richard to bring great good out of what could have been a life-destroying tragedy. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Father, our Lord Jesus Christ taught that when someone hurts us, we should not respond with a desire for revenge or the intention to inflict a similar harm on them. Instead we should break the cycle of ‘an eye for an eye’ by turning the other cheek, by refusing bitterness and hatred, and learning how to forgive as we are forgiven. We confess that this isn’t always easy and ask that you will help us to resist the temptation to get our own back and show us how to live at one with our neighbours. We pray for reconciliation where there is division, peace where there is war, and compassion where there are any in need. Amen.

Further prayer points: Thanks that Aberlour has been blessed with a minister and pray for Andrew Kimmitt and his wife as they prepare to move north. For strength and guidance in the continuing crisis. For pupils, teachers, parents, and all those coping with the Covid restrictions. For all those who are sick, for those awaiting tests or treatment. For peace and release for all who are victims of poverty, abuse, violence, or war.

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Thoughts from Morris (David today) Sunday 13th September

Call to Worship: Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes: its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought, and never fails to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Praise:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Joining in glad adoration. 

Praise to the Lord, Who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shieldeth thee gently from harm and when fainting sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy heart’s wishes have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy shall daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
Who with His love doth befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.  
Joachim Neander translated by Catherine Winkworth

Prayer:   Our Father in heaven, we thank you that although we cannot meet together physically we can come to you in the Spirit of Christ, united with you and with one another. We thank you that you have promised if we draw near to you, you will draw near to us. We praise you for your presence with us.

As buds open up to the light and warmth of the sun, we open our hearts to the light of your truth and the warmth of your love. Guide us by your truth, and warm us by your love.

Lord you are the most Holy God, but our lives continually fall short of your will for us. In times of difficulty we find it hard to trust you, and worry and fear take over. So we lose the gift of your peace. We let down others through our careless living and thoughtless words. We fail to love one another as you have commanded us. 

We thank you that Jesus took our sins upon himself when He died for us upon the Cross. So we are assured that as we confess our sins you forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

Through your grace and mercy help us to make a new start in our walk with you, and to give ourselves to serve you. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Reading: Genesis 7:1-10; 8:1-5 & 18-22

Reflection:   I’m looking at the story of Noah today and relating it to the times we are going through. Noah faced a challenge when God told him to build an ark, probably far from the sea, and fill it with his own family and representatives of all the animals and birds. Was he going to trust God and obey Him, and risk being a laughing stock among his neighbours and all who passed by? “Why are you building a boat here,” they must have asked. “Are you out of your mind?” But Noah did trust God, and obeyed the command he had been given. We know the story well. The rains came down, the floods rose up, and Noah was vindicated in his faith. 

I wonder what it must have been like in the ark? Smelly and unpleasant, I imagine, and they would have been continually mucking out! I imagine they were close-packed together too which could have been very stressful. Noah hadn’t been told how long they would be in the boat, and they would be wondering if they had enough food to last out for the animals. I worked out that they were in the ark for more than a year, but they didn’t know that then. It was a time of uncertainty. 

The times we are living in are not unlike this. These are times of uncertainty too. It is a time of waiting, and nobody knows for how long. We are deprived of our usual freedoms as the inhabitants of the ark were too. We may have thought the situation was easing for us, that we were slowly getting out of lockdown, but only today as I write some restrictions have been tightened. Restrictions that were to be lessened remain as before. We are living through a time of difficulty and uncertainty. It is proving stressful for many people.

But Noah had a deep and rich resource to draw from! In this situation he trusted in God. His trust was already vindicated as the ark had proved their lifesaver. The floods did come and only his crew, made up of his family and all the animals, were saved. 

Early on in the coronavirus, a friend shared the verses of scripture used earlier in today’s Call to Worship. It tells us that when we trust in God and put our roots down deeply in Him, we need not be worried “in a year of drought”. The metaphor changes from flood to drought, but you get the point. Despite all the uncertainty and the difficulties we can draw from the rich resources we have in Jesus Christ who is Lord of every circumstance. We can have peace of heart and mind as well! Isaiah tells us: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose mind is steadfast, because they trust you. Trust in the Lord for ever……”(Isaiah 26:3-4). We can even be fruitful as Christians during these testing times – the tree by the waters never fails, even in the year of drought, to bear fruit.

Our trust is based not on ourselves but on God and His faithfulness. So let us during this time of difficulty and uncertainty trust in His love and faithfulness, and as a result know His peace in our hearts. And let us also persevere in living fruitful Christian lives as we are called to do.

And God did remember Noah and his motley crew. Eventually the ark came to rest on a mountain top, and after another long wait God told them to exit the ark. They were to make a new start, and replenish the earth, with the promise of God’s faithfulness in the future. He made a covenant with them and signed it with a rainbow, a symbol of reassurance as well as hope. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, blessed be your holy name. We praise you for your love and faithfulness towards us. You allow us to go through difficult and uncertain times but we thank you that you can use them to develop our perseverance. So strengthen us and guide us as we renew our trust in you. We thank you for your promise that the work you have begun in us “you will carry on to completion on the day of Christ Jesus”. 

Hear our prayers for others:

We thank you that the scare of coronavirus coming to the Lossie Primary School, and to Aberlour via the Grantown Abattoir have proved unfounded. We pray for those who have been infected in Grantown, and for the people of Grantown that they would be kept safe

For all who are made anxious, stressed or lonely through the unusual times we live in, that they would turn to you for strength and comfort

For all who are able to help and befriend those who are anxious, stressed or lonely that they would be responsive to their needs 

For those who have had their treatment for other illnesses delayed because of coronavirus that they would be helped

For the NHS and all who work for it facing so many pressures and needs; for those who make decisions about priorities

For those in other lands who face an even worse spread of the pandemic, along with drought or other extreme weather caused by climate change

For those who live on the Pacific Coast of the USA made homeless by the raging forest fires, and for all who help them. 

Now let us remember in quietness anyone it is in our hearts and minds to pray for…………………………… Bless them with your healing and strengthening presence we pray.

Father we gather these our prayers together and offer them to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen

Now let us say the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father……..”

Hymn

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father, There is no shadow of turning with thee

Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not, As thou hast been thou forever wilt be

Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see, All I have needed thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me

Summer and winter, springtime and harvest, Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above

Join with all nature in manifold witness, To thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love

Great is thy faithfulness……

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside

Great is thy faithfulness……

Thomas O. Chisolm

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face, may the rain fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand. Amen.

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Thoughts from Morris (David today)    Wednesday 9th September 2020

Prayer: 

God our Father, we bless you this new day; for all you have given us in your creation, in each other, and most of all in Jesus Your Son. Thank you for sunshine, for laughter, for human company, for daily food and drink, and all that brightens up our day.

Let it be our heart’s desire to draw near to you, to express our love for You, to listen for your voice and follow your leading. Help us put our roots down more deeply in you, that our faith and love may grow and our hope in Christ be strong.

As we think of the fears and worries that sometimes get us down, may we turn in deeper trust to you  that you may fill our minds with good things and lift us up again. We ask these things through Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord. Amen.

“A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged Him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said, “Be clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. (Mark 1vv40-42)

Jesus touched the leper. 

He didn’t keep his social distance.

He ate with sinners and tax collectors.

He drew alongside people;

took children in his arms.

He didn’t keep his social distance.

God drew near to us in Jesus;

led Him to the cross to die; 

to bring us to God again;

and also to one another.

He didn’t keep his social distance.

What would Jesus have us do about social distancing? It goes against the grain for us as Christians, or simply as human beings, to keep our distance when the gospel is all about God bridging that distance and drawing close to us in love. Our love for others which he asks of us instinctively urges us to reach out to others, drawing close, sometimes with a handshake or a hug. We are Christ’s hands we say, and we know how important human touch can be.

But with coronavirus around we have to go against that Christian grain, unnatural though it may seem, and restrain that impulse. Why? Because Jesus taught that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. We know that by keeping a two metre distance we help to stop the virus spreading, and so protect others and ourselves. This then is the loving thing to do. 

I notice people becoming less and less careful over social distancing. Perhaps they think the virus has gone, which it hasn’t. Or that it doesn’t affect us here in this part of Scotland or of Moray. There has sadly been an outbreak of covid19 at Grantown-on-Spey. People travel there each day. 

To disregard the guidelines is to act selfishly or carelessly. We need at the present time to observe the guidelines, and so love one another as ourselves – even if it means restraining our Christian and very human impulse to draw near and touch. In this way we are loving our neighbours and ourselves.

We can show love from a distance. God’s love can easily bridge a two metre gap – through speech, through a smile. Love can bridge a much further distance through a telephone call, a letter, a Zoom conversation and by other means. 

That is the power of God’s love. On one occasion Jesus healed 10 lepers standing at the required distance from Him. He did so by a word. His love crossed the distance. And he healed the servant of a centurion from a distance too (Matthew 8 vv 5-13) when the centurion didn’t think he was worthy of Jesus visiting his home. So we can keep by the guidelines, keep our social distance, knowing that the love of God can bridge the distance we keep. This is the love that was demonstrated in the Cross, a love which by the Spirit’s power has crossed the distance of the centuries, to reach us and transform our lives. 

Prayer  Please take time to pray now or later. Pray in your own words; pray naturally. Here are some possible subjects: 

Thanks for Andrew Kimmit’s service on Sunday. Pray for him and our congregations and parish that we would find the right way forward from here.

Give thanks for Morris and Jan, and for Morris’s faithful ministry to us.

Give thanks that the Aberlour butcher shop is open again after the staff coronavirus tests proved negative. 

Pray for the people of Grantown that the virus there be contained.

Thank God for His love that can cross every divide. Pray for us all that we would keep our social distance from others, yet communicate God’s love and friendship across it.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Reminder: Please remember to fill in your ballot paper and send it off!

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Thought from Morris (David today!)

On Sunday the 6th there will be no ‘Thought’ posted but the Rev. Andrew Kimmitt (Sole ​​​​Nominee) will preach remotely for the congregation.

​​This can be viewed on aberlour.video/solenominee from 11.00 a.m. on the 6th.

“In the Church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch) and Saul….” Acts 13v1

Morris has focused on racism before and I want to continue on that theme today. In our area we see many people of different nationalities and also a few of other ethnicities. It is important that Christians set a lead in extending friendship to both.

Recently we heard of the shooting (7 shots in his back) of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin, USA. He is now paralysed from the waist down but thankfully still alive. His mother, who incidentally is against the destruction caused by non-peaceful protestors, made the following appeal:

Citizens, police officers, firemen, clergy, politicians, do Jacob justice on this level and examine your hearts. We need healing. As I pray for my son’s healing physically, emotionally and spiritually, I also have been praying even before this for the healing of our country. God has placed each and every one of us in this country because He wanted us to be here,” she continued. “Clearly, you can see by now that I have beautiful brown skin. But take a look at your hand and whatever shade it is, it is beautiful as well. How dare we hate what we are? No one is superior to the other. The only Supreme Being is God Himself. Please let’s begin to pray for healing for our nation. We are the United States, have we been united?” 

Some time ago Maureen and I were in Dundee and looked for somewhere to get a bite of lunch. We finished up in an African Restaurant, where all the staff were of African origin. We really enjoyed being there, being served by the staff and enjoying the food. But much as I liked it I had a moment of feeling a little uncomfortable. I had never been in such close proximity to so many black people before! 

I’m sure we can all experience the fear of the unknown when we are confronted by a different race or culture. Unchecked this can easily grow into racial hate. As Jacob’s mother pleaded, “Search your hearts”. Let’s do so honestly and ask God to eradicate any trace of racism we find there. 

The scripture quoted above describes a meeting of leaders in the early Church in Antioch. Notice the meeting was multi-racial.  Simeon called Niger means Simeon the Black. There is a Church in London called Holy Trinity Brompton where the congregation is over 40% black, which is roughly the same ratio as the population of London. But they have recently become very aware that their leadership team is all white. They are repenting of this and making it their aim to have an integrated leadership in the next year or two. They are convinced that in the body of Christ, the Church, we need to do everything together. For in Christ there is neither black nor white.

Prayer: God, our Father, we praise with all our hearts that you that you sent to us Jesus Christ your Son, and that through Him we have been reconciled to you and to one another. We pray that you would impart this truth deeply in our minds and hearts, and that as your Church might rejoice in our salvation and display the unity you came to bring. 

As we search our hearts may your Spirit expose any prejudice or hint of racism that is in us, so that we may bring it to your light and let you eradicate it from us. Forgive us and help us we pray.

We pray that racism may be banished from our shores, and all would be respected and treated as equals, each one made in the image of God; that humankind may rejoice in their differences, cease from the oppression of one race by another, and learn to live together in harmony. 

As we look forward to Andrew Kimmitt leading worship and preaching this coming Sunday, we ask you to bless him and guide him as he prepares. May your Spirit guide us also as we take part, and later vote or decide whether to  concur with the call. We pray you would prepare the future for him and for ourselves. May your blessing also rest on our locum minister Morris, his wife Jan and their family as they spend time together this week. 

We ask all these things in Jesus name. Amen. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, now and always. Amen.

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Sunday 30th of August 2020 – 13th After Pentecost.

Intimations: 1: I will be on holiday from Monday 31st August until Monday 14th of September. Pastoral cover will be provided by the Rev. Geoff McKee 01343 208852

2. Thoughts on Wednesday 2nd and 9th and on Sunday 13th will be provided by the Rev. David Anderson.

 3. On Sunday the 6th there will be no ‘Thought’ posted but the Rev. Andrew Kimmitt (Sole          Nominee) will preach remotely for the congregation This can be viewed on aberlour.video/solenominee from 11.00 a.m. on the 6th.

Approach: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. (Galatians 5: 22 – 23 N.R.S.V.)

Hymn 113: 1. God the Father of Creation, source of life and energy, your creative love so shapes us that we  share your liberty. Teach us how to use this freedom loving children all to be. *

  2. Jesus Christ our Lord and brother, in your cross we see the way to be servants of each other, caring, suffering every day. Teach us patience and obedience never from your path to stay.

  3. Holy Spirit, love that binds us to the Father and the Son, giver of the joy that fills us, yours the       peace that makes us one, teach our hearts to be more open as we pray God’s will be done.

4. Members of our Saviour’s body, here on earth his life to be, though we stand as different people, may we share your unity of the Father, Son and Spirit, perfect love in Trinity.

            *The last line of each verse is repeated. Iain D. Cunningham.

Prayer: Almighty and eternal Lord God, we rejoice that you, the Creator of all things, call us in love to know that we are your beloved children, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who sets free from the past and the sins that separate us from your love to know the fulness of your salvation and love.

Forgive us that so often we take that freedom for granted and think that we can prove to you, to ourselves, and to others just what good, kind people we are. Sometimes we are, yet, Lord, we know that so often we are fooling ourselves by thinking that we can earn that love and salvation that our ours through Jesus Christ, our Lord. We know that we are still guilty of the sins that denied him, rejected him, and sent him to the cross.

We confess that we still fail you, our Lord Jesus Christ, and others through the things we say and do. Forgive us and, by your Holy Spirit, grant us truly repentant hearts and minds, the will, and the strength to do things differently. Set us free again to be more like the people you would have us become in Christ Jesus, our Lord, that we may show his love, compassion, and goodness to all those we meet. To the glory of your most holy name. For we ask it in and through Jesus Christ, our Lord, to whom with you, Father, and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, be all praise and glory now and forevermore. Amen.

Readings:  Romans 8: 9 – 17; St. Matthew 16: 21 – 18.

Sermon: ‘’You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.’ Romans 8: 9N.I.V.)

There’s a story I often tell about a Religious Education teacher who was discussing the various churches in town with her class. She asked one girl if she went to the local church. To which the girl replied, ‘Oh no Miss! In our family we’re a different abomination’. Mrs Malaprop couldn’t have made a more comic muddle of words.

I once had a conversation with someone who was concerned about her son. She began, ‘Oh Mr Smith it’s terrible, my son has changed his religion.’ After a minute or two I found out that, although her son had attended Sunday School at the parish church, as an adult he had never attended church much at all. However, once married, he and his wife were regular attenders at the church in which they had been married. Eventually the woman was able to see that her son had not changed his religion but simply joined a different denomination from the one in which he had been baptised and grew up.

People often used to make the mistake of muddling up religion and denomination and, with all the different doctrines and religious practices between the denominations, we can see how someone might think they are different religions. In today’s reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans he offers us a definition of what it means to be Christian,

‘’You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.’ (Romans 8: 9N.I.V.)

Paul’s definition immediately takes us beyond the level of differences in denomination, history, culture, colour, or religious practice to the spiritual level by defining a Christian as someone who has the Spirit of God within. Because, while there may be many things in which Christians differ in belief and practices, at the heart of it all the Christian is the one whose life is directed by the Spirit of Christ. The German theologian Dietriech Bonhoeffer wrote about what it means to be a Christian and said this, ‘To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, and to make something of oneself by one’s own efforts but it means to be the person that Christ creates in us by his Spirit.’  

Bonhoeffer makes several important points. The first is that someone is not a Christian because they belong to a particular denomination or worship in a certain way. The second is that someone is not a Christian because they try, however hard, to be good and holy person. Instead they are Christian when they cooperate with the Holy Spirit working in their heart, mind, and spirit helping them to become more Christ-like. As St Paul reminds us later in his letter, ‘For all who are led by the Spirit are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.’ (Romans 8: 14-16. N.R.S.V.)

The Holy Spirit is the gift of God who reminds us that in Jesus Christ we are set free from the slavery of trying to be good, holy people and church members, of whatever denomination, to be the full children of God Christ would have us become, people the Holy Spirit is helping to learn how to show fruits of the Spirit in all of our lives. To God’s name be all praise and glory now and forevermore. Amen.

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father, we praise you for all that you have done for us in Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. In him we are a new creation, the past is forgiven, and we have newness of life, life that will be eternal.  Lord Jesus Christ in you we see the fulness of the Father’s love and the example of what it means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves. Grant that we may know the power of your Holy Spirit to direct, suggest, and strengthen us to live our lives to better reflect your love, compassion, and service.

We pray for those who have never heard the gospel and the Good News, for those who are deaf to it, and for those who deny its attraction. Help us, and all Christians, to share the Good News in all that we say and do with everyone we meet that they may see in us the truth of the gospel and come to know your love.

We pray for those who are bound by addiction, greed, and selfishness, that they might be set free for new life. Set free those whose lives are limited by poverty, abuse and violence, grant help for refugees and asylum seekers and help us all to see past words of rejection and difference to the need of the neighbours who come to our shores.

We pray for children and teachers coping with new ways of working, those in Aberdeen and elsewhere where the virus has spiked. Grant healing to the sick, common sense and a concern for the health and well-being of others in those freed from the lockdown restrictions. Be near to the dying, comfort the bereaved and grant that peace that is beyond our understanding and strength. For we ask it in Jesus’ name and in his words pray together saying: The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn 489: 1. Come down, O Love Divine, seek out this soul of mine, and visit it with your own ardour glowing; O Comforter draw near, within my heart appear, and kindle it, your holy flame bestowing.

 2. O let it freely burn, till earthly passions turn to dust and ashes, in its heat consuming; and let your glorious light shine ever on my sight, and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

3. Let holy charity my outward vesture be, and lowliness become my inner clothing; true lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part, and o’er its own short-comings weeps with loathing.

4. And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long, shall far out-pass the power of human telling; we cannot guess its grace, till we become the place wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling. Bianco da Siena/ Richard Frederick Liiledale.

Blessing: The blessings of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rest upon you, remain with you, and with all those you love, now and forevermore. Amen

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Wednesday 26th August 2020.

Thought: ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ St John 6: 35 N.R.S.V.

I remember many years ago preparing breakfast for our two young daughters only to discover that we had run out of bread. I told the girls they couldn’t have toast and quick as a flash one of them said, ‘That’s all right daddy, I’ll just have bread instead.’ We still laugh about it. When I was young there wasn’t access to the crisps, sweeties, and juice there is today. Our fallback was bread and I can still remember running in from playing to ask my mum for a jam piece to keep me going until teatime. These were also the years when multi-story flats were being built and we loved the ‘Jeely Piece Song’ which created ludicrous images with its, ‘O ye cannae fling pieces oot a twenty storey flat.’ Bread was an important part of our diet, as it is for millions around the world today.

Jesus used that idea of bread as an essential of life to speak of himself as the equally essential part of our lives, ‘the bread of life’. Words that remind us of the Last Supper when Jesus passed bread to his disciples saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ (St. Luke 22: 19 N.R.S.V.). Words that we hear at every service of Holy Communion. We have all probably eaten bread, in some form or other, today but have we fed on that essential of our lives, Jesus, the Bread of Life? For it is only as we feed on him in faithful Bible reading, reflection, prayers, and discipleship that we find food for our spiritual hunger and through our faith in him have our thirst for new life met. Whatever else we fill the hours with today let us all take time to feed ourselves on the ‘Bread of Life’ that we may grow into fulness of life through him.

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father we thank you for the food that we will eat today, food that gives us strength and energy, food to feed our body and our minds. We thank you for Jesus who has called us to follow him and through faith in him, the Bread of Life, we discover food and drink for our souls and strength for faithful living. For the new life that we have in him we give you thanks, for the faith that, in him, we see your love for all people we give you thanks, for the promise that, in him, we will be raised up to eternal life we give you thanks. Grant that we may always feed on him and serve him as faithful disciples in all that we say, do, and are, to the glory of your most holy name. Help us to play our part in sharing the Good News that those who hunger may be fed and those who thirst may drink from the fountain of life. Until every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. For we ask it in and through Him, to whom with you Father, and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, be all praise and glory, now and forevermore. Amen.

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Sunday 23rd of August 2020 – 12th After Pentecost.

Approach: ‘The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10 – 11 – 13 N.R.S.V.

Hymn 512: 1. To God be the glory, great things he has done! So loved he the world that he gave us his Son, who yielded his life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in. Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear his voice! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice! Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son, and give him the glory! Great things he has done!

  2. O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood, to every believer the promise of God; for every  offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives. Chorus.

3. Great things he has taught us, great things he has done, and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son: but purer, and higher, and greater will be our joy and our wonder, when Jesus we see. Chorus.             Frances (Fanny) Jane Crosby.

Prayer: Lord God, we glorify your name for all that you have done for your children. In creation we see the work of your hands and the more we discover about the universe and the earth the more we are amazed at its wonders.  Most of all we rejoice that in Jesus Christ we see your love for the world and your children. We can only glorify your name that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us and that in him we are forgiven and offered new life, life that is eternal.

We confess that too often we take the easy route and fail to seek out the narrow path that leads to life. That too often we confess the same sins time after time, are quick to put our opinions, but slow to listen to others so that we can fail to share their laughter or their tears. In your great love forgive us, make us more able to hear and to care for those around us, to confess Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, not just with our lips, but in our love and compassion for others. Help us in this new week to walk in his ways, to share his love and to be his faithful disciples, to the glory of your most holy name. For we ask it in and through Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

Readings:  Romans 12: 1 – 8; St. Matthew 16: 13 – 20.

Sermon: ‘But who do you say that I am?’ (St Matthew 16: 15 N.R.S.V.)

In today’s gospel Jesus and his disciples are in the region of Caesarea Philippi which was an area filled with temples and shrines to pagan gods and a great temple to the Roman Emperor Caesar, named by Herod’s son Philip, to distinguish it from Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. It was there that Jesus chose to ask his disciples two questions. The first was to ask who people said he was, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ They replied that some people thought he was John the Baptist, others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets and we could spend a long time looking at the meaning of those great figures of faith. However, it is the second, personal, question, that is more important, ‘But who do you say I am?’ Peter was quick with his answer, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ A statement of his faith that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, come to set God’s people free and to save them from all that had enslaved them for so long. It was a response of faith that eventually became the gospel message of the Church for the whole world.

Jesus’ question is also as relevant for us today as it was then because it is personal question that doesn’t allow the answer to be fudged with what others say or believe because it ask us about our own personal faith in Jesus. ‘But who do you say that I am?’ If they think about that question at all, many people might say that they believe Jesus was a very special person, a healer, a preacher or story-teller, that he died in a terrible way, even that he was the greatest man that ever lived. But would they be able to take that step of faith to say that for them he is their risen, living, Saviour and Lord? The one through whom we are all saved from our own folly, ignorance, and stupidity, from the sins that so easily ensnare us. Saved not just once but again and again so that we can say that he is our Saviour, yesterday, today, and forever. Can we also confess that Jesus Christ is our Lord; the one in whose service we dedicate our lives? The one we confess as Lord with our lips and equally the one we confess as Lord in the way we try to live our lives by his teaching and example.

In his letter to the Romans Paul wrote, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ (Romans 12: 2). By which he means that we shouldn’t go along with the world, although often that might be the easier way. Instead we are to be different from the world around us. Which is something we all find hard don’t we? Because there is a lot of pressure to conform; to accept the social customs and habits of the day. Paul says that we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds, which sounds awfully complicated, but what he is saying is that the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we act should change from the inside out so that we learn what God wants from us in word and action. Equally Paul meant that it is no good confessing Jesus as our Saviour and Lord with our lips unless we confess him as Saviour and Lord in our actions as well. As St Francis of Assisi put it, ‘It’s no good walking somewhere to preach unless we preach as we walk.’ Or to use a modern idiom we must, ‘Talk the talk and walk the walk.’  So, let us go into this new week not conforming to the ways of the world but transforming them with Jesus’ love so that wherever we go and whatever we do we answer Jesus’ question by confessing him our Saviour and Lord in our words and actions.

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father Jesus’ question to his disciples makes us stop and think. It makes us realise again that our faith must always be more than words and feelings but compassionate, caring actions as well. We pray for those who so often are forgotten and neglected. For those whose struggle to survive has been made much more difficult because of the recent lockdown and restrictions. For those unable to work, pay their rent, or buy food. Those who fear the threat of eviction, or a return to living on the streets. We pray for wise decisions and compassion from governments, councils, and landlords. We thank you for all the ways that people are helped and pray that the care shared during the pandemic may become the compassionate norm in our villages, towns, and cities. We pray for those under renewed lockdown or restrictions, for those who fear being made redundant, and for those who have lost their jobs. We pray for all those involved in check and trace, those self-isolating, and pray that everyone may learn to act responsibly for the benefit and safety of others. We pray for governments everywhere trying to balance economic recovery with easing of restrictions, and for pupils and teachers coming to terms with the new kind of working in schools. Be especially near to those pupils and teachers who have contracted Covid19, grant healing, peace, and an awareness of your presence. Grant that your love may dwell in our hearts as we cope with these difficult days, grant security and welcome for asylum seekers, refugees, and those driven from their homes by war, climate change, and poverty. These prayers we ask in Jesus’ name and in his words pray together saying: The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn 519:

1.Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down, fix in us thy humble dwelling, all thy faithful mercies crown. Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art; visit us with thy salvation, enter every trembling heart.

2. Come, almighty to deliver; let us all thy life receive; suddenly return, and never, never more thy temples leave. Thee we would be always blessing, serve thee as thy hosts above, pray, and praise thee, without ceasing, glory in thy perfect love.

3. Finish then thy new creation: pure and spotless let us be; let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee, changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise. Charles Wesley.

Blessing: The blessings of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rest upon you, remain with you, and with all those you love, now and forevermore. Amen

Wednesday 19th August 2020.

Thought: ‘In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’ St. Matthew 7:12. N.I.V.

This saying of Jesus is often referred to as the Golden Rule. While it can be debated that this can be taken as an all-sufficient guide for daily living, it certainly gives a handy ‘rule of thumb’ for behaviour. In the recent pandemic we have seen a tremendous amount of caring from the medical services, and friends and neighbours reaching out to help one another. Quite literally ‘doing to others what they would like done to them’. In contrast we have also seen a great deal of selfishness from those who have done what they wanted to do despite the nuisance, and the risk to the health and well-being of others. I have no doubt that were the situation reversed these same people would be quick to complain that they were being abused and dis-respected.

As I thought about this it seemed to me that such behaviour is a symptom of a more widespread lack of respect for the environment, and for other people. This can show in a careless littering and destruction of the environment, locally and globally. It can also show in a lack of respect for someone because of their colour, gender, nationality, religion, culture, or education. Because they are poor, young or old, sick, mentally ill, or simply different. A lack of respect for others that can be seen in all nations and at all strata of a society. There are also politicians and leaders in many countries today who seem to have little respect for anyone who does not serve their purpose or their political aims and advancement. In many ways there seems to be a loss of respect for others and Jesus’ words remind us that, whatever our place in the world, what we do to others should only be what we would find acceptable for them to do to us.

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father we thank you for the many different ways that respect for the environment and human life and well-being is seen in the world. We thank you for all those whose respect for the earth shows in campaigns about climate change, destruction of the environment, wild habitat, and the creatures with whom we share the earth. We thank you for all those whose respect for others is shown in their skills in caring for and preserving human life. For those whose respect leads them to campaign for justice for the abused and the ill-treated, liberation for the oppressed, refugees and asylum seekers.  We pray for a greater respect for the environment and for our fellow human beings in our thinking, our conversations, and in our actions. For respect from the leaders of the nations for their own people and for the peoples of other nations. A desire for peace and greater sharing of the earth’s resources that all may come to know they are valued and respected. For we ask it in and through Jesus Christ, our Lord, to whom with you Father, and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, be all praise and glory now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday 16th of August 2020 – 11th After Pentecost.

Approach: How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head…. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore. from Psalm 133 N.R.S.V.

Hymn 193

Prayer: Lord God, we rejoice in the variety of human beings, for all the different races, colours, and languages. We thank you for the truth of your love for each and every one revealed in Jesus Christ, our Lord. In him we see your self-offering, sacrificial love for your creation and the creatures you have made. Love that restores and reconciles and creates new life. Forgive us where thoughtless discrimination creates divisions in our relationships with others, where we allow differences to blind us to the truth that your children are all different and all to be valued. Forgive us where we fail to hear or respond to another’s need, where we are too quick to condemn and too slow to forgive. Help us to be realistic in our relationships yet always to look for the good in others, to build them up where we can, and to forgive as we are forgiven. Grant that we might learn to share Jesus’ compassion and love and through him learn more of what it means to be children of God. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Readings:  Isaiah 56: 6 – 8; St. Matthew 15: 10 – 28.

Sermon: ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ (St Matthew 15: 26 N.R.S.V.)

I once asked a group in a Bible study, ‘What religion was Jesus?’ Almost immediately the answer came back, ‘Christian of course!’ Then they remembered that Jesus was actually Jewish. In today’s reading from Matthew he seems to be at his most exclusively Jewish when he rejects the plea of a Canaanite woman who had come to him asking for help for her daughter. He even went as far as to call her a dog. Words so shocking to hear from Jesus’ mouth that scholars have tried many ways to explain them.

Some have said Jesus was deliberately forcing the woman to the point of faith, others that the word he used for ‘dogs’ was actually that used for a child’s pet and not the street curs that the insult would normally imply. While these explanations may be correct, I’m afraid neither work for me. In a plain reading of the text Jesus first of all totally ignored the woman, then he deliberately refused to help her because she was a foreigner, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’. Then, when she persisted, he called her whole race dogs, ‘It is not fair to throw the children’s (Children of Israel’s) food to the dogs.’ It is a shocking story and we cannot imagine that Jesus would ever have said those things to anyone.

But, I think, it is possible he meant to shock. He meant to shock the disciples who saw the woman only as an embarrassing nuisance they wished to get rid of, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ So, Jesus obliged and proceeded to try and get rid of her as the disciples had asked. Only he did it in such a way that he highlighted where any kind of discrimination ends up. To understand this, we need to remember that at the start of the chapter we are told Jesus and his disciples had been involved in controversy with some Pharisees. The Pharisees were an exclusive group of the ultra-religious within Judaism. They were punctilious in their religious observance but the problem with such an exclusive group is that it tends to focus on excluding those who do not fit the criteria for membership.

The disciples, and Jesus, had obviously failed to meet their standards, and as a Canaanite and female the woman would certainly never have been accepted. Jesus initially refused her request for help on racial grounds. He said he had been sent only to the Jews, then on religious grounds because the word he had was only for Israel and it wasn’t fair to toss that to foreign dogs. However, when she persisted, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table’, Jesus praised her faith and granted her plea, “‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” Her race, her gender, even her religion had no bearing it was what was in her heart that counted. As Jesus had earlier taught his disciples after a debate with the Pharisees about eating food with ritually unclean hands, ‘Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.’

I think Jesus’ words to that woman are also meant to shock us into a greater awareness of how the way people are thought about and talked about can easily lead to being deaf to their voice and treating them as of lesser value. Heather Heyer, the young woman run-down by an enraged driver during protests in Charlottesville a few years ago had a favourite saying about racism and discrimination, ‘If you are not outraged, then you’re not paying attention.’ Jesus’ treatment of that woman rightly shocks us, but we should also be shocked and outraged at the way refugees, asylum seekers, the poor, victims of racial discrimination and those perceived as different are often ignored, discriminated against, and treated as of lesser value. Too often their voices are ignored, their needs are unanswered and, as Christ’s Church, we must surely stand with them, and speak for them, until their voices are heard, and their needs and human rights are met. Our final hymn reminds us that, ‘In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.’  In God’s grace we pray for the day there will be peace and love throughout the world and rejoice that we are called to be part of that ‘great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.’

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father we thank you that Jesus called ordinary, fallible people like us to be his disciples and that, empowered by the Holy Spirit, he gave them the task of taking the Good News to the whole earth. We pray that the Church throughout the world may be faithful to that mission and that we may always seek to share the gospel in our words and actions, to seek peace and harmony, but stand against discrimination and racism, and uphold all those who are weak and vulnerable. We pray for peace and justice on earth, for peace for those who have known years of conflict, for those who have fled their homes to seek asylum in another country, and for those in refugee camps on the borders of a different country. We pray for all those who are abused and discriminated against because they are seen as different. Strengthen all those in the world striving to be recognised and heard, for those imprisoned because of their protests, and for families waiting for news of a loved one. We remember the end of the war against Japan and thank you for the peace that was achieved through the sacrifice of others. Be near to those with Covid19, to all those sick at home or in hospital. Grant healing to the sick, comfort to their families, wisdom to governments struggling to contain the virus and maintain economies, and responsibility in safeguarding one another. We pray for all victims of accident and remember especially the families of those killed and injured in the train crash in Aberdeenshire. These prayers we ask in Jesus’ name and in his words pray together saying: The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn 624:

Blessing: The blessings of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rest upon you, remain with you, and with all those you love, now and forevermore. Amen

Wednesday 12th August 2020.

Thought: You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Galatians 5: 13 – 14. N.I.V.

I’m sure most of you will have heard the story of the man who was released after many years of imprisonment. As the prison door at last clanged shut behind him, he started to run down the street in sheer joy shouting, ‘I’m free! I’m free! I’m free!’ A wee boy playing in the street scornfully shouted after him, ‘So what? I’m four!’

The recent easing of the lockdown has been a great release for many people, allowing the freedom to get out and about to do some of the things they enjoy. However, for others it has meant the freedom to run wild ignoring the safety and health of others. Last week I asked the question, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ and this week’s Thought is the related topic of freedom.

We all like our freedoms and we can feel restricted when those freedoms are curtailed. However, freedom for us must also consider the freedom of others, and in the exercise of freedom we must be prepared to set limits or, as we have seen on the news, it risks becoming a selfish and uncaring ‘free for all’. St Paul reminds us that as Christians we are set free from the rules and regulations of the old-style legalistic kind of religion. However, he then reminds us that we are set free for the greater responsibility of serving one another which means that, out of love for others, we must willingly set limits on our freedoms of word and action. Because, as St Paul also reminds us, ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’ 1 Cor. 13: 4 – 7 N.I.V.

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father we thank you for all the freedoms that we enjoy in our faith and in our lives. In faith we are called freely into your service through Jesus Christ, our Lord. In him we see the way to be free in love and service of the weak, the poor, the rejected, and the despised. Help us to be more careful of the needs and feelings of others, careful how we use our wealth, talents and powers and help us to be willing to limit our own freedom for the sake of others. We pray for those whose freedom is limited by government, by war, poverty, sickness, or the actions of others. We pray for justice, peace and freedom for all those denied it in the world, for those whose freedom is limited because of addiction, vice, or character, for those imprisoned by sickness or incapacity, that they may be set free for a life in which they can more fully realise their potential as children of God. For we ask it in and through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who set us free to ‘love the Lord your God with all our heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ (St Luke 10: 27 N.R.S.V). Amen.

Sunday 9th of August 2020 – 10th After Pentecost.

Approach: For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9: 6.

Hymn 721

 Prayer: Lord God, we rejoice in the beauties of the world you have made, from the myriad stars in the night sky to the tiniest wayside flower. When we consider all these things we wonder and rejoice at your love for each and every one of your children. Yet we are so often shocked and saddened by what we see or hear. Things that happen to people here and elsewhere, tensions between nations, dangerous words from politicians, wars and talk of wars, poverty and hunger, oppression, and violence.  Alongside all that we constantly watch and listen to reports of the pandemic, how it is still claiming lives around the world, and how it is still a danger here as well. Father, we bring it all to you, our laughter and tears, our hopes and fears, our strengths, and our weaknesses, and ask for your peace in our hearts and our lives. Forgive us where we are part of the problems of our world and encourage us to see where we can be part of the solution. Grant that we might share your peace and love in the world. By your Spirit, we may be filled with life and strength, love, hope, and trust. For we ask it in and through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, to whom with you Father, and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, be all praise and glory, now and forevermore. Amen.

Readings:  St. Matthew 5: 1 – 16.

Sermon: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ (St Matthew 5: 9 N.R.S.V.) I have known for many years that ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer. I also remember hearing that it could be an explosive, but, like millions of others, I was stunned and shocked by the sheer scale of the destruction it caused in Beruit. It is incredible that the authorities allowed something so destructive to be stored at the port for so long apparently without proper safeguards. I can understand the shock and anger people feel at such destruction and our prayers must be with the people of Beruit and Lebanon. However, it is also worth remembering that 75 years ago the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima, and on Nagasaki were many times more destructive than the explosion in Beruit, and modern atomic weapons are potentially many times more destructive than those early bombs. For generations now humanity has lived under the shadow of the ‘Bomb’ and nuclear war, and arguments are made both for and against having a nuclear deterrent. However, one of the stories I like is of a wee girl from Hiroshima called Sadako. She survived the bomb on her city but 10 years later the radiation caused her to develop leukaemia. At the hospital the nurses used to fold the children’s medicine wrappers into little origami figures. Sadako’s favourite was the crane which in Japan is a symbol of hope. Legend has it that if someone hopefully and faithfully folds a 1000 origami cranes their wishes will be granted. Sadako began to fold cranes each time praying that she would get well, until one day she realised she wasn’t going to recover. So, she changed her prayer to ask for peace for all victims of war. She folded 644 cranes before she died at the age of 12 and, when people heard her story, children all over Japan and around the world began to fold origami cranes and send them in their thousands to Hiroshima. A Peace Monument was built and on top of its tower there is a bronze statue of a little girl with her arms stretched to the sky with a golden crane in her hand. Below thousands of garlands of colourful paper cranes hang representing the prayers for peace of children all over the world. Sadako was only 12 when she died but the tower is still there, and cranes are still hung there from children all over Japan and the world. I find that story a moving reminder of the suffering caused by war and humbling that a dying girl’s prayers for peace have spread to children all around the world. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ Let us pray for the people of Beruit and Lebanon, like Sadako, for peace for all victims of war, for peace in the world, and, as children of God, may we always seek to share peace in the world. Sadako’s story shows again that even tiny actions can have unseen results and peace in the world is something in which we can all play a part. As the words of an old hymn put it, ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.’

Prayer Points: Please pray for the people of Beruit and Lebanon as they come to terms with the massive explosion in the port, for the people of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Japan marking 75 years since the atomic bombs were dropped. Pray that world leaders may have a greater desire for cooperation and peace. For asylum seekers and refugees and for all those seeking peace and security for themselves and their families. I also invite you to use the following words from the Prayer of St Francis as a personal reflection and prayer.

  1. Make me a channel of your peace. Where there is hatred let me bring your love; where there is injury your pardon, Lord; and where there’s doubt true faith in you.

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

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

3. Make me a channel of your peace. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, in giving of ourselves that we receive; and in dying that we’re born to eternal life. Chorus. Sebastian Temple. From the Prayer of St Francis.

            The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn 715: 1. Behold the mountain of the Lord in latter days shall rise on mountain tops above the hills, and draw the wondering eyes.

2. To this the joyful nations round, all tribes and tongues, shall flow; up to the hill of God, they’ll say, and to his house we’ll go.

3. The beam that shies from Zion hill shall lighten every land; the King who reigns in Salem’s towers shall all the world command.

4. Among the nations he shall judge; his judgements truth shall guide; his sceptre shall protect the just, and quell the sinner’s pride.

5. No strife shall rage, nor hostile feuds disturb those peaceful years; to ploughshares men shall beat their swords, to pruning hooks their spears.

6. No longer hosts, encountering hosts, shall crowds of slain deplore; they hang the trumpet in the hall, and study war no more.

7. Come then, O house of Jacob! come to worship at his shrine; and, walking in the light of God, with holy beauties shine.  Paraphrase 18. Scottish Paraphrases 1781.

Blessing: May the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep guard over your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Lord, and the blessings of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be upon you, remain with you, and with all those you love, now and forevermore. Amen.

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Wednesday 5th August 2020.

Thought: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Genesis 4: 9b; St. (N.R.S.V.)

I recently heard a report on the news in which Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, said that she had been moved to tears when she heard of, or saw, people flouting the rules on protection and social distancing after the ‘lockdown’ was eased and bars and restaurants were re-opened. The results of this can be seen in the resurgence of the virus in Aberdeen and in various other places throughout the country. Especially in northern England where lockdown has had to be re-imposed to try to halt a fresh spread of the virus. Some people have also marched against the rules, protesting at what they see as an infringement of their personal freedom and rights. As I thought about this, a question from the early chapters of the book of Genesis came to mind, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Words that I’m sure you will recognise as Cain’s answer to God when he asked about Cain’s murdered brother Abel. A response in which Cain is really saying to God, ‘Why ask me? I’m not responsible for my brother.’ Which seems to me to be the attitude of those who flout the rules designed to help us all ‘keep’ one another safe. Thankfully, most people understand that we all need to be our ‘brother or sister’s keeper’ in this pandemic, and also in many other situations where people are sick, weak, or vulnerable. The principle which underpins the NHS, on which a loving family, a caring society, and world, are built is that we look out for, that we love, one another.  Cain’s question is as relevant today as when it was written, ‘Am I my brother’s/ sister’s keeper? A question we answer every time we are careful to protect or respond to the needs of others and when we put Jesus’ commandment into practice, ‘This is my commandment that you love one another, as I have loved you.’ St. John 15: 12 (N.R.S.V.)

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father we thank you for the many positive ways that people respond to the question, ‘Am I my brother (and my sister’s) keeper’. In the skill and care of healthcare professionals, through the work of governments and civil servants, local authorities, and emergency services. In the love of families, the way neighbours care for one another and the opportunities we all have to help others through the many aid agencies and charities. Help us all to answer Cain’s question with positive prayer and support of one another, both near and far. We pray for a greater understanding and a wider vision for those who flout the rules and are careless of responsibility for others. Grant wisdom to the powerful, generosity to the wealthy and a greater sense of responsibility and love for one another for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Sunday 2nd of August 2020 – 9th After Pentecost.

Approach: O God, you search me and you know me. All my thoughts lie open to your gaze. When I walk or lie down you are before me; ever the maker and keeper of my days. You know my resting and my rising. You discern my purpose from afar, and with love everlasting you besiege me: in every moment of life or death, you are. Hymn 97: vv. 1-2 Bernadette Farrell

Hymn 465: 1.

 Prayer: Lord God, we pray that you will always be our Vision, that you will always be the source of our lives and direct every thought we have and every word we utter. Forgive us when we make other things the heart of our lives and go astray following other paths. Grant us Wisdom and forgive us when we hear your Word but ignore it and fail to listen to the voice of your Spirit within. We praise you that you are our strength and our shelter and our power for living. Yet we confess that too often we do value the riches of earth and its empty praise. Forgive us and restore us so that you may always be first in our hearts and the treasure of our lives. Lord God as we walk the road of life and faith keep us to that narrow path that our Saviour walked and grant that he may always be our Vision by day and by night until our travelling days are done and we are fully one with you. For we ask it in Jesus name. Amen

Readings:  St. Matthew 8: 1 – 4.

Sermon: I’m sure we’ve all seen the magician’s trick in which his assistant enters a tall cupboard, the door is shut, and with some magic words and flourish the door is opened and she has disappeared. However, there is an easier way to make someone disappear just stick label on them. The label might be their colour, religion or culture, sexual orientation, nationality, illness, or an addiction and, before we know it, it isn’t the person we see but the label that has been put on them. People can even disappear behind the labels young and old. We hear some young folks doing things they shouldn’t and suddenly all young folks can disappear behind the same label. Elderly folks can also disappear behind the label of their age. I was given a poem when I was training for the ministry and it has always stuck with me. It is the voice of an old woman talking in her head to her nurse, ‘What do you see nurse, what do you see? A crabbit old woman, not very wise, uncertain of habit with far away eyes, who dribbles her food, and makes no reply, when you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try!” Who seems not to notice the things that you do, and forever is losing a stocking or a shoe. Who, unresisting or not, lets you do as you will, with bathing, and feeding the long hours to fill. Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see? Then open your eyes nurse, you’re not looking at me.’

We can all make people disappear behind the labels of our own prejudice or experience and they can become almost invisible because we see the label and not the real person. Like the man in today’s gospel who was a leper, an outcast, an untouchable, someone to be avoided at all costs. Daring everything the man came to kneel at Jesus’ feet, which was far too close by the rules of the day, and asked Jesus if he was willing to help him, ‘A leper came to him begging him and kneeling he said to him, “Lord, If you are willing you can make me clean.” There were clear social, medical, religious, and cultural reasons why Jesus might not have been willing to cure the man, contamination, infection, and being tainted as religiously unclean. But feeling great compassion for the man Jesus stretched out his hand and actually touched him saying, ‘I am willing. Be made clean.’ Jesus didn’t deal in labels but looked behind the label to the real person and his need. God doesn’t see labels either; he sees real people, the real children of God who live behind the labels.

Recent events in America and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests around the world have highlighted the labels put on black people. This has had the effect of making us all more aware of the many different labels that can so easily be put on people which hide the real children of God behind them. The last verse of the poem about what the old lady is thinking makes that point: ‘The body it crumbles, grace and vigour depart, and now there’s a stone where I once had a heart. But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells, and now and again my battered heart swells. I remember the joy, I remember the pain, and I am loving and living life over again. I think of the years all too few, gone so fast, and accept the stark fact that nothing can last. So open your eyes nurse, open and see, not a crabbit old woman, look closer, see me.’ Someone once said, ‘Labels are for tins, not people.’ People can disappear behind labels but Jesus’ compassion and willingness to reach out, touch, and make the leper clean teaches that God doesn’t see labels but only people he loves. It is that kind of compassionate reaching out and touching, even at great risk to themselves, that we have seen in those who care for and seek the healing of those seriously ill with Covid19. Thank God for them and let us pray that we all may learn to see through the many different labels that are used to hide the real people behind them.

Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father we read how Jesus was compassionate and willing to see behind labels to the needs of the man he touched. We pray for all those who are labelled and ignored, who are treated as less worthy of respect, care, and love. For women and men who are judged on their looks, by their wealth, or only by the job they do. We pray for those who have fallen into the trap of living behind labels whose lives are lived in pursuit of trying to be what others think they are. We pray that they may find that fountain of life in which they can know the deeper meaning of life and discover the depths of your love. We pray for children who lose out on their potential through poor education, poverty, and neglect. We thank you for all those who reach out to help them, the homeless, the lonely, and the dispossessed, for those working with refugees, and asylum seekers. For medical staff caring for the sick, and the dying. For victims of Covid19, and for all the ways that people have reached out to support one another. Grant that this may continue as things ease down and the crisis passes. Be near to all we know who are finding life difficult, those who are growing older, those who face changes in the lives they have known, those who are sick, and those who mourn the loss of a loved one. Grant integrity and compassion to all governments, as they cope with the after-effects of this crisis. A greater coming together, a refusal to hide people behind labels and a greater desire for peace and justice. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen. The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn 724

Blessing: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you, and with all those you love, now and forevermore. Amen.

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