Welcome, Cheviot churches and also those joining us from elsewhere. We worship together on this 5th Sunday of Easter.
• Yetholm (10am) and Morebattle (11.15) are now open for worship every Sunday.
• The podcast of this service can be accessed on the Podcast page of the website, or by clicking HERE
• A video of the service will be posted on Gordon McInally’s YouTube page by Sunday early afternoon (Gordon's page can be accessed by clicking HERE), or via the Video page of the website.
• The moderator has a service - HERE
• Christian Aid Week is from 9-16th May. Anyone willing to distribute envelopes, please contact Trish Gentry. There will be a quiz on Saturday 8th and an online service to mark 75 years of Christian Aid on Sunday 9th May at 6.30pm. Details on the Christian Aid Scotland website - HERE
• Colin is enormously grateful to everybody who sponsored him in the Kiltwalk. He has raised £1,445 (which will be topped up buy the Hunter Foundation).
• We are encouraged to light candles every Sunday evening at 7pm. Prayers are to be found on the Church of Scotland website.
Call to Worship
Come apart from your busyness.
Come and reconnect with God.
Remain in him and grow.
Grow closer, grow deeper.
Grow and be fruitful.
Come and glorify God!
Hymn 154 – O Lord, my God
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord, you are the vine, and we are the branches.
Your love is our strength.
Your energy is our joy.
Your attentiveness is our hope.
Your power can transform even the most difficult situations. You nourish our faith and imaginations so that we can bear fruit in many ways. You promise we can dwell in you because you are dwelling in us.
We gather today to offer our praise to you,
and bring glory to God the Father, through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Fill us with love,
so that our love will honour you each and every day.
We confess there are so many ways we fail to love you fully.
Forgive us for our lack of reverence for the earth
and for using up more than our share of its resources.
Forgive us for ignoring the cries of others
who know pain or discrimination.
Forgive us for seeking praise from others
yet failing to encourage them in their endeavours.
Forgive us, O God, and root our lives more deeply in your love.
Jesus died and rose again for you.
In humble penitence receive his pardon,
receive his peace.
Readings – Acts 8:26–40
Hymn 463 – Fairest Lord Jesus
Everlasting God, we ask that you would bless us here at Cheviot Churches with vision for the future and reverence for the past. Help us to remain in You the true vine, so that You can remain in us. Help to bear much fruit and guide us each day as we minister to one another and to our community; always mindful of your amazing love for us. Amen
As many of you may be aware, I spent several years working in the Holy Land. Part of my remit was to interact with local groups and especially the Palestinian Christians. But I also was involved with pilgrims, people coming from many lands to visit sites associated with the Bible, with Christ. It was a different type of ministry, because often the pilgrims were just passing through - there for a few days or even a few hours or even just a few minutes, and you had to make the most of the little time you had. But it was amazing how often we found connections. People we knew or places or situations we shared. It was a special time.
I was thinking about it when I read the passages for today. In Acts 8 we read the story of the Ethiopian, whom Philip met on the road to Gaza. They only spent a short time together, but in that short time the Ethiopian’s life was completely turned around and he was baptised. Then they both went their separate ways.
Philip was one of the disciples. Like Andrew, he had a Greek name and that seems to give a clue, for in preaching the Good News, he went beyond the local Jewish population in Jerusalem. Just before this passage in Acts, Philip had been evangelising among the Samaritans, and we know the Samaritans were regarded with suspicion. What the rest of his friends thought of Philip’s activities we can only guess. But then suddenly the Spirit seems to inspire Philip to head for Gaza, and there he came across a wealthy man in his chariot, reading a scroll – he must have been wealthy to own a scroll, especially of Scripture.
Just by looking he would have guessed the man was a foreigner, and indeed he turned out to be a high-ranking official, the treasurer no less, of the Ethiopian Queen. But he was also a eunuch, and the book of Deuteronomy was quite clear, that eunuchs were excluded from worship in the Temple and being part of the community. Later, after the Exile, Isaiah had a more inclusive approach and in chapter 56 said that both foreigners and eunuchs were welcome, if they loved God and sought to keep the commandments.
Philip took Isaiah’s approach and saw that God’s love was not confined to one particular group of people but embraced everyone. He took time with the Ethiopian, talked about the Scripture that he was reading, where Isaiah talks about the Suffering Servant, and Philip links it with Jesus. Philip’s words make an impact, and the Eunuch asks, ‘What is to stop me from being baptised?’. Philip didn’t say that he had to go through so many weeks of special classes, but immediately baptised him in a pool of water. Then the eunuch proceeded on his way back to Ethiopia, where tradition has it that he was an evangelist. Certainly, Ethiopia was one of the first countries to become Christian and has remained a strongly Christian country, and indeed the Ark of the Covenant is claimed to be kept in one of the churches in the North.
By his baptism, the Ethiopian became part of the Christian family, he bore the name of Christ. He was connected to people of different races, who spoke different languages. Just like the intertwining branches of a vine, he was connected to Christ and to Christ’s family. But he had to continue to be rooted in Christ to be nourished and nurtured. So it is with us, we are part of the family, but we too need to be nourished by the Word and by our interaction with our fellow Christians, so that we can bear good fruit.
Hymn 550 – As a deer pants for the water
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Jesus Christ, the true vine,
in our need
we come to You,
needing Your strength
for we too easily become dry and lifeless
without Your life-giving spirit.
Jesus Christ, the true vine,
teach us to remain in You
and so to find Your life flowing in us
giving strength and vigour to our discipleship.
And as we come closer to You
our lives are drawn closer to others.
Our minds turn to images of violence we have seen
on the news in places of fear and terror,
to where people are at loggerheads,
over race, religion, land, power. Our thoughts turn to Christians living with persecution, who face danger, simply for being linked to You. Father, prune back all that stands in the way of peace.
Our thoughts turn to people
in leadership and power
– who have decisions to make over the economy
and people whose jobs and livelihood will be affected.
We pray for our nation, and its leaders.
May changes and choices be shaped by the values of the kingdom.
On our hearts
are people in need in our church and community.
Wherever hearts are breaking …
bodies are failing …
minds are confused …
families are ruptured …
Lord, come with Your help and healing.
We pray for the situation in India where the surge in Covid cases is causing so much suffering. We also think of those involved in the disaster at the religious festival in Israel.
Here, too, as Your church gathered today,
we give thanks for the saints of the past
and the fruit they have borne in our community and beyond.
Like them, help us to remain in You
that we may be fruitful
and bring glory to Your name.
Through Jesus Christ, the true vine.
Hymn 470 – Jesus shall reign
Go in peace to love and to serve the Lord and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all, now and always. Amen