On Monday 22nd May, Cheviot Churches were visited by Lord Hodge, the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly (above, right - with the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, and the Rev. Sally Foster-Fulton, the Moderator). Lord Hodge attends the General Assembly as the personal representative of His Majesty King Charles III.
On Monday 22nd Lord Hodge took time off to visit us here in the Cheviot Hills. A cavalcade of black cars accompanied by police motorcycles pulled up at the cemetery on the Morebattle Road. Lord Hodge was met there by our minister, representatives of the Churches Together St Cuthbert's Way Group and members of the congregation. Pulling on walking boots, Lord Hodge and his party walked along St Cuthbert's Way to the kirk.
At the kirk there was a buffet and Lord Hodge and his wife had a chance to meet members of the Yetholm area community, including school children and this years' Bari Manushi Gemma Lister. It was nice to know that our small parish is not entirely overlooked by the General Assembly as they wrestle with the major issues that the kirk today has to face. We hope Lord Hodge took away pleasant memories of his visit to us - despite the rather grey weather - perhaps he'll be back to walk the entire route!?
Call to Worship
God is our Rock and our Fortress.
In God, we find refuge and strength.
God’s house has many dwelling places.
We will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Christ himself has gone to prepare a place for us.
For us, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
So let us worship God in Spirit and in Truth.
Hymn 200 – Christ is made the sure foundation
Prayers of Approach and Confession
you are our refuge in times of trouble, our shelter when we are afraid, and our dwelling place forever.
In you alone we place our trust for you set the way before in Christ Jesus and your Spirit gives us courage to follow him. And so we offer you our worship and love as the Source of life for the world, as the Son who preached the truth of grace and mercy,
and the Spirit who guides us this day and always.
we confess Jesus as the way, the truth and the life for us, yet we often fail to follow him, we have too often gone our own way, distorted the truth and
led lesser lives. Forgive us for falling short of your purpose for our lives. Give us courage to follow Jesus, who continues to show us the way.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Know that, in Christ, you are forgiven. Accept God’s grace and forgiveness this day and extend it to others for Jesus’ sake.
Readings – 1 Peter 2:2-10 (Pg 1218)
John 14:1-14 (Pg 1082)
Hymn SGP 45 - Majesty
Risen and reigning Lord, assure our troubled hearts that you have gone to prepare a place for us, so that where you are, we may be also. You alone are the way, the truth, and the life by whom the Father comes to us, so that through you, we have seen him and know him. Amen
I am sure many of you watched the Coronation yesterday and would have been impressed by the pageantry. We do it very well. There is the pomp which is so dignified; our eyes feast on the colour and finery; there is the music, which reaches the sublime; but also there are intimate moments, when oaths are taken and private prayers said. It was also an inclusive event, with different sections of the community taking part, and I liked especially the different faith communities having their role. Then there were the various pieces of regalia and indeed furnishings, each with their story. Like the Stone of Scone.
I remember as a child poring over a book called ‘Scotland’s Story’, which had a chapter each on the main events of Scotland’s history. It mentioned of course the Stone of Destiny, on which the monarchs of Scotland were anointed and which the author claimed was the very stone which Jacob used as his pillow at Bethel when he had his dream of the angels, ascending and descending the ladder in the sky (Door at Linton). The stone was recently transferred to London for the coronation, though I haven’t read of the Bethel link in any of the newspaper articles.
It got me thinking about stones. Stones can be used for good or for ill. They can be destructive. In Acts of the Apostles we read that Stephen was stoned to death, the first Christian martyr. We are conscious that stoning is still carried out in some countries today. But our reading from 1 Peter mentions stones in a more positive light. Jesus is referred to as the cornerstone, which was the most important stone of all. It was the stone, in the construction of a building, by which all the other stones were aligned and measured, so that the house or temple would be built properly and not fall down if the earth were ever to tremor. We are therefore encouraged to align ourselves to the ways of Christ, who is the cornerstone of our faith. Only by looking at the example of Christ can we measure our lives well.
Stones! When I lived in Israel & Palestine, the local Christians called themselves the ‘living stones’. So many pilgrims would come to the Holy Land to look at all the old stones of churches and ruins but often ignored the present-day church there, which was very frustrating. But the Christians saw themselves as alive and living out the Gospel in the 21st Century. The church wasn’t fossilised but alive and with something to say.
The people that Peter addressed his letter to were being viewed with suspicion and hostility. They needed to reshape their identity. Peter encourages them to look to Jesus as the cornerstone, giving foundation to the building, but also be the stones to build the church. Strangely enough, the second sermon I ever preached was on this text from 1 Peter 2: 9-10 as a student on a gap year in Israel. ‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation a people acceptable to God, who calls you out of the darkness into his marvellous light’. It is wonderfully affirming.
They were lifted up and called chosen and holy and acceptable to God. All attributes they would doubtless have refused –‘Who? Us?- , but in Christ they are transformed and empowered to change the world, to build the church. They had been living in darkness but now lived in the light of God.
We too are chosen by God who calls us from darkness into his marvellous light. We see this from the Gospel reading, where Jesus addresses the disciples. Their feet have been washed, they have shared a supper together, Judas has slipped away, and Jesus speaks intimately to them and tells them, ‘if you know me, you know my Father’. When I was in Dunkeld recently, a couple of the ministers had known my father, and they said they saw the family likeness in me. I am conscious of thinking of phrases he used to say. Often we say it of babies or children, that they look like one parent or the other, but maybe you have been told you bear the family likeness. Does King Charles bear the family likeness?
Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father, and Jesus says that he is in the Father and the Father in him. The invisible God is embodied in Jesus. He is saying, Look at me. If you see me, you will see the Father. We should therefore look to Jesus to see how to act, how to behave, how to think and how to speak.
We are encouraged to bear the family likeness to Jesus by living out his ways. That way, we can be the building blocks of which the Church is made. We too can be living stones ever building the church where we are.
Hymn 642 – Ye that know the Lord is gracious
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Generous God, we bless you for life renewed through Christ’s love and through springtime growth in fields and gardens. Use the gifts we offer to bring hope and renewal to the world you love in the name of Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord. Amen
Lord Jesus You call us to be a holy nation, your own people, to proclaim your mighty acts. We ask your blessing on your Church and the congregation to which we belong. We hold before you the fabric of our community: schools and business, community organisations, and all people who live and work here… (brief silence) Give us eyes to see where you are, that we may be with you there, offering our lives in service in your name. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus You speak peace to troubled disciples. As we look at your world, there are many things which trouble our hearts. So we pray for the people of Sudan and Ukraine, and all who live in the shadow of war and violence. Be with all who are forced to flee their home and country and grant that they may find a safe dwelling place. Give your peace to families who have been separated because of war and those who are worried for their loved ones. Guide all who are working to find peaceful solutions to these and other conflicts and bless all who risk their own lives to bring aid, support and medical supplies. We hold before you all in our country who struggle to make ends meet and who are concerned about their future. We pray for those who work in the NHS and in other public services. Amid ongoing strike action and conversations we pray for a recognition of the dignity and value of work and for constructive discussions. (brief silence) Lord, shine your light on our society that your justice, love and compassion may be reflected in our common life and institutions. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
On this Coronation weekend, we give thanks for King Charles III and his dedication to the wellbeing of your people throughout the world and to care for the environment. Bless him and Queen Camilla with faithfulness and wisdom, that their reign may advance unity and peace among all peoples and justice and equity for the most vulnerable.
Lord Jesus, You are our servant king. As Charles begins his new reign as King, we pray for all who are holding community celebrations this weekend – Lord; bring joy and a closer connection to those in our neighourhoods. We pray that the coronation will be a time for many to renew their commitment to serve you, Jesus, as their Lord and lead to a fresh commitment to serve neighbours in need.
Lord, Jesus, we seek our refuge in you, trusting that you hear us when we cry out to you. We hold before you the people and the places that are on our minds today, praying for your love and peace for them.
Hymn 198 – Let us build a house