Welcome & Announcements
Call to Worship
How blessed are we when we meditate on God’s teachings; and when we desire God with our whole hearts. Let us praise God with attentive minds and eager spirits, for we are God’s servants, working and praying together.
Hymn 127 – O worship the King
God of all life and each life,
You are the light of minds that seek to know you.
You are strength for those who seek to serve you.
You reveal truth to those who search for you.
In worship, we pause in your presence,
resting from our work and responsibilities,
from our worries and distractions.
We come to enjoy your presence and praise you for the gift of life in Christ and in creation. Receive our prayers and praise this day, for we open our hearts in love and loyalty to you, O God, our All in All.
God who is all in all, you call us to choose life and walk in your ways, but we are tempted by short cuts and easy solutions. You ask us to turn from anger and settle our differences, but we cling to grievances and point fingers at others. You ask us to be true to our word, but we prefer not to rock the boat.
Forgive us, O God; and give us courage to follow the paths you set for your people.
All age Talk
Readings – 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (pg 1145)
Matthew 5: 21-37 (pg 969)
Hymn 180 – Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Everlasting God, we ask you to lead us into the coming week, help us to believe that you are close by us, keep us from making mistakes and help us never to disappoint you through our words and actions. As we have been reminded, we are to plant and water the seed, but only God makes things grow. Amen.
People in Southern Turkey and Northern Syria went to bed at the beginning of the week, looking forward to a good night’s sleep only for disaster to happen, and some wouldn’t see daylight. The pictures on our screens have been harrowing, as we have seen the utter devastation earthquakes have brought to that part of the world. Over a wide area, blocks of apartments have collapsed, and while some have been pulled alive, so many more have died. In Northern Syria, the worst hit area is one where so many were refugees anyway with an infrastructure and a people weakened from years of conflict. The bitter cold in that area makes it all so worse.
It was maybe 20 years ago that I had travelled in Eastern Turkey and finished in Gaziantep, near the epicentre. I remember a wonderful archaeological museum, but also a bustling town. It was an area rich with biblical associations. Nearby were monasteries of the Syrian Church and also Haran, associated with Abraham, and Antioch, where Christians were first given that name. But now so many people will have to pick up the pieces and somehow begin life again.
Elsewhere in the news, there have been two missing people, but also the death of a family, who seemed to have everything going for it. The mother was head of a big private school, a highflier; the husband in finance, the daughter with so much to look forward to – we don’t know the reasons behind it, but the husband seems to have killed his wife and daughter, before killing himself.
Somehow our own worries and anxieties are put into perspective when we see the suffering of others.
In the Gospel reading Jesus is addressing the crowd gathered on the mountainside – the sermon on the Mount. He lists a number of the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not bear false witness, but then expands on them. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is encouraging his listeners to live the best life possible. In order to live your best, he was saying, it is not enough just to empty all the bad things from life. I don’t swear; I don’t kill; I don’t wash clothes on a Sunday. But rather we need to be proactive and fill our lives with so many good things – joy, the patience, the kindness, so that there is no room for pettiness or jealousy and spite. We have to live the best life possible, thinking of others, praying for others, giving to others, for we don’t know what may be round the corner. In doing this we glorify God.
I had some good news this week. Firstly I had the news that the Syrian family I visit have a new baby boy. But also another friend from Israel had been visiting Scotland, though it coincided with my holidays. But I caught up with his presentation at a church in Perth on YouTube. Jamal is in his early 40s and heads an organisation called the House of Grace, and he and his family exemplify living life to its fullest and best. His father was Palestinian and his mother Swiss, but his father had a friend, an Arab, who had been put in prison for some offence. His mother was so affected by it, that she died, and the son, blaming himself, also killed himself in prison. It was tragic, but Jamal’s father was determined to reach out to prisoners and set up a halfway house, to introduce prisoners back to society again – and House of Grace was born. Jamal and his brothers and sister grew up with released prisoners in their home. They moved into an old church, renovated it, but also built a living space where they live along with up to 10 prisoners and also office space. They run youth activities as well for the Arab population. So often when we think of Palestinians we think of Gaza and the West bank, but there are many living in Israel with Israeli passports and citizenship but who feel 2nd class citizens. The young people are given a sense of self-worth and made to feel they belong.
They run the equivalent of a Food bank and 2nd hand clothes facility, and it is all the different faith groups who support it – such is the respect in which House of Grace is held in the community. Jamal and his family, have created a real community, but a community which reaches out and takes risks and opens itself up to hurt, because that is what love does. Jamal’s father died, but his Swiss mother is still alive and is the real inspiration now, but for her and Jamal, they have dedicated their lives to helping others, but at Easter and at Christmas they send cards which proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus in the Gospels encourages his followers to have the best life possible – and that I think is one dedicated to the well-being of others. We are encouraged to keep the commandments, but more, to place others first and share the sacrificial love of Christ – and give God the glory in all that we do.
Hymn 502 – Take my life and let it be
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Gracious and generous God, we bring our gifts to you in thanksgiving. Bless them and surprise us by all the Holy Spirit can accomplish with them. Bless our lives, too, so that our choices will always honour you for Christ’s sake
Dear God, in the midst of the world’s need and our hopefulness, hear the prayers we share. As the wreckage of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria reveals and hides lives lost, communities destroyed, families traumatised and the magnificence of rescuers, help all who suffer. We pray for those searching and those grieving, for those organising aid and those tending the injured. Let help come and continue, we pray. pause
As war continues between Ukraine and Russia, we pray for justice and for peace. We pray for those fighting and those dying, for those fleeing and those fearing, for those aiding and those searching for an end to conflict.
As conflict scars Southern Sudan, we pray for all caught up and all losing much. We pray for the pilgrimage of peace by the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland. We pray for those seeking safety and those planning violence, that hearts might be held and transformed through your love.
As Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iran and other nations seethe with unrest and persecution, we pray for liberation and for new beginnings. Strengthen all who risk so much to stand for something better, kinder, fairer. Guide the leaders of the nations and bless the work of the United Nations and all who devote themselves to building international community and collaboration in the face of dictatorship, nationalistic arrogance and suspicion.
As communities here stagger under threats from rising prices, services at breaking point, work that is undervalued and streets that are unsafe, we pray for all who care for neighbours and seek a better day. We pray for people forced to strike and for people whose lives become even harder on strike days. We pray for negotiators and politicians, for those with power in their conversations and those who feel utterly powerless.
As we bring our hopes and fears for those known to us and for ourselves, we pray for all who are sick, all who face fear, all who are lonely, all who long for happiness but bear with depression. We remember those we have lost and all who mourn. In silence together, we pray the prayers of our hearts… [silence]
Dear God, in the midst of the world’s need and our hopefulness, hear the prayers we share. All these thoughts, all these words, all the prayers we cannot put into words, we offer in the name of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Hymn 519 – Love divine
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