Call to Worship
O God, our Shepherd,
gather us together and lead us like a flock.
O God, our Gardener,
plant us like a vineyard so that we produce good fruit.
We bow before you, O God,
and offer our worship with glad and humble hearts.
Hymn 173 – Sing to God new songs of worship
Prayers of adoration and confession
when we consider your creating power, we stand amazed. You spoke, and worlds came into being:
the star-spangled universe, the beautiful green-blue earth, the expanse of the heavens, stretching beyond our imagination; the abundance of nature on land and in seas, from the tiniest insect to the great beasts that dwell in forest and savanna, from minnows to the great whales that frolic in the seas, every one the work of your hands.
when we consider that out of dust
you created human beings, we stand amazed.
Flesh and bone, muscle and sinew, life and breath,
all working in harmony; each unique and precious, the same yet different, gloriously diverse.
we barely dare to stand before you -
you who are both mystery and yet present with us. And yet you call us to you. You open your arms to greet us. In Jesus you share our lives;
our sorrows and joys, our disappointments and anxieties, our hopes and dreams.
we respond to your call and come to worship you.
And even as we sing your praise and reflect on your goodness
we are aware of our own shortcomings and failures.
Though we seek to follow Jesus, we often give up when the path is hard, We follow our own desires instead of listening to your voice. We harden our hearts to the needs of others and put ourselves first.
We bring to you what we would have you change in us.
love is your nature and forgiveness freely given.
Renew and restore us to live your ways and be your people.
With thanksgiving we accept your mercy and grace, newness of life and endless fresh beginnings.
Gracious God let us trust in your words of healing and life. For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is Your love for those who fear You;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far have You removed our transgressions from us.
Readings – Isaiah 5: 1-7
Luke 12: 49-56
Hymn 522 – The Church is wherever ….
Faithful God, as we go from today’s worship, enable us to see each individual we meet as uniquely made in Your image and worthy of our love and respect. Help us to judge what is right and show Your love through our lives in some small way today as we seek to demonstrate the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The church lay empty, its windows bricked in and the grass outside overgrown like hayfields. It was a sad sight.
Italy was the first part of my holiday, but for the second part of my break, I had travelled to spend a few days in Ayrshire, back to my roots. I returned to the area where I grew up and spent a night in the hotel in which I worked the summer before going to University. It had changed, but then the whole area had changed; Dumfries House has opened to the public with a lot of input from Prince Charles, and there has been an emphasis on redevelopment in the community. But when I went back to Auchinleck, it just looked as rundown as ever. I hadn’t been back for 30 odd years and have no connection with anyone. I passed my old secondary school, which was split new in the early 70s, but now it was all shuttered up, because a new state-of-the-art school complex has been built for the area in the next town. But then I drove to Peden Kirk, the church where I had been baptised, where I had been confirmed and joined the church, and I found it closed and uncared for, the ground overgrown. It had been built in the 1950s as a hall church right in the heart of the new housing scheme, and the sanctuary was full of light, but now the windows were bricked in. It had been full of activities and people, but now it was empty. It didn’t, I must admit, come as a surprise, for in the 1980s, the two churches in the village had very sensibly been united, and the older, slightly grander church on the edge of the village had been chosen, but Peden was in the heart of the community and to be used as the halls, but obviously that isn’t the case now. But I had passed new community halls, and perhaps the church uses them. They perhaps provide better facilities. I don’t know. Looking at my old church I didn’t feel emotional but just sad, but the congregation there could well be a vibrant one, just adapting to new situations.
In Yetholm/ Morebattle there were several churches at one time; now there is just one in each village. The Church has had to adapt over the years, especially as numbers have fallen and buildings are not so adapted for present needs. Certainly, over the past years, a lot of churches in Britain have been faced with falling numbers and buildings requiring a lot of work and money spent on them, and the Church of Scotland is no different. We are challenged to be the Church in the 21st Century and to look at new ways of expressing our faith. And so it is with Jedburgh Presbytery. Whereas 10 years ago there would be 11 ministers in parishes within the bounds of the presbytery, the figures we have been given now are that there will be 5.5. The 0.5 would mean that someone would be part-time. But that obviously means sacrifices have had to be made. In the Kelso area it means that there will be two ministers; one for the Kelso North/ Country Churches area and one for Cheviot Churches/ Kelso Old and Sprouston, that will be either when I leave or sooner. It will mean big changes with our worship leaders and elders and indeed members having to rise to the challenge. It will be a linkage, so we will keep our Cheviot Churches name and identity, but share a minister and also, I would hope, doing some things together. The Plan does, however, mean that some of our buildings are not deemed ‘well-equipped spaces in the right places’, and Hownam and Linton are in the B category which means that they will be closed, though we will try to keep them open as long as we can. We also hope that at least Linton will be taken over by a trust and kept open. It is a painful process, and all around Scotland people are in the same boat, facing the closure of buildings they love. Our Luke reading talks about division. Jesus didn’t come to bring peace –that is the status quo, but the effect of his message can often divide. Certainly there will be a lot of unhappiness with this plan, but it also presents a way forward
However, we have been singing that the ‘Church is wherever God’s people are praising’, and one of the reports that I always found challenging was the call to be the Church without walls. We are called to use the facilities available to us in the community to be the church and to be relevant. The thrust of this plan is very much missional, as we show the love of God in action.
In Isaiah, we had another desolate picture. A vineyard, but one that bore sour grapes. On the news this week there have been pictures of land in France where the crops, including the vines, have all shrivelled up in the heat. This vineyard that Isaiah talks about was like that. So much had been invested in it – time, money, love. It was to be the best. But when the harvest came, the grapes were sour. So angry was the owner that they were set to destroy the whole enterprise. But the owner was God, and the vineyard was Israel. So much love had been lavished on them, but the fruit they bore was not what was expected. It was sour. That is our challenge as we go into the future; in all we do, we have to bear the good fruit of the Kingdom. The Church is going to be somewhat different in the years to come, but the question is what do we do, and that is to live out the kingdom values wherever we may be and to be church where we find ourselves. Pray for the Church of Scotland as we go through painful times for many, but also let us be aware that in these storms, we cling to the rock which is our Saviour. Our earthly endeavours may change, but God and God’s love remains constant
Hymn 565 – My life flows on in endless song
Prayers of Dedication and Intercession
Faithful God, bless the gifts we offer to you today. Use them to plant seeds of faith, hope and love in the world, so that your goodness will grow among your people, and your name be honoured for Christ’s sake.
God, in whom we live and move and have our being:
As we gather in your presence today,
we give you thanks for your faithfulness to your people across many generations and in so many situations.
Thank you for the faithfulness we meet in the world around us: In friendships that endure, in communities that pitch in when someone is in trouble, in workers who go that extra mile, in countries who offer safety or sustenance when disaster strikes and strangers are in desperate need.
Faithful God, hear our prayer,
we are aware of many challenges in our own lives,
in the lives of those we care about, and in the world around us. Show us how our care and concern can respond to the prayers of those we love:
We pray for the Church around the world and especially for our Church of Scotland, as she seeks new ways to respond to falling numbers and income. We pray for all who feel a sense of anguish and hurt and pray for vision ever to seek ways of building your kingdom and showing your love.
We pray for our country, as the cost-of-living crisis hits everyone. Be with all who are anxious about paying bills and may we ever seek to help those who struggle most. As we enjoy the summer sunshine, we pray for those whose water supply is under threat.
May we wake up to the signs that are all around of a world in need: Fuel poverty Food poverty Homelessness Migration War Greed Complacency Help us not to look away but to keep on staring until we see a way by which we can make a difference. The signs confront us every day. May we respond with love. May we respond with compassion. May we respond with action
We continue to remember our world. We pray for the war in Ukraine and all affected by it. We think of those who have taken refuge in other countries, a more prolonged stay than was perhaps expected. We pray for East Africa and the drought there. Be with Christian Aid as it seeks to assist.
We pray for all those who have lost people dear to them and feel the pain of separation. We think of those who are ill and those who are anxious and lay awake at night and for all who worry about the future.
We pray for our children and teachers as they return after the summer break; for those starting school and for those starting new schools. We pray for those who received results which will affect their future and rejoice with those who have done well, but pray for those who are disappointed that you will open up a way for them.
Hymn 501 – Your hand, O God, has guided
Where there is discord: harmony. Where there is division: unity. Where there is dogmatism: vulnerability. Open our hearts, O Lord, open our minds; open our arms wide to share your love, that each moment, each minute of our allotted time be a sign of the coming of your kingdom. May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you, this day and even forevermore. Amen