Ormiston Parish Church
May Update, 2021
When Jesus left the disciples and returned to the Father, he left them with a vision – his vision. He had come from the Father to seek and save the lost, to rescue the perishing and to reconcile the world to God. It was the Father’s wish and a passion he gladly shared. It would cost him everything but he was willing, for he loved much.
He came bearing a message and an invitation; a summons from God Most High. We call it the Gospel. The Bible calls it the Gospel of God or the Gospel of Jesus Christ; not a message about him but his message – what he declared, what he demonstrated in all his actions, what he himself believed and embodied in his own person.
From among his many disciples Jesus selected a small few, whom he especially mentored and trained, and which he later commissioned as key leaders of the fledgling church soon to emerge. To them and to the emerging church, Jesus entrusted his Gospel – all he had taught and lived and suffered for. To them he gave his faith; what he believed and bore witness to. This is what the Bible refers to when it urges us “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” [Jude 1:3]
It’s been one of the continual temptations for believers over the centuries to imagine that the Gospel is somehow ‘our Gospel’, as if it’s all about what the church thinks and proclaims about Jesus, rather than seeing ourselves as merely the trustees of ‘his faith’ – the faith and message he bequeathed to us. In so doing we inevitably end up just talking about ourselves and our own faith, rather than directing others to acquaint themselves with what Jesus believed.
In these challenging times, there is an urgent need to recover a confidence in the Gospel. But underlying this is a basic question: whose Gospel is it? Ours or his? Needless to say, the world will not be convinced by our opinions. It is only Jesus’ Gospel which has any healing and transforming power. All we can do is humbly profess our own frail understanding of what he believed, yet all the while try to encourage others to discover him for themselves. We’re not expected to have all the answers. We don’t need to. We’re just asked to keep on pointing to Jesus.
One of the earliest, if not the earliest, Christian documents outwith the New Testament is a letter to the church in Corinth written by a Bishop in Rome named Clement. Exact dates are uncertain but a general consensus places it as written around 88-99AD.
The Apostles received for us the gospel from our Lord Jesus Christ; our Lord Jesus Christ received it from God.
Christ, therefore, was sent out from God, and the Apostles from Christ; and both these things were done in good order, according to the will of God.
They, therefore, having received the promises, having been fully persuaded by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and having been confirmed by the word of God, with the full persuasion of the Holy Spirit, went forth preaching the good tidings that the kingdom of God was at hand.
1st Clement 42:1-3, translated by Charles H. Hoole, 1885
We note they were persuaded by three things: the resurrection (a personal encounter with Jesus), the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit. Nothing has changed in all these years. To prosper as the bearers of Christ’s faith, the church of today needs a fresh personal encounter with Jesus, a rootedness in Scripture, and the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
1st CLEMENT – DIGGING DEEPER
For those who may feel exercised by modern-day authors such as Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), who like to suggest the books of the New Testament were written much later in the life of the early church, and only selected as authoritative centuries afterwards, it’s worth noting a couple of things about the 1st letter of Clement.
First of all, its content: occasioned by a dispute which had arisen in Corinth, Clement admonishes the church to “take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle”. Although it doesn’t say which particular letter he is referring to, the reference strongly implies it was available both in Corinth and Rome. In other places he specifically alludes to Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians and also to Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Titus and 1st Timothy, plus numerous phrases from Hebrews, along with possible material from Acts. He further asks his readers to “remember” the words of Jesus; although does not attribute these to any specific written account. All of this indicates these writings were not only known but widely shared between different congregations.
Second, its date: although general consensus places it between 88-99AD, a number of scholars put it even earlier, before 70AD, and within a couple of decades of Paul’s letters. A few go the other direction and place it slightly later. Clement’s letter is written in the context of persecution. The 88-99AD date is suggested because of the persecution which arose towards the end of the reign of Domitian, who was emperor from 89-96AD. The pre-70AD date is suggested due to the persecution under Nero, who was emperor from 54-68AD, and because Clement refers to the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem as if they were current at the time of writing. These sacrifices ceased when the temple was destroyed in AD70. Either way, Clement’s letter is an important witness to the authenticity of New Testament writings, and that these were both received as authoritative and being circulated at a very early date.
Ormiston Parish Church
Easter Update, 2021
My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Behold! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land.....
Get up and come, my love, my beautiful one. Come with me.”
[Song of Songs 2:11-13]
Our Bible passage is from a series of love songs. A new spring season has begun. The man shepherds his flocks on the hillside, among rich and fragrant meadows bursting into life. And now he calls at the home of his bride to invite her to come away with him.
The couple are betrothed – officially married according to the custom of the day. Unlike our own traditions, which regard engagement as only a provisional commitment, with the wedding as something in the future, the Biblical custom sees it the other way around. They were already bound together as husband and wife. They were just not yet living together. If the man were to die or the couple to separate before that, she would become a widow or a divorcee.
This two-fold process has significance for us when we celebrate communion. At the Lord’s table we celebrate a union which already exists, while looking forward to the consummation of that union when we will dwell face to face with our risen Saviour. It is the sentiment behind John 14, where Jesus (at the Last Supper) speaks of going to the Father to prepare a place for us – to get the marital home ready – before returning to take us to be with him, so that we may dwell where he is. Communion is thus a repeated reaffirmation of the ‘marriage covenant’ between Christ and the church, while looking forward to a greater intimacy yet to come.
It was only with some reserve that the Song of Songs was included within the canon of Scripture. As the love songs progress through the days of betrothal, then on into their first night together, the language becomes increasingly intimate as they describe their mutual delight in each others bodies. Yet the saints of old were agreed, explicit as some of the language may be, it is an appropriate allegory for the covenant union between God and his people.
Read by us today, much of it seems a bit strange. The imagery is Middle Eastern and from a different culture, place and time. Yet it also relates the story of a woman who hesitates to respond to his invitation. She hides and plays hard to get, then, when he turns away, she goes out looking, wondering all the while if she’s lost him. It tells of the taunts of others and the difficulties she encounters, before he returns and finds her and they are reunited once again.
Passover and Easter mark the beginning of the Biblical year and a new beginning. As we look forward to new things, how is your walk with God at this time? And how will you respond to him in this new season?
“My lover is mine and I am his; he pastures his flock among the lilies. Return, my love, before the day breaks and the shadows flee away. Be like a stag or gazelle on the mountains of separation.” [v16, 17]
Ormiston Parish Church
December Update, 2020
What a different Christmas this will be! No carol-singing, a reduction in services and other events of former years, constraints on social and family gatherings, and perhaps a lot less of the usual fuss!
Yet, although it may turn out to be a much simpler affair, what we are able to do will maybe become more precious. As with so many other things over the last months, there are opportunities amidst the challenges and frustrations. There’s a chance to reflect, reassess priorities, take life at a different pace and rediscover what we value most.
Although everything is different, there are things which haven’t changed – except perhaps our attitude to them. The core message of the season remains, with all its wonder. The Christmas story still endures. We still celebrate the most astonishing act of divine empathy and good will. Emmanuel (God with us) is just as real. His accompanying presence and faithfulness have never faltered.
It’s helpful to draw a distinction between sympathy and empathy. While sympathy may describe the mercy and compassion which flow from the heart of our heavenly Father; empathy is about his capacity to understand and feel what we experience from our perspective and from within our frame of reference. It aptly describes the incarnation of the Son of God to place himself in our position and walk in our shoes. There’s an old adage, reputedly a Native American saying, “Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins”.
God has not remained aloof, stuck up in his heaven, shouting instructions from afar and providing aid at a distance. He came ‘down’ among us, entering our world with all its trials and sorrows, its temptations and sins. We are a strange admixture; simultaneously both victims and perpetrators. Capable of the most marvellous acts of altruism, yet just as given to moments of meanness and self-interest. But undeterred, our Lord shares with us in our muddle, taking it to himself while imparting to us what belongs to him in his strength and goodness. It’s what the theologians call ‘the wondrous exchange’. Or, as Paul puts it: “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (II Corinthians 8:9).
These thoughts could be developed with the simple picture of an air-sea rescue. A person flounders, struggling in a turbulent sea. A helicopter hovers overhead. Someone then descends on a cable, plunging in alongside the man in the water. A harness is extended and fixed around him, drawing him close in to his rescuer. The two are then winched up together into the safety of the helicopter.
Salvation is the three-fold working of a triune God. The helicopter is the Father. The one who descends is the Son. The harness is the Holy Spirit. United to Christ by the Spirit, we are reconciled and lifted into communion with our heavenly Father. Christmas tells of the decent; Easter of the raising up; Pentecost extends the harness.
The response of the person in the water is simply that of yielding gratitude, as we see summarised in Mary’s words to the angel, “Let it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).
“O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today... O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”
Have a great Christmas
Carols for Christmas – An online recording of musicians and singers, from both congregations and communities, will be available as of Christmas Eve. This can be viewed directly on YouTube or via the links on either church website. Copies can also be made available for any without access to the internet or unable to download it from the websites. Our thanks to all who’ve made this possible.
Carols, Readings & Reflections – 6.30pm Sunday 13th December, in Ormiston
Please note: it is still not permissible for us to sing at this time.
Christmas Day – 10.30am Friday 25th December, in Ormiston
Please note: this will include communion for those who wish to take part.
A huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has helped facilitate online or in-person services over the last few months. We’re grateful also to those who’ve been willing to take part. Although we look for brighter things in the new year, our national perplexities remain meanwhile. These affect what is possible over the festive period and thereafter. The basic pattern of a weekly service, alternating between the two churches and followed by a Zoom service online, will continue through to the end of January. But for a number of logistical reasons we are not able to sustain our usual number of Christmas gatherings. If you’re planning on attending any of the services in either church building, please remember to book in advance. This is especially important for the Carol and Christmas Day services.
For Ormiston, please ring or email Margaret Jarvis: 01875 614506 – C4meg@aol.com
For Pencaitland, please ring or email Eileen Henderson: 01875 340482 – email@example.com
Sunday 6th – 9.30 service Ormiston. 10.45 Online Devotions.
Sunday 13th – 9.30 service Pencaitland. 10.45 Online Devotions.
Sunday 20th – 9.30 service Ormiston. 10.45 Online Devotions.
Sunday 27th – No service in either building. 10.45 Online Devotions.
Sunday 3rd – 9.30 service Ormiston. 10.45 Online Devotions.
Sunday 10th – 9.30 service Pencaitland. 10.45 Online Devotions.
Sunday 17th – 9.30 service Ormiston. 10.45 Online Devotions.
Sunday 24nd – 9.30 service Pencaitland. 10.45 Online Devotions.
Sunday 31st – 9.30 service Ormiston. 10.45 Online Devotions.
In Remembrance – along with this news update is a card. These are available for anyone in the village who wishes to remember a loved one this Christmas. After writing a name or short message, these will be placed on two small trees in the Church. If you choose to write a card, please pass it to your elder, bring it with you to church, or contact Margaret Jarvis for collection (614506).
Wreaths & Trees – as part of a project funded by Age Scotland, The Guild has a good number of wreaths and small artificial trees ready for decorating. These are available for any older person, especially if they are housebound or not venturing out much at this time. If you would like to try your hand at something creative, either as a gift for someone or to enjoy yourself, please contact Jem Easton (810501), Janette McCaul (610770) or Margaret Jarvis (614506). Decorating materials are included.
We approach the end of an extraordinary year, which has affected each of us in one way or another. Thank you to all who’ve continued to offer financial support through regular donations, either by Standing Orders or WFO envelopes. Many have not been able to join us for worship in the Church building since March, yet there’s been a steady flow of envelopes being handed in or popped through my letterbox. May and October Gift Days raised £2947 plus a further £622 from tax reclaimed through gift aid, which went a long way towards making up for the loss of income from other fundraising activities. Thank you also to everyone who supported the Ormiston Church Car Park Appeal by shopping at the village Co-op over the last 12 months. Having now recently closed, I can confirm it raised £1289.71 towards car park resurfacing. We are grateful to the Co-op for supporting our cause, and to their friendly and helpful staff who always serve us with a smile. Mervyn Baird (Treasurer)
Ormiston Parish Church – Scottish Charity Number SCO14810
10th November 2020
Due to current Covid restrictions, public events at War Memorials were not permitted this year. Ormiston's Act of Remembrance took place in the church building on Sunday 8th November. Wreaths were presented at the front of the church, at the communion table, and then discreetly placed at the War Memorials afterwards.
1st September 2020
Services – Important Information
We look forward to welcoming you to any/all of these services. There are a number of obligations we are required to fulfil in holding services. There are also a few further requirements we have had to put in place in order to keep people safe and facilitate the smooth running of things.
ATTENDANCE: We are required by law to keep a note of everyone who attends, plus a means of contact. This is part of the Test & Protect procedure across the country. These will be retained securely for 28 days and then disposed of.
BOOKING: Please let us know by 1pm each Friday if you wish to attend the following Sunday service in either Ormiston or Pencaitland, along with names of anyone else who will be with you. This will help avoid delays on entry and assist in the allocation of seats. Please note that there is a restriction on numbers. So, if plans change and you are not able to attend after all, we’d be grateful to know. If you forget to book, we will endeavour not to turn you away but it may result in delays to others.
For Ormiston, please ring or email Margaret Jarvis.
For Pencaitland, please ring or email Eileen Henderson.
ARRIVAL: Please arrive in good time, as it may take a little while to get everyone seated. Entry will be by the side door, at the back of the church.
SEATING: In order to maintain 2m distancing, there are only certain places you will be able to sit. Someone will direct you to your seat when you arrive. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee you will be able to sit where you would like to.
PERSONAL ATTIRE: As the outside door will remain open, it will be difficult to maintain the temperature in the building when it’s cooler. We advise being ‘weather aware’ and suitably dressed.
FACE COVERINGS: Unless under age 5 or exempt for medical reasons, everyone must wear face coverings in the church. If you haven’t one with you, disposable masks will be available. Please take it home with you afterwards.
SANITISER: This will be available at a table when you enter. Please use it on entry and exit from the building. Gloves are available if you wish to use them. Please do not wear your own gloves in church.
COLLECTION: There will be a collection plate near the door when you arrive. It will not be passed around or brought to the communion table during the service.
SINGING: Unfortunately we will not be able to sing.
SOCIALISING: Please conduct all conversations outside, while respecting a 2m distance.
REFRESHMENTS: No tea or coffee will be offered at the end of services at the moment.
TOILETS: The toilet at the rear of the church will be available for use. Please avoid using it if you can.
Ormiston Parish Church
Gift Day – Sunday 21st June 2020
Together in Faith
Recent weeks have no doubt been a huge challenge to everyone. In a few short weeks everything has changed. As with others around us, we’ve tried to make the most of things as a congregation – feeling the loss of normal social contact, while also trying to recognise and give thanks for the blessings available through enforced confinement and the curtailment of normal activities. For many, it has been a time of helpful reflection, where much of the incidental and trifling has been set aside, while we’ve clarified who and what is most dear to us. For some, this has prompted renewed communication with those we were in danger of losing touch with – including perhaps a renewal of faith and prayer. Whatever this may have meant individually, we do not live in isolation from God nor do we journey alone amidst various concerns for others and ourselves.
None of this is to suggest it’s been easy or without its struggles. And for some this has included anxieties about money and jobs, with very real concerns about the future. That, of course, is not the case for everyone. Others have found their expenditure altered in a positive direction. Costs associated with holidays, entertainments and travel have dramatically reduced. Aware of this disparity among us, the Board gave careful thought to the appropriateness of continuing with the usual Gift Day at this point in the year. Nevertheless, as the body tasked with responsibility for managing the corporate finances of the congregation, it was felt important to keep us all abreast of the situation and the difficulties associated with it. Yet this was with a strong desire to avoid placing pressure or obligation on anyone, and with the recognition that each should respond appropriately in accordance with their own situation. Congregational finances are everyone’s concern and, at risk of overworking a rather well-worn phrase, we are all in this together. The Board’s role is simply to keep us in the picture and manage things as best they can.
Below is a chart of church income from January to the end of May, with comparisons from last year, showing some of the effects of lockdown. I’m sure we would all welcome each other’s prayers, and a prayerful consideration of what is practicable for each of us at this time.
Previous Gift Days have usually been connected with a Saturday Coffee Morning. Due to the current closure of our buildings a Sunday has been designated instead. If you are in a position to share in the forthcoming Gift Day on 21st June, please do. There are several ways of doing this.
- Use the envelope provided and post to Ormiston Parish Church, c/o Mervyn Baird (treasurer), 1 Beech Cottage, Ormiston EH35 5HT. Cheques should be payable to “Ormiston Parish Church”.
- Credit card payments can be made easily through the Church of Scotland website. Simply visit www.churchofscotland.org.uk/donate , click ‘donate to a congregation’ and type ‘Ormiston’.
- To use online banking, please inform Mervyn Baird who will provide account details.
- If you have a contribution you would like collected from your home, please ring Mervyn or one of the elders and arrangements will be made to pick it up.
With gratitude for your understanding and concern
Reflections for Sunday 5th April 2020
Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (Thessalonians 5:16-18)
The following New Testament reading forms part of Paul’s concluding remarks to the church in Philippi, now part of modern Turkey. It reads as follows:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! …The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.....
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength....
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
I’ve always found this passage hugely challenging, yet immensely encouraging. All of us face issues of various kinds, COVID 19 included. Yet, without ignoring any of them or brushing anything under the carpet, Paul encourages us to focus our attention entirely upon Christ.
The Lord is near. Tell him what you need. His peace will guard you through everything. You may rest content he will provide and give you strength for every situation. But there’s a secret to peace and contentment. And that’s thanksgiving!
Problems have a way of sucking us in and absorbing all our energies. Worries and anxieties easily become all-consuming, The challenge therefore is to tear our attention away from them and, consciously and deliberately, reorientate our outlook in thanksgiving and faith. It’s a message which lies at the very heart of the Gospel. It was central to Jesus’ preaching. “Repent”, he said, “and believe the good news”.
Tragically, the common understanding of repentance is associated with ideas of remorse and regret. But this distorts the key thrust of what is meant. Repentance properly refers to a change of perspective (mind and purpose) in light of something better. The emphasis, therefore, is always on what or who we turn towards, rather than on what we turn from. It’s about a renewal of our outlook and attitude in light of God’s grace.
This takes time. It’s something we learn. And it’s a thing we get better at, the more we do it. As each new situation arises we often have to go back to basics and do it afresh – especially when we’re confronted by something we haven’t faced before.
Thanksgiving is key to this process. And, sadly, it’s easy to forget. Yet, when we do it, God’s peace comes. Thanksgiving turns our attention to what we have, who we have, and who is ‘for us’ in the midst of things. It turns the focus to Christ and his faithfulness. Our problems and fears are then put into proper perspective. The difficulties are still there but they are now placed in the much wider context of God’s goodness.
The result is peace. And this in turn opens the way to receive his strength, his wisdom and his comfort.
To summarise the passage: Paul began by reminding us that God is near. He then encourages us to present our requests in the context of thanksgiving – assuring us the peace of God will break through. This is followed by an instruction about how that peace is maintained – by filling our minds with positive things and putting into practice what we have learned. He then continues with a note from his own experience. He has learned the secret of contentment. He has discovered fresh strength for all he has had to do. This same God, he concludes, will meet all your needs too.
I finish with some words from a doctor in India:
Social distancing is a privilege – it means you live in a home large enough to practice it.
Hand washing is a privilege too – it means you have access to running water.
Hand sanitisers are a privilege – they mean you have money to buy them.
Lockdowns are a privilege – they mean you can afford to live with a roof over your head.
Most of the ways to ward off the coronavirus are available only to the affluent.
In essence, a disease which was spread by the rich as they flew around the globe, will now take its toll on the poor.
We have much to be thankful for and much to pray about – and not only for ourselves.
The peace of Christ be with you all
All-age Message – Sunday 5th April 2020
The King is Coming
Palm Sunday – Matthew 21:1-11
I wonder what you do when you’re excited? Maybe you’ve been waiting for something good to happen. Perhaps like looking forward to going somewhere special or counting the days ‘til it’s your birthday. Then at last it comes. Some folk sing or jump up and down with excitement.
People can be like that too when someone important comes to town. The crowds line the streets, cheering and waving. It was a day like that when Jesus came to Jerusalem, the capital city in Israel. People were cheering. Many were singing and shouting. Others took big branches from palm trees and started waving them. Some even spread their coats on the ground for him to walk on. This was a special day. Jesus was the king that God had promised them.
Crowds of people were in the city. They’d come from all over the world for an important holiday called the Passover. When they’d got there they’d been told the story we thought about last Sunday. If you remember, Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died and Jesus had brought him back to life. This had happened just a few weeks before. But now Jesus had come back to stay with Lazarus, who lived nearby, just outside the city. Many people wanted to meet him and to see Lazarus for themselves. (John 12:9,17,18)
Jesus spent the night at his house. Then, in the morning, his friends got a donkey for him to ride on. Lots of people went with him as he rode towards Jerusalem. When the people in the city heard he was on the way, even more went out to welcome him. The crowds around him sang and the crowds coming to meet him sang too.
When the two groups met up, they all joined together. Some walked in front and others walked behind him. Everyone was going wild with excitement. This was their king. The whole city was thrown into uproar when he got there. (Matthew 21:10)
Now you’d think Jesus would have been wonderfully happy. But it wasn’t all joy and laughter.
Jesus knew, despite all the noise and the fun, there was trouble coming. And the people weren’t ready. Yes, it was a day of great excitement. He really was their king. They were shouting, ‘Hosanna’, which means, ‘save us’ or ‘save us now’. They expected him to take charge and rescue them from the Romans who had conquered them. But they didn’t realise they needed to get their hearts right with God. So, in the middle of it all, he started crying. Big tears and loud sobs. “If only you knew what is needed for peace”, he wept, “but you cannot see it now”. (Luke 19:21-24).
Not everyone was pleased to see Jesus either. His enemies didn’t like him and they didn’t want to hear what he had to say about God. So, when they saw the crowds cheering him on, they were angry and plotted to kill him. In fact, they plotted to get rid of Lazarus too. It was because of that miracle, when Jesus brought him back to life, that people were putting their trust in him. (John 12:10)
It was to be the first day of an incredible week. A week that would see Jesus cheered, then betrayed, arrested, tried, condemned, and crucified. But as that week came to an end, another week began just as this one did... with a celebration.
A celebration which would change things forever.
Some Palm Sunday activity sheets for younger children are available here. (Activity Sheets Copyright © 2001 - 2020. Sermon4Kids Used with permission)
Update - 27 March 2020
Sundays at 10am
Although we are unable to meet for regular worship at the moment, we invite everyone to pray together, each in their own homes, at 10am each Sunday.
[Please pray at another time if that suits better]
Reflections for Sunday 29th March 2020
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6,7)
Today’s reading comes from the New Testament – a short passage at the end of a letter from Peter, one of the prominent leaders in the early church. The whole section (1 Peter 5:7-11) reads:
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Earlier this week Newsnight interviewed Italian physicist and bestselling author, Carlo Rovelli – lauded by Stephen Hawking and numerous others, and as much a philosopher and poet as he is a scientist. Speaking amidst the crisis in Italy he said, “This will be a very humbling experience for humanity as a whole. We are not the master of everything. We have to deal with nature; we have to listen to people who say there is a threat coming... Humbly and accepting our weakness we will come out of it”.
Peter also writes amidst threats and suffering. Although, in his context, it’s mainly persecution he has in mind. Quoting from Psalm 55:22, he encourages his readers to cast their burdens and concerns upon God. These are strong sentiments. The word used for anxiety, concerns or worries literally means: those things which fracture or divide a person’s being into fragments, as the various pieces are pulled in differing directions. It’s a graphic picture of the turmoil trials may bring us.
The word used for ‘casting’ these things upon God is equally so. It means to hurl or fling – a complete disposal, vigorously thrown – of everything in all their fragmented totality upon him. And why? Because God cares. Because (Psalm 55) ‘he will sustain you’. And because (v6) he wishes to ‘lift you up in due time’.
To do this requires humility – a complete letting go of things, where everything is put entirely into his hands. Not just because God opposes all human pride but because it is key to experiencing his favour and deliverance. When Peter speaks of a surrender to his ‘mighty hand’, he uses a turn of phrase used consistently in the Bible in the context of salvation. It was with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm that he rescued his people from their enemies (e.g. Exodus 13:9, Deuteronomy 3:24 & 9:26). It speaks of his mighty and enthusiastic intervention in human affairs ‘with his sleeves rolled up’.
It takes humility to submit to his salvation. This is because it is his work and not ours. Later in our passage (v10) Peter tells of how “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ... will himself restore you and make you strong...” The word ‘himself’ is stressed and emphatic. It is something he does, not us. “To him be the power for ever and ever.” (v11)
Humility belongs to truth and it emerges in us as an attitude of the heart and with an internal, trusting disposition – yet it’s something expressed practically and in the way we conduct ourselves. In making our own personal surrender, we simply speak honestly and from our hearts, recognising we are dependent creatures, reliant upon his mercy and that he is our loving and eternal Father. Sometimes people choose to express that physically in their posture, sitting head bowed or standing, eyes lifted to the heavens, or with hands stretched out before him. Some choose to kneel. Others may lie prostrate. We find all these expressions in the Bible and amongst the saints of old. But, whatever we do, we do it in gratitude for his rich and undeserved kindness in Jesus.
And so as Christians we pray, speaking directly through Christ with the Lord of all – the source of all life and practical wisdom – confident in his loving concern. We seek mercy and deliverance for ourselves and our nation. We call upon him in humility, recognising it is his grace, and his grace alone, which sustains us. Called into his glory in Christ, we yield beneath his mighty hand and cast all cares upon him. And in so doing we find he lifts us up. Thank you, Lord!
The peace of Christ be with you all
All-age Message for Sunday 29th March 2020
When tears turned to joy
“Jesus wept” John 11:35
I wonder what makes you cry? We all do, although some of us find it harder than others to let the tears roll down.
We can cry when we have an accident and it’s sore. We can cry when our feelings are hurt. Perhaps someone has been mean and unkind to us. Maybe we’ve felt alone or afraid. Or we’ve felt embarrassed after doing something silly. Sometimes it’s because we’re disappointed or feeling let down. Things haven’t happened the way we’d hoped.
We can cry too when sad things happen. If things go wrong for someone we love, or we see them upset and hurting, we can feel sad too. They cry and we feel like crying as well.
Some of us can cry watching films. Somehow it touches our hearts and we feel all emotional. But that’s not always because it’s sad. Sometimes it’s over something good – tears of joy or relief. Maybe something wonderful has happened and it moves us.
The Bible tells us that Jesus cried. In fact, the shortest verse in the whole Bible says, “Jesus wept”.
We’re told he cried sometimes when he prayed. It says, “While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings with loud cries and tears”. (Hebrews 5:7)
We’re told he cried when he saw others missing out on what God wanted for them. When he came into Jerusalem on a donkey, he saw the city and cried for its people. Despite all God’s love for them, they were determined to do their own thing. And, as a result, big troubles were coming. It says he wept loudly for them saying, “I wish even today you would find the way of peace but you just can’t see it”. (Luke 19:41,42)
Just a little while before that story, the Bible tells of another time when his friends were sad and hurting. (John 11:1-44) There were three in the family. Two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Unfortunately, Lazarus became very sick. His sisters sent someone to get Jesus, who was a long way away. But by the time Jesus got there, Lazarus had already died a few days before. Everyone was crying and when he saw how sad they were, Jesus wept too.
But that isn't all that happened. Jesus went with Mary and Martha to visit the tomb where they’d put Lazarus’ body. It was a cave with a large stone across the entrance. When they got there, Jesus told some of the men to take away the stone. Then Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" And to everyone’s surprise, Lazarus walked out of the tomb. Their tears of sadness had turned to joy.
In the book of Psalms, David asked God to collect his tears in a bottle. (Psalm 56:8) He understood that God sees our tears. He hears us when we cry and he cares when we’re sad and upset.
We all cry, and we can be glad we have a Saviour who cries too. In his love he hurts when we are hurting. He feels our pain and shares our tears. But that’s not all. The Bible tells us there will come a day when everything is changed and all things are made new. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more and neither will there be any sadness, crying or pain”. (Revelation 21:4) It’s a day we look forward to.
Some activity sheets for younger children are available here. (Activity Sheets Copyright © 2001 - 2020. Sermon4Kids Used with permission)
Prayers for the nation
Churches across the country called Sunday 22nd March as a National Day of Prayer. Premier Christian Radio recorded a number of prayers from church leaders and put them together in one podcast. Although the date has now passed, the prayers are still pertinent. To listen in and pray along with them, click here.
Ormiston Parish Church has been approved to qualify for the Co-op Local Community Fund to help raise money to improve the appearance of the Church Car Park
Members can support this cause by joining the scheme and selecting Ormiston Parish Church as their preferred local charity.
More information is available at the Co-op website below: