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Reflection of Sunday 16th August Trinity X Proper 15

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 15/08/2020 - 10:51

Proper 15 Sunday 16th August 2020 Year A Commentary on each of the readings:

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

When one usually reads the Old Testament, one tends to hear about how God’s chosen people are to be increased in number and how they are to extend their influence by conquest, battle and breeding. You also quite often hear about all the good things that God will do and has done and has planned for his chosen people – that very select bunch known to us as the Hebrews.

These few verses from Isaiah, however, seem to counteract all that I have just said for they suggest that God is a lot more inclusive than other writers in the Old Testament suggest. The Old Testament tends to be full of the stories of how the Hebrews became God’s chosen people – his delight above all other peoples. Sometimes you might even wonder if God actually created the other races just to be able to show his favouritism towards the Hebrews.

Isaiah, however, (and this is tertiary Isaiah, that is the third author writing under that name) tells us quite strongly that God is not impartial at all and that anyone is acceptable in his sight if they chose to keep his ways and follow his laws:

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
 to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,


and to be his servants,
 all who keep the Sabbath, and do not profane it,
 and hold fast my covenant— 

7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
 and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
 their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
 will be accepted on my altar;
 for my house shall be called a house of prayer
 for all peoples.”                                                                                              Isaiah 56:6-7a

To read this is almost mind-blowing for it sets the scene for Christ’s ministry and shows us that we human beings have always had the opportunity to be one of God’s most beloved people simply by following his ways. I wonder though, if other people were as acceptable to the Hebrews as they appear to have been by God? In fact I know the answer to that question and it is no, the Hebrews could not even accept each other and it led to three distinct Jewish groups developing who tolerated each other but did not accept each other. All too often we human beings can be too exclusive and not follow the ways of God or try to ape his inclusive nature. We humans are selective NOT God. For God says:

“8 Thus says the Lord God,
 who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
 I will gather others to them
 besides those already gathered.”                                                                                   Isaiah 56:8

Until reading this piece of Scripture for today’s commentary I had never been cognisant of Isaiah’s particular take on God’s nature. This piece now amazes me and excites me for it tells me that God has always been accepting and loving of all his Creation, should they follow his ways – always since the time of creation and not just after the birth of Christ. It does however; make Christ’s birth for me all the more important as it shows me how far we humans had strayed from God’s ways that he needed to send his son to redeem us.

Yet, it also offers us hope. Hope that as 21st century people if we continue to turn to God’s ways then we will be accepted by him and loved beyond measure. God’s nature is not to reject, it is to accept but we humans have to decide to seek him out and come to him. He offers us unconditional love we just have to accept it.

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

I have to admit that I find the last verse of this Scripture passage from Paul’s epistle to the Romans somewhat disconcerting:

“For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.” Romans 11:32

Why? Because on the face of it, it seems to say that God plays games with us in order to show how loving he actually is. I really don’t like the idea that God has ‘imprisoned’ us in disobedience in order to show us mercy. It makes God seem like some grand puppet master and us human beings incapable of behaving well by choice – our own choice. I hope that Paul did not mean what we read in translation. In fact I suspect that he didn’t because his opening question and short immediate answer are very powerful and decisive:

“I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.”                                                    Romans 11:1a

That verse is pretty blunt and to the point; God has not rejected his people and if you remember back to what Isaiah said when we use the term ‘his people’ we mean ALL who have turned to God and who try to follow his ways. I do wish that Paul had left it at that, as it makes it very clear that God loves us. As it is though I think he over complicates things and almost negates what he first suggests. If we ignore that last verse of this bit from Paul’s writings we have just read, then I think Paul is actually re-affirming what Isaiah said – that God loves all his creation regardless of who they are.

Matthew 15:10-28

It is what comes out of our mouths that defiles for if it comes out with malice behind it then it will destroy our souls and hurt those to whom it is directed. How true are these words of Christ?

How often have you, like me, wished that you had not said the things you said but had kept a hold of one’s tongue? We all have times when we do this without thinking, times when our anger, fear or hurt cause us to lash out with our tongues and it is perhaps understandable why we do it. The problem arises when we use our words to destroy and hurt intentionally with as they say ‘malice aforethought’.

Jesus tells us that we are not to live lives driven by malice. To be a Christian is to try and live a life with good intention and without malice. What I mean by this is that we are called by Christ to live lives that seek to do good to and within God’s creation. We are called to be co-creators not destroyers. Matthew says, it is not eating with unwashed hands that defile us it is our own impure and imperfect thoughts and actions that do that.

None of us are perfect and we all struggle to live harmonious lives and that it is in that struggle that we can be assured that God will be with us loving us as we try to live good lives. It is when we choose to live lives of malice that we run into trouble and face God’s wrath, for it is then that we are failing to love our neighbours as ourselves. Malice defiles everyone and everything it touches.

Today’s Gospel reading is a warning to us to be careful; careful in what we do and say. If we do anything with an evil intent, then we will be defiled and thus become unacceptable to God, until we repent of our ways and follow his paths once again.

But remember too the words of Paul and Isaiah; we are unconditionally loved and God will always forgive us when we truly repent for the things that we do that defile his image within us. God says you choose how

you live your lives but not all choices will bring you into my loving embrace.

From the Diocesan Magazine August 2020

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 13:56

PRAYER GARDEN AT GOOD SHEPHERD CHURCH

The Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield, has opened its grounds to allow visitors to ‘pray their way around the garden’. By coincidence I
 happened on the church on Sunday, and took a look around.

The building itself is modest but dignified, nestled between rows of typical Edinburgh townhouses, and its well-kept garden offers sanctuary from the bustle of Corstorphine Road. The idea is ingenious – since the church building is closed the churchyard has been turned into a space for reflection, with short prayers, poems or meditations posted around the garden on weather-proof boards. Despite the somewhat grey sky the garden looked resplendent in the sunlight! The porch of the church, with its door remaining open to the elements, is also available for prayer if desired.

The visit very much reminded me of that phrase we seem to hear a lot currently – “it’s the little things that count”. Although a far cry from the social, active experience of ‘Church’ we might be used to, my time in the prayer garden at Murrayfield felt like a moment of closeness with God.

A prayer of Guerric of Igny, a 12th century Cistercian, as seen in the garden at Murrayfield:

Oh Lord Jesus, true gardener, work in us what you want of us, For you are indeed the true gardener at once, maker and tiller and keeper of your garden you who plant with the word, water with the spirit

and give your increase with your power.

David Lewis (Communications Diocese of Edinburgh)

 

Sermon for Sunday 9th August 2020 by the Rev'd David Warnes

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 13:47

Proper 14 Trinity IX Year A Sunday 9 August 2020

Mood swings and faith

This time of Covid is a time of mood swings, a time when even people whose emotional weather is generally mild and sunny find themselves disturbed by items in the news and by the high degree of uncertainty about the future and by the fears about the safety of those closest to them that we are all experiencing; a time when it is very important to know what can lift your spirits and to resort to that, whether it’s exercise, music, time out in nature, baking, or the prayer that can accompany any of those activities. It is also a time when faith may be challenged and when we may be tempted, in those down moments, to fall into the trap of judging our faith in the light of our current mood.

Today’s reading from the Hebrew Scriptures has the prophet Elijah experiencing a massive downward mood swing. He’s recently experienced a very big high – his triumph over the prophets of Baal on the summit of Mount Carmel when God vindicated him by sending fire from heaven – but now Queen Jezebel has ordered his death and he has fled into the wilderness, fearful and depressed. He has journeyed to Mount Horeb, the place of Moses’ encounter with God, the place where he received the Ten Commandments, and has bedded down in a cave. He is so depressed that he is exaggerating how bad the situation is. When he says that the prophets have been killed and that he alone is left, he is forgetting that King Ahab’s steward Obadiah has hidden one hundred of the prophets in a cave, fed them and saved their lives.

Elijah is told that he too will have an encounter with God, but the encounter is not what he expects. God is not in the earthquake, the wind or the fire, not in the transformative and destructive forces which can reshape nature and destroy people. Rather, to hear what God is calling him to do, he first has to listen to what the King James Bible calls a “still small voice”, the “still small voice of calm” of which the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote. It’s interesting to note that “still small voice” is a mistranslation, and the New Revised Standard version – “a sound of sheer silence” – is apparently more faithful to the original Hebrew. And out of the “sound of sheer silence” comes not some dramatic intervention by God. Instead God tells Elijah to pass on the burdens of political leadership and prophetic ministry – a gentle reminder that it doesn’t all depend on him and that a part of his vocation is to prepare those who will come after him. He is also reminded that God works through human beings, knowing their mental and physical frailties and remaining faithful to them, whatever their mood.

We who know that all human relationships have their ups and downs should also remember that they need not, unless a relationship is abusive, be judged or defined by the downs. God does not judge us by our downs or reward us for our ups. God sees us whole and is lovingly faithful to us.

There will, of course, be times when faith is difficult to sustain; times when it seems impossible to sustain. Peter seems to experience one of those moments in today’s Gospel, but the story of his attempt to walk on water is often misunderstood. When Jesus identifies himself with the words “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”, Peter only half believes him. His request to Jesus is conditional – “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” That conditionality shows that his faith at this point was not secure. He is putting Jesus to the test. For a little while he is able to walk on the water, but then he notices the strength of the wind. His mood changes from one of hope and growing faith to one of panic and fear and he begins to sink.

Misreadings of this story are often based on Jesus’ words, rather than on what Jesus does. Jesus says: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Too many sermons have been preached suggesting that if Peter had had more faith, he wouldn’t have panicked and his walk on the water would have continued. The point at which Peter doubted was not, however, the moment when he became fearful and began to sink, but somewhat earlier in the story, when he responded to Jesus’ words of reassurance by saying “Lord, if it is you...” What Jesus does for Peter in this Gospel story is more important than what he says to him and comes before it.

“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him...”

Faith is not about a constant and unswerving belief in God. Even Elijah, the greatest of the Hebrew prophets, was not capable of that. Nor is it about believing that if we have enough faith the laws of Physics and Biology will be altered in our favour so that we will be able to walk on

water or be immune from illness. Rather, to quote the New Testament scholar Eugene Boring, a man whose commentary on Matthew is much more stimulating than his surname might suggest: “Faith is...daring to believe, in the face of all the evidence, that God is with us in the boat, made real in the community of faith as it makes its way through the storm, battered by the waves.”

With us, too, in the ups and downs of our moods; faithfully with us in the time of despair that Elijah experienced and the moments of fearful doubt that the Apostle Peter knew.

Amen.

Zoom 'Sea Sunday' Liturgy

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 01/08/2020 - 11:12

Sunday 2nd August 2020 ‘Zoom’ Sea Sunday

Worship for the congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield

Organ Voluntary: AD 1620 from Sea Pieces by Edward MacDowell, played by Thomas Murray Introit: Psalm 95 sung by Wells Cathedral Choir, chant by William Boyce

Welcome and Introduction

“The sea is his, for he made it and his hands have moulded the dry land.” Psalm 95: 5

‘Sea Sunday is when we have the opportunity to remember and pray for seafarers, their

families and all who support them. It is a day of remembrance, prayer and celebration, and

an opportunity to think about and thank those seafarers who work tirelessly throughout the

year bringing us goods we often take for granted.’ Seafarers are some of our key-workers

and this time of pandemic has reminded and sheen us all, just how inter-connected we all

are and how much we depend on others for the things we take for granted.

Sea Sunday has been a day set aside each year for the past 170 years for us to give

thanks to the seafarers (1.6 million today) who quietly, and often anonymously, transport

up to 95% of the world’s goods. Seafaring can be a dangerous, lonely and demanding job,

with little in the way of official support for the workers who keep the global economy afloat.

The Mission to Seafarers, whom we pray most especially for this morning, was set up to

cater for the welfare and pastoral care of seafarers, and Sea Sunday is one of the most

important dates in our calendar. It represents a chance to bring seafarers and sea-faring

ministries into the heart of our communities, and for us to celebrate all they do for us.’

With that in our hearts and minds we welcome to our worship the Rev’d Tim Tunley, the

Mission to Seafarers Chaplain based at Grangemouth. Tim will lead us in our intercessions

later in this service.

A Prayer for Seafarers

O Eternal Lord God, who alone spreads out the heavens and rules the raging of the

seas, receive into your protection all those who go down to the sea in ships and

occupy their business on the great waters of the world. Preserve them both in body

and soul, prosper their labours with good success, in all times of danger, be their

defence, and bring them to the haven where they would be. We ask this in the

name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

HYMN

Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm hath bound the restless wave,

who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea.

O Christ, whose voice the waters heard, And hushed their raging at thy word, who walkedst on the foaming deep, and calm amid the storm didst sleep: O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea.

O Holy Spirit, who didst brood upon the waters dark and rude, and bid their angry tumult cease, and give, for wild confusion, peace: O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and power,
our brethren shield in danger’s hour; from rock and tempest, fire and foe, protect them wheresoe’er they go: thus evermore shall rise to thee glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Words by William Whiting 1825-78 Tune MELITA by John B Dykes 1823-76

Time to reflect

Heavenly Father we come together to bring our praises and love to you. We come to hear your word, to pray for the world that you have given to us and to ask your forgiveness for the times we let you down. We pray that your Holy Spirit will fill our hearts with love, that we may always praise you. Amen

For turning away from you, and ignoring your will for our lives

Father forgive us; save us and help us.

For behaving just as we wish, without thinking of you;

Father forgive us; save us and help us.

For failing you by what we do, and think and say;

Father forgive us; save us and help us

May the God of love bring us back to himself,

Forgive us our sins and assure us of his eternal love, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

Bible Reading: Matthew 14: 23-33

23...After Jesus had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.

When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the

waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he

came walking towards them on the lake. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the

lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately

Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ 28 Peter answered

him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29He said, ‘Come.’ So

Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30But

when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried

out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to

him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32When they got into the boat, the wind

ceased. 33And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

HYMN

Refrain

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright. Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them. They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone. I will speak my words to them. Whom shall I send?

 

I, the Lord of wind and flame,

I will send the poor and lame.

I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.

Finest bread I will provide

till their hearts be satisfied.

I will give my life to them.

Whom shall I send?

Words and music by Dan Schutte

Sailor's Paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my pilot, I shall not drift.
He lighteth me across the dark waters.
He steereth me in the deep channels.
He keepeth my log.
He guideth me beneath stars of his holiness for his name's sake. Yea, though I sail 'mid the thunders and tempest of life,
I shall dread no anger, for thou art with me;
Thy love and thy care, they shelter me.
Thou preparest a harbour for me in the homeland of eternity. Thou anointest the waves with oil
My ship rideth calmly.
Surely sunlight and starlight shall favour me on the voyage I take, And I will rest in the port of God forever.

Intercessions: The Rev’d Tim Tunley

The Lords prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. For ever and ever. Amen

HYMN

God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year.

God is working his purpose out,
and the time is drawing near.
Nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

From utmost east to the utmost west Where’er man’s foot has trod,
By the mouth of many messengers
Goes forth the voice of God:
‘Give ear to me, ye continents,
ye isles, give ear to me,
that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.’

What can we do to work God’s work,
to prosper and increase
the brotherhood of all makind,
the reign of the Price of Peace?
What can we do to hasten the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

March we forth in the strength of God,
with the banner of Christ unfurled,
that the light of the glorious gospel of truth may shine throughout the world;
fight we the fight with sorrow and sin,
to set their captives free,
that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

All we can do is nothing worth
unless God blesses the deed;
vainly we hope for the harvest-tide
till God gives life to the seed.
Yet nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

Words by A. C. Ainger 1841-1919 Tune BENSON by Millicent Kingham 1866-94

Concluding prayer

Creator and Father of all, we pray for those who go down to the sea in ships and serve you upon the waters of the world. Bless them and those who serve their needs, that they may put their whole trust in you and find in you a strong anchor for their hopes, and so be filled with your peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The Blessing

May God the Father watch over you; may the Lord Jesus smile upon you and be gracious to you, and may the Spirit of God help you to live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him, all the days of your life; and the blessing (+) of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, come upon you and remain with you and all whom you love and pray for this day and for ever more. Amen

Concluding music: March we forth in the strength of God, the Newsong Group

Sea Sunday reflection by the Rev'd Tim Tunley Mission to Seafarers Chaplain

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 01/08/2020 - 11:04

I am taking as a text today, two verses from Acts 28

Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.

Mission to Seafarers Scotland at this time of year would normally be in the middle of visiting the cruise ships as they come into the port at Rosyth and the anchorage at South Queensferry. All our other work like coming to preach in the churches and the regular ship visits would be dovetailed around them. On a typical morning at Rosyth we would expect to have contact with many cruise ship crew members.

At South Queensferry we hire the large back room of the pub and there we host the crew from the cruise ships as they come ashore by tender. On average we would expect to see fifty or so crew. Although we did see well over a hundred at one visit last year. We have many conversations with crew who are a long way from home and who are earning small wages in return for long hours.

We often find seafarers who are suffering from anxiety about there families at home. Sometimes things may not be going well on board. We offer a listening ear and a helping hand.

In South Queensferry we offer free wifi and tea and coffee a listening ear and we assist as much as we can with the equipment that seafarers need to be able to contact home. Of course, every seafarer who comes through the door is given at least one wholly hat. Last year we gave out over 5000 wholly hats to those on cruise ships. It can be very touching when a seafarer picks up a hat and says “How much is this” we always give the same answer “free It is a gift of love, from the people of Scotland”.

I have been thinking a lot about those hats while we have been in lockdown. The knitted pattern reminds us of how interconnected our whole world has become. As a nation we buy and sell goods across the world. 95% of all we consume is imported by sea our exports from Scotland not least our whiskey goes right across the planet.

The hats also remind us of the interconnected nature of our family lives. The ties and bond that connect us one to another. Seafarers go to sea for the families they love and rarely see. Contracts at sea range from a few months to a whole year. Now we are seeing seafarers who can not return home as there are either very few flights or countries are in lockdown.

I have been dealing with a seafarer who has been involved in an accident and is stuck in a hotel in Edinburgh waiting for a flight home to India. We are in contact online with Ghanaian seafarers who can not go home as Ghana has shut its borders. There is also a rise in the kind of accidents that happen when seafarers get tired. These accidents range from the small to the life threatening and life changing.

Now in the midst of Covid 19 the vision of Mission to Seafarers Scotland remains the same. Which brings us to the reading from acts. “Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold”. It is the calling of Mission to Seafarers Scotland to offer “unusual kindness” to those who do not find themselves shipwrecked by a storm, but who find themselves in the storms of life in the rain and cold, left on the beach.

We express the vision by keeping in touch with seafarers on Facebook messenger. We send the top up vouchers so seafarers can get internet access, so they can keep in touch with there families. We are keeping in touch with those who are waiting for flights home. I am shopping for seafarers and sending the goods to the ships via the shipping agents. We are keeping in touch with our volunteers so that when we can get back to work, we have a team to go back to supporting seafarers.

We are also working on improving the centre in which I am sitting in now. This is the Seafarers centre down in Grangemouth docks. In usual times when we are open, we offer free wifi and tea and coffee. The centre is open 24/7 and has either myself the Chaplain or some volunteers here some of the time. Our plans are to improve the inside and outside so that the whole place is much more inviting. What is most valued about the centre is that it is an easy to get to safe space for seafarers to use.

At the heart of all that we do is a question. That question is how we share the love of God with seafarers from all over the world. Those with some faith and those with none. Every hat you knit and every pound you so generously give brings us one step nearer. Nearer not to answering the question but living the answer.

Amen