Kilmorack and Erchless Church

Sunday 15th May

 

When we are carefree                                 we trust that you are with us

When we are anxious                                  we trust that you are beside us

When we are think about the future        we trust that you go before us.

 

Prayer

Ever present God, gathered now in your presence, we offer worship to you with all that we are and all that we have.  As we journey through this life we find ourselves sheltered by your kindness, protected by your peace, encouraged by your strength.

When we feel afraid we discover that you are there for us.

When we grow anxious we are aware that will never leave us.

When we grow tired we know that you breath new life into us.

Forgive us when we forget to turn to you in our times of need.

Forgive us for worshiping false gods of money, power and popularity.

Forgive us for hurting each other in so many ways.

Forgive us for saying we honour you yet failing to live as though we do.

Forgive us, and remind us once again that there are no limits to your love.

Remind us once again to love you with our whole hearts.

Remind us once again to show that love by the way we treat one another.

Amen

Story

Three elderly men were relaxing on the beach in Florida, and they got talking about how they came to be living such a comfortable life.

One said “I owned a factory and worked really hard to keep it profitable.  Then, one winter morning the heating didn’t come on, the pipes froze and got water everywhere.  Everything was ruined. I decided I was too old to start over, so I took the insurance money, sold the place, and retired to here.”

The second man said that his story was similar in some ways.  “I had a big shop, a really big place in a town centre.  I worked long hours to keep it all going.  Then one night, it caught fire and burned to the ground.  I didn’t want to go through all the work of rebuilding, so I sold the property, took the insurance money, and I moved here too.”

The third man said, “that’s quite a coincidence, because I have a similar story.   I owned a huge car dealership.  I was working crazy hours to keep on top of everything and keep it turning a profit.  Then, two years ago, a hurricane blew through, and destroyed everything.  The building was flattened and not a car was left undamaged.  I, too, decided to take the insurance money and retire.”

His companions looked at him in awe.  After a few moments of silence, one said, “that’s incredible.  How did you manage to start a hurricane?”

I should probably add at this point, for legal reasons, that I’m not endorsing the idea of insurance fraud, just telling a story!

The idea of being able to walk away from the things that stress us and just start over again, that’s a tempting thought, especially on those days when things seem to crowd in on top of us.  The notion that we could leave all our troubles and our worries behind us and just be free of it all, that sounds like a great idea.  Unfortunately, it is rarely possible, at least without the incurring the wrath of the forces of the law.

Yet that idea, and that sort of image, crops up a good deal throughout the bible.  Not the idea of insurance fraud, but the recognition of that feeling within humans that we would love to be able to be free from all the pressure of life and all the bad stuff from our past and to start again with a clean sheet.  So without encouraging you to want to move to Florida, where I’m sure people have at least as many problems as we do, I can encourage you to listen for the promises of new beginnings which we find in the bible, including the passages we read this morning.

Bible Readings

The book of Revelation is “the revelation of Christ” made through John.  It is prophecy which claims to reveals secret of heaven and earth.  In a vision, John has seen the destruction of the old city, and of the old heaven and earth.  Now he sees the new creation, the promise that ultimately God’s love will prevail.

Revelation 21: 1 - 6

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth disappeared, and the sea vanished. And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice speaking from the throne: “Now God's home is with people! He will live with them, and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared.”

Then the one who sits on the throne said, “And now I make all things new!” He also said to me, “Write this, because these words are true and can be trusted.” And he said, “It is done! I am the first and the last, the beginning and the end. To anyone who is thirsty I will give the right to drink from the spring of the water of life without paying for it.

Reading this out of context, it is easy to miss the tension and the drama in these words.  Jesus is preparing his followers for his departure.  After the Last Supper, he has washed the feet of his disciples, a symbol of how he had come to serve. He has predicted his betrayal.  Judas Iscariot has gone out into the night – a symbol of the dark deed he is about to commit.

 John 13: 31 – 35

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

 Sermon

In the book “Man and Boy” by Tony Parsons, we read the story of a father bringing up his young son.  He frequently comments on how wonderfully new his little boy seems to be.  He washes his hair in the bath and afterward he marvels at how the hair seems so fresh and new.  He sends the boy to brush his teeth and when he returns he notices that the teeth look so white and new.  More than that, beyond his physical appearance, he thrills at how his boy lives each day with open-eyed wonder, full of expectation at each new experience, willing to accept each new person who enters his life as someone who might be a friend.

I recognise that when I see my own wee grandchildren, and I remember the feelings he is describing.  What is it about a young child that has that effect on us?  For the father in the story the reason becomes clear.   The newness of his son’s life is described in stark contrast to the messiness of his own.  His wife has left him and now he had met someone else, but that relationship is complicated to say the least.  His job is stressful and insecure and he was struggling to pay the bills.

He wonders – how did it get like this?  He too must have started out all fresh and new and full of wonder, yet now his life seems so broken up, and as he puts it, he just wants things to be whole again.  He is not a bad person, he wants to do the right things, and yet he finds himself in situations he did not want to be in, surrounded by mess and confusion and regret, and he finds himself wishing he could undo the past and make life new again.

His story is not unusual.  What is it about a young child that attracts us?  I’m sure part of it is genetic programming to make us protect the young and vulnerable.  Yet I’m sure part of it is also recognition of something that we have lost.  The image of a clean and healthy body suggests a clean and healthy life, and part of what attracts us to that is our sense of having lost it.  We can see evidence of that in a mirror, but the change in our outer appearance might simply be a metaphor for the changes that have taken place within us; the scars and hurts and bad experiences which have aged us inwardly.  So it is significant that our bible passages this week both speak about new things: or perhaps we should say about old things being made new.

In the Book of Revelation we have a vision of the city, a new heaven and new earth.  We are told of old ways and old sorrows passing away.  It is not going to be like that anymore.   The injuries and the hurts are going to be taken away, along with all the scars, and the bitterness, and the twisted ways of thinking.  They are to be replaced with a promised saving, a healing, when all the tears of the years will be wiped away.  "And now I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).   That is a powerful vision.

Then we have the words of Jesus in John’s gospel where he gives a new commandment.  There were plenty of old commandments.  The religion he had inherited had no shortage of commandments, and the attempts to keep interpreting them for changing times led to a fantastically detailed web of do’s

and don’ts.  Perhaps the religion we have inherited was the same.  Jesus was not speaking against them but he offered something new.  He was offering something fresh and simple and direct.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35).

We are to love as he loved us.  That sounds enormously challenging yet enormously liberating.  We can set all the other stuff aside, stop all our striving and our worrying.  We can relax, and learn to love people, even as Jesus loved people.  It is a new commandment and a powerful vision.

New beginnings are things we instinctively long for and new beginnings are what the bible speaks of as the promise and the intention of our creator.  I don’t think that is coincidental.  Naturally we cannot throw our past away and start again as if it had never happened.  We are who we are.  However we can know that the past does not control the future.  We can live in the belief that our future is in the hands of our creator rather than in the grip of our past.  We can know that the desire and the intention of our creator is to destroy all that is bad, all that has gone wrong, and make us new again, and make creation new again.  That is a powerful vision, and a powerful hope, and a powerful faith.  May it set us free and inspire us to live with wide-eyed wonder.

Prayer

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.  Give us grace to love one another, and to walk in the ways of his commandments, and to live in the light of the wonderful visions you offer us.  In all the circumstances of our lives may we remain open to your presence, remain filled with your presence, as we freely receive your love.  Let us freely share with others all that you have given to us.

Father of all, we pray for your church that it may be a place of care, and love and acceptance.  We pray for the outreach of your church, that it may seek out those who are weary, and searching and lonely, and demonstrate for them the possibility of new beginnings.

May their lives and their world be made new by your love.

Father of all, we come with sorrow for all who have been denied freedom and peace, and who are most deeply caught up in the sinfulness of our world.  We pray for places where communities are under strain, where families are under stress, where children grow up with uncertainty and fear.

May their lives and their world be made new by your love.

We give thanks for places where people can exercise their talents, where people are free to think and act without hindrance.  We pray for all who are enriching the world with their gifts, all who spread love and peace and hope.  We pray for our families, and our friends, wherever they be.

May their lives and their world be made new by your love.

We remember all whose lives are marred and damaged from the past, the lives tainted by bad memories, hatred, guilt or resentment.  We remember all who grow weary of living, who can no longer see wonder in the world, who feel as if they have no possibilities.

May their lives and their world be made new by your love.

And we pray for ourselves; that we may more fully discover what it means to love one another, and that, as we live in the presence of your love, we may more clearly and more fully be, your disciples.

May our lives and our world be made new by your love. 

Almighty God, your son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.  Give us grace to love one another and to walk in the ways of his commandments, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever.  Amen.