Kilmorack and Erchless Church

Sunday 17th October

remembering that we are welcome          we come now to worship

remembering that we are known              we come now to celebrate

remembering that we are loved                we come now to praise

Prayer

Here, in this time, we come to look at our lives from a fresh perspective.  Here we come to see your angle on the things of earth, your perspective on past and future.  As we do so, we are reminded of how little we can see and understand of how much remains hidden from us, of how much more there is for us to discover, about the great and glorious gift of life that we have been given.

Where we get stuck in our own small thoughts, where we have not done things right, where we fail You and other people, forgive us; make us clean from our sin, and renew a right spirit within us.  Let Your Spirit change us. Instruct us by Your wisdom, guide us by Your word, inspire us by what is said and done here today.

We come to praise You, to lift up Your name in prayer and song, to respond to the wonder of who You are with heart and soul and voice, to seek the good of others, to find new strength to serve You today and tomorrow and throughout our lives.

These are our desires.  Take what is weak in us, make it strong.  Take what is amiss in us, make it right. See our hesitant steps towards you and embrace us in the arms of Your unfailing love.  Amen

Introduction

A man walks in to a police station, and he is looking very worried.  “My wife is missing! She went out three days ago and hasn’t come home...”  “Ok”, the Sergeant said, lets get some details.  What height is your wifeHeight, the husband replied, I don’t know, just about average I suppose.  The Sergeant wrote that down and asked, “Colour of eyes?”  The husband went quiet, deep in thought, “sort of brown I think. I’ve never really noticed”.  “Colour of hair?” the Sergeant asked.  “it changes a couple times a year”, the husband said. “Maybe dark brown now, or possibly more blond.  I can’t remember.” 
The Sergeant continued, “What was she wearing when you last saw her?”  “Could have been jeans, or maybe a skirt or shorts. I don't know exactly”, the husband offered.

Just one more question, the sergeant said, “What kind of car did she go in”.  “She went in my Audi”, the man said, “It is java green with metallic paint, 2019 limited edition, ambient lighting pack, LED matrix headlights, body coloured bumpers, body coloured door mirrors and handles, body coloured roof spoiler, Bang & Olufsen speakers …”  At this point the Sergeant could see that the man was getting distressed, so he interrupted, “Don't worry Sir. We'll do our best to find your car

It is funny how the things we notice aren’t always the things we ought to be paying attention to.  Well it’s not always funny, because it can have an impact on us over the years.  If we remember insults more than compliments, if we recall every detail of harsh words but brush aside kind words, if we give a lot more thought to worries than to possibilities, it will certainly take its toll on us.

Similarly, if our main concern is what we can get for ourselves, if it is about our possessions, if it is focussed on what we can achieve, then there is going to be an awful lot of beauty and wonder and laughter and peace that is going to pass us by.  One of the great benefits of what we are doing now is that it creates a regular space in our lives to stop and to still all our normal thought patterns and to look beyond the things which might have come to demand our attention.

This is a time when we can remind ourselves of what really matters,  and notice again the things which we ought to be paying attention to.  With those thoughts, let’s turn to our bible readings for this week.

Bible Readings

The 95th Psalm opens with the message that when you sit in the presence of the high God, you can say to him, “You are my defender and protector.  You are my God; in you I trust.”  So it continues to express that sense of safety and security, and the kind of wellbeing that can survive every difficult circumstance.  We pick it up at verse 9…

Psalm 91: 9 - 16

You have made the Lord yourdefender, the Most High your protector,
10 and so no disaster will strike you, no violence will come near your home.
11 God will put his angels in charge of you to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    to keep you from hurting your feet on the stones.
13 You will trample down lions and snakes, fierce lions and poisonous snakes.

14 God says, “I will save those who love me
    and will protect those who acknowledge me as Lord.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
    when they are in trouble, I will be with them.
    I will rescue them and honour them.
16 I will reward them with long life; I will save them.”

Mark’s gospel brings us a private conversation between two of the disciples and Jesus.  It might be that they want to impress him with their statement of devotion, or it could just be about selfish ambition, you can judge for yourself.  Either way, it illustrates the gulf between two different ways of understanding his mission and his purpose.

Mark 10:35-45

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “there is something we want you to do for us.”  36 “What is it?” Jesus asked them.  37 They answered, “When you sit on your throne in your glorious Kingdom, we want you to let us sit with you, one at your right and one at your left.”  38 Jesus said to them, “You don't know what you are asking for. Can you drink the cup of suffering that I must drink? Can you be baptized in the way I must be baptized?”  39 “We can,” they answered.  Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup I must drink and be baptized in the way I must be baptized. 40 But I do not have the right to choose who will sit at my right and my left. It is God who will give these places to those for whom he has prepared them.” 

41 When the other ten disciples heard about it, they became angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them all together to him and said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. 43 This, however, is not the way it is among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; 44 and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.”

Sermon

Our gospel reading tells us that the disciples needed to be reminded of something.  James and John, seeing that Jesus’ mission was going well at this point find that their thoughts quickly turn to what they can get out of it.  When they should already have known that the mission was about something bigger than that.  The other disciples react to the feelings of anger which rose up within them, rather than the spirit of forgiveness which they should already have known was a far healthier way.

They already knew what Jesus’ movement was about.  They could clearly see from everything he had said and done that the kingdom he spoke of was not going to be like the empire which ruled their land, that they were not in competition with each other, that humility and sacrifice were at the heart of his regime.  So Jesus reminds them that this is not the way it is supposed to be among them, that greatness is found in service rather than status, just as he himself was demonstrating for them.

This was not news.  They knew that already.  It was just that in the push and shove of life - they had lost sight of it.  It is just a little moment in the unfolding story of the gospel, yet it is also a moment which illustrates how we all experience the message of Jesus.  It does not come to us as something which is new.  Rather it reminds us of things which, deep inside, we are already aware of, but which we all tend to lose sight of in the push and shove of life.  It is calling us back to a knowledge that we already have, but which we can easily lose sight of when we get so caught up with whatever is grabbing our attention in the moment.  It is a prompting to pay attention to what we already know, but can so easily forget when things around us get difficult, or exciting, when our feelings of longing or resentment or fear seem so strong that we can come to believe that these passing things are more true or more real or more important than the ancient knowledge which we already have.

Like James and John and the others, we are so easily distracted from what really matters.  Perhaps that was revealed to us at the start of this current crisis when our choices were suddenly limited and we understood again what we had always known, about the importance of relationships and the value of caring for one another and the pleasure we can find in the simple things of life.  Yet, how easily we move on and get distracted all over again by all sorts of desires and attractions and resentments and worries.  How easily, even when we know better, we get our priorities all wrong.

We can see that happening on a large scale in our culture.  I’m thinking about the way people who can play football, or act, or just look great on a camera, are lauded and rewarded in lavish ways; while our carers and cleaners and binmen and nurses, the people who do the important work that we all depend on, are left on low wages.  Yet we see it also in our personal lives, for our culture is no more and no less than our personal issues projected on to a bigger screen.  Rather than giving our best time and attention to the things which are most valuable to us, we worry about making money, about our appearance, about what people will think of us.  Yet while we occupy ourselves with all of those things out there, deep inside we know what really matters, we know what we need, we understand things which our busy and anxious minds have long since lost sight of.

When we find the teachings of Jesus to be true, it is often not because we are learning something new.  It is more like we are remembering something we had always known, but had somehow lost sight of.  When we do a kind thing and find it makes us feel good, we are not discovering something for the first time.  When we make a sacrifice instead of doing what suits us and find that it leaves us feeling better about ourselves, we are not learning some new truth.  When we stop being busy long enough to be astounded by the colours of a flower, we are not seeing something we had never seen before.  So when Jesus said that people are blessed when they are meek and merciful and pure in heart, we already know that he is speaking truth.  We already know these things somewhere within us.  We just need to be prompted to remember them again.

So our gospel today gives us such a prompt, as it tells of some people who were so focussed on external things that they had lost sight of what their lives were supposed to be about.  Just as we all need to be reminded of what we should already know, that we should be thankful each day for the sun on our faces and the simple beauty of the world around us, that we are spiritual beings who are gifted with life and with a sense that life is much more than we can currently see or make sense of, that all of our mistakes and messed upness can be forgiven, that all our hurts and wounds can be healed, that we are all connected and need each other and are not actually in competition with each other, that we have nothing to prove, at least not anything that matters, that we are loved and held and cared for in ways we cannot ever make sense of.  Somewhere inside, we know all of that to be true, but we are so easily distracted from it.

Today, may we hear the word of God, and may we be reminded of what we already know, and may we let that set our priorities and fix our course, rather than any lesser thing.

Prayer

Here we express thanks, thanks which go deeper than even our best words, for everything we delight in – sunlight in autumn days, colour in nature and art, rhythm in poetry and music; human achievement and family success; good humour; work well done; love and friendship and all your gifts to body and soul.  Most of all we delight in Your salvation, the knowledge that, despite what might look like our best efforts we are loved, we are assured of your presence, we are promised an inheritance, through Jesus Christ our Saviour

Following the example of the same Jesus Christ, we want to see beyond our immediate desires, to look further than our current worries, to move into a deeper awareness of what matters.  Help us then to trust his message and to follow his ways.  So it is that we pray for others…

We commend to You those whose lives are harsh, and those who have no work; those whose days seem drab and grey; those whose poor health takes away delight in living; those who are lonely; those who have no home of their own. Grant them the human help and comfort which they need, and the spiritual encouragement which will enable them to live with hope and courage, for the sake of Jesus Christ whose way is our salvation.

We pray for the elderly, asking for them clear faith and human support.  We pray for those in middle years, asking for them wisdom in their choices, and the recovery of a sense of wonder.  We pray for the young, asking for them good opportunities, and that their ambitions include the desire to serve.  May we all continue to seek the God of every age, made known in Jesus Christ, the friend of all.

We bless You for the great company of saints who have gone before us and now delight in Your presence.  With them we honour and praise Your holy name.

God our Father, You have revealed your love for us in the cross of Christ.  Grant us grace to take up our cross each day, that, in the company of our Saviour, we may gladly do your will and attain to life in all its fullness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen