Kilmorack and Erchless Church

Sunday 2nd June


Call to worship

with all our different concerns             we turn again to you

with all our different hopes                  we look again for you

with all our doubts and faith                we trust again in you



Almighty God, our heavenly father, we come together to worship you, believing that you are here with us, that you know each one of us, that you care for each one of us.  We believe that you are here; waiting to speak your word, ready to forgive, to bless and to lead us.

So we come with faith, trusting in you - listening for you.   We celebrate the knowledge we have that you do not let us down and we thank you that we have this time to spend together.

Here we are reminded not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought so, we recognise and confess that we have often been full of our own importance preoccupied with ourselves, harbouring vain illusions about who we are and what we can achieve.  We recognise and we confess have not valued others as we ought; allowing prejudice and preconceptions to colour our judgment and poison our attitudes.  For all of this - forgive us – with the mercy which Christ demonstrated.

Assured of your forgiveness, open our eyes now and open our hearts to your presence.  Teach us, through all that we do this day, to be your children, your disciples, your Church.  Amen.


A man asks his wife why she keeps staring out of the window...  Taking a very deep breath she replies "I'm really fed up with the state of Mrs Brown's blinds. Mrs Perkin's aren't much better.   And that Mrs Lewis- I mean look at them- filthy.  Dirty blinds are such an eyesore.  Why can’t people be like me and take pride in keeping things clean.  In fact I’m so fed up with their dirty blinds, I want you to over to them and explain that this just isn’t good enough.  I want you to go over there and insist that they sort this out.”
"I'll tell you what..." says the man as he peers through the window beside her; "I'll see what I can do."  The following morning, she approaches him, beaming.  "I can't believe it.  The blinds, they're all immaculate, every one of them!  What on earth did you say to them?"

"Nothing..." he says "I didn’t say anything.  I just cleaned our windows."

I tell that little story, not as an advert for window cleaning services, but as a simple reminder of a great truth.  It is so much easier to find faults in others than to see what might be wrong closer to home.  It is so much easier to blame other people for what makes us unhappy than to do something ourselves.  Meaningful change for the better so often takes place closer to home than we might like to think, and so often, it is all about getting our outlook right.  Which, of course, is what we find Jesus so often telling people, and when he saw so much that was wrong, so much that made him angry, he was willing to lead the way and to set the example, and indeed to pay the price required of him to put things right.

Bible Readings

1 Samuel 3: 1 – 10

In those days, when the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under the direction of Eli, there were very few messages from the Lord, and visions from him were quite rare. One night Eli, who was now almost blind, was sleeping in his own room; Samuel was sleeping in the sanctuary, where the sacred Covenant Box was. Before dawn, while the lamp was still burning, the Lord called Samuel. He answered, “Yes, sir!” and ran to Eli and said, “You called me, and here I am.”

But Eli answered, “I didn't call you; go back to bed.” So Samuel went back to bed.

6-7 The Lord called Samuel again. The boy did not know that it was the Lord, because the Lord had never spoken to him before. So he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.”

But Eli answered, “My son, I didn't call you; go back to bed.”

The Lord called Samuel a third time; he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.”

Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, so he said to him, “Go back to bed; and if he calls you again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.

10 The Lord came and stood there, and called as he had before, “Samuel! Samuel!”  Samuel answered, “Speak; your servant is listening.”

Mark 2: 23 – 3 :6

23 Jesus was walking through some wheat fields on a Sabbath. As his disciples walked along with him, they began to pick the heads of wheat. 24 So the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, it is against our Law for your disciples to do that on the Sabbath!”  25 Jesus answered, “Have you never read what David did that time when he needed something to eat? He and his men were hungry, 26 so he went into the house of God and ate the bread offered to God. This happened when Abiathar was the High Priest. According to our Law only the priests may eat this bread—but David ate it and even gave it to his men.”  27 And Jesus concluded, “The Sabbath was made for the good of human beings; they were not made for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

3 Then Jesus went back to the synagogue, where there was a man who had a paralyzed hand. Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong; so they watched him closely to see whether he would cure the man on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man, “Come up here to the front.” Then he asked the people, “What does our Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To help or to harm? To save someone's life or to destroy it?”  But they did not say a thing. Jesus was angry as he looked around at them, but at the same time he felt sorry for them, because they were so stubborn and wrong. Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it became well again. So the Pharisees left the synagogue and met at once with some members of Herod's party, and they made plans to kill Jesus.


Today we read the story of Samuel who we are told lived in a precarious time when " there were very few messages from the Lord, and visions from him were quite rare " (verse 1).   This is a situation continued on from the end of the book of Judges - where we are told that "all the people did what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 21:25).   It was a time when religion had lost its popular appeal, when the values which had held communities together were widely ignored, when society seemed to be disintegrating under the pressure of individualism.  Can you imagine living in such a time?  Perhaps that doesn’t take too much imagination.

The times in which this story is set are as dark as the night that falls as the events begin to unfold, but there was old Eli, his eyesight fading, still trying to do his duty, still trying to keep things going.  He must have felt a deep despair at times, but hope had not been completely extinguished, and we are told that there in the Temple at least – “the lamp was still burning”.  Somehow, there was still a flicker of hope.

So we get this tale of the boy Samuel, the boy who was sent there by grateful parents to help the old priest, and it turns into a tale of a young person finding his calling in life through a strange and mystical encounter with God.  Our reading this morning ends at verse ten with Samuel doing as Eli told him, ready to listen for the call of God.  It is quite a well known story and we might be familiar with it, but it is really only the start of a much bigger and more challenging story that is going to unfold.  If we read on to the end of the chapter we find that hearing the call of God is not necessarily something we should hope for too casually.   His calling was not to stay in the Temple and keep the lamp burning.  That might have been dull but at least it would have been safe.  His calling was to go out and speak judgement against the state of the nation, including some special words of condemnation for Eli's own children.   It was a call to challenge the corruption and greed that had become normal and to demand change in the way the society was structured.

That was never going to be easy.  That is never going to be easy.  However this turned out to be a key moment.  Samuel may have looked like an unlikely choice for such a task, at least as unpromising as Jacob the cheater or Joseph the arrogant dreamer or Moses the murderer had been.  At least as unpromising as David or Jeremiah or any of the disciples would be.  Yet like them, Samuel’s ability to hear the call of God and his willingness to answer the call of God, made all the difference.

History sees him as the last of the Judges and the first of the prophets; a major turning point in the story of the Old Testament.  He would also be the man to anoint the first two kings of Israel: Saul and David, leading to a new way of organising society.  So the gentle, confused scene of the tired boy and the elderly priest, becomes a turning point in history.  How often the most special moments in life crop up in unexpected times and places, and how often we don’t recognise how special those moments were until much later.

There are two things I think we should note about this story, set as it is in a time when it was a struggle to keep the old religion alive and when it was hard to interest young people in the things of the faith.  The first is that Samuel did not receive his faith and his calling through the expected channels.  Eli represented the normal way, the accepted way, the religious system which was set up to pass on the faith down through the generations.  The normal practice would have been for his sons to follow in his footsteps and keep up the good work, but it is made clear that they had rather different interests in life.  The religious traditions and the religious practices which people like Eli served with such dedication were just not working any more, they were no longer able to produce what was needed.  It is God who intervened to call Samuel directly.

So perhaps we might conclude that all the stuff we do to keep passing on the faith and to keep the old practices alive aren’t as important as we might have thought.  I think there is something in that.  We do need to keep on being reminded that we do what we do to serve God, not because we believe that he ought to serve us.  However, that is not the only conclusion we can reach, for this is also true.  If the religious traditions and the religious practices had not been in place, then none of this could have happened.  Or at least it couldn’t have happened in this way.  If the faith was not being kept alive by people like Eli then Samuel would not have been there in the Temple.  And if Eli had not been there to direct the child when the moment of enquiry came, Samuel would not have known what to do or how to listen to the voice of God.

The old religious systems which felt weary and looked out of date did not in themselves produce the faith of Samuel, but without those religious systems the faith of Samuel could not have come into being in the way it did.  Eli, with his fading health and his sense of disappointment had kept the flame burning, he had kept the hope alive, and in the end, his efforts made far more of a difference than he could ever have possibly understood.  His efforts which might have seemed feeble and futile in the face of a society which was giving up on God, turned out to be essential.  God had not given up on them, and old Eli’s efforts became part of the story of redemption.

Is there something here which might speak to us about our calling, about our work as a church?  We serve faithfully and well.  Certainly not as faithfully or as well as we could or should, but as faithfully and well as we can, in a society where people don’t seem to have much time for one another and even less time for God. But

at the end of the day people’s faith will not depend on the level of our commitment or the quality of our teaching.  It will depend on young people discovering God in their own way and in their own time,  and it will depend on them answering the call of God when they hear it.  We can be responsible for a great deal, but we cannot be responsible for that.  Just as I am quite clear that no one will be led into a life of faith and service   Because I might have managed to put together a good combination of words on a Sunday morning.  Real faith depends on something more than that, and thank God there is something more than that.

For the message which we carry in our structures, the message which we seek in our faltering way to keep alive, the message which we seek to learn and to teach and to pass on, that is real and true and vital.  We might struggle to see it and we might struggle to hear it and we might struggle to understand it, but our faith is in something that is real and is true and is vital and with the holy spirit blowing around among us people are always at risk of catching it.

There is a reminder here that even in these times when we feel discouraged, even if sometimes we wonder if it is worth all the effort to keep the church going we too are part of something much bigger than we can yet see.  We do not know what our efforts to keep the flickering flame of faith burning might eventually lead to.

But we know, and we pray, and we hold on to the trust that we too can be part of the story of redemption.  And we do need to keep on remembering that even when our best efforts seem to be failing, they are part of a story which is much bigger than we can yet see.

So we can focus on getting our house in order, on getting our outlook clear, worrying less about following the rules and traditions as though they were goals in themselves, as Jesus certainly did, and focusing more on the faith we have and the one we have faith in.


We make our offerings and we present all our gifts as we bring all of our worship, to freely and thankfully offer it to you.  It comes from our lives, and it comes from our hearts, given with gratitude and with faith.

Take our gifts and use them for the growth of your kingdom.

Take our witness and use it to pass on the gospel.

Take our service and use it to make known your love.

Accept all we bring you today and use it through your power and for your glory,

Eternal one, as you called Samuel, as you called Moses and Jeremiah and Isaiah, as you called the disciples,

each in different and personal ways, open our hearts to receive your love, open our ears to listen for your call,

open our eyes to look for ways to serve. 

We give you thanks that you have called us to know you and make you known.  

We give thanks that you call us as individuals and as a church. 

We give thanks that you call us to great things, whether our role may seem obvious or discreet. 

May we be worthy of that calling.  May we be faithful in our following of the ways of Christ.


We give you thanks for all who have passed on the gift of faith to us, all who have opened our eyes to new possibilities, and helped us to understand the depth of divine love.  May we be as generous in our sharing,

May we find ways to help others make such discoveries.

We give you thanks for this church, a place in which we can learn and grow and serve. 

May we, as a church, be worthy of the name of Christ,

May we be faithful in looking for you and in serving you.

We ask your blessing on our families at this time, particularly where there are difficulties to be faced, or where there is great distance between us.

We ask your blessing on those who are sick.

We ask your blessing on those who are bereaved.

We ask your blessing on those who work in other places to bring hope and justice to those who most obviously need it.

We ask your blessing on our own lives, that we may honour the great heritage of faith that has been passed on to us, and value it enough to pass it on to others.

Almighty God, your son our saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world.

Grant that your people may shine with the radiance of his glory that he may be known and worshipped and obeyed to the ends of the earth, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God forever.  Amen