Sunday Worship, 20th September 2020

CCL 125049              Charity No SC002937


  • Welcome
  • Hymn             120 God we praise you, God we bless you Tune Ode to joy  (Church Hymnary 4th Edition)
  • All age time
  • Prayer
  • Reading         Philippians 1: 21-30 (Good News Bible)
  • Hymn             181 For the beauty of the earth Tune Lucerna Laudoniae (Church Hymnary 4th Edition)
  • Reflection
  • Prayer for others
  • Hymn              584 Like fireworks in the night Tune St John (Church Hymnary 4th Edition)
  • Blessing

Watch our livestream on our YouTube channel, “Church Of Scotland Dumbarton”:


Welcome and let us worship God

‘To the LORD belong the earth and everything in it, the world and all its inhabitants.’ Psalm 24: 1

Psalm 24: 1

Hymn 120 God we praise you, God we bless you

click > play to hear the music

All age time (for ages 0-100)

  • Today’s Bible story
    In today’s Bible story one of Jesus’ followers, Paul, is writing to the Christians in a small town in NE Greece
  • Something to do:

Have you ever visited a castle dungeon or an old prison? (There is an old prison in Dumbarton behind the Sheriff Court, and there is one in Inverary that is a tourist attraction). Look up ‘dungeon’ in your web browser and see what some of them were like (eg St Andrew’s Castle, Rothesay Castle, Crookston Castle, Dundonald Castle – all Historic Environment Scotland).

How would you like to have been put in one?

  • Something to think about

What would it be like to be in prison today? What would you dislike most?

Some people are put in prison because they don’t agree with their government, and their government doesn’t like that. Do we just ignore them? What can we as individuals or a country do to help them become free again?

Action Song: Jesus’ love is very wonderful

Jesus’ love is very wonderful,

Jesus’ love is very wonderful,

Jesus’ love is very wonderful,

O wonderful love!

So high, you can’t get over it,

so low, you can’t get under it,

so wide, you can’t get round it,

O wonderful love!

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father

We seek you in special places

 – churches, sites long held to be sacred or holy

 we might look for you on the mountain top

 by the river, the loch or the sea

 in the garden, in the meadow or the wood

But you come to us where we are

 at home, at school, at work

 in the supermarket. On the bus

 in the traffic jam

 in the hospital, in the pub

You come to us when we are happy and glad

 you come when we are tired or stressed

 worried or lonely

you come when we are looking for you

 you come when we do not want to see you

you come when we need help

 you come and surprise us when we are not expecting you

You are here now and we come before you

 with our questions and worries

 all the baggage we carry around in our hearts

May we find your acceptance and forgiveness

 your challenge and your strength

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Bible reading          

Philippians 1: 21-30

For what is life? To me it is Christ. Death, then, will bring more. But if by continuing to live I can do more worthwhile work, then I am not sure which I should choose. I am pulled in two directions. I want very much to leave this life and be with Christ, which is a far better thing; but for your sake it is much more important that I remain alive. I am sure of this, and so I know that I will stay. I will stay on with you all, to add to your progress and joy in the faith, so that when I am with you again, you will have even more reason to be proud of me in your life in union with Christ Jesus.

Now, the important thing is that your way of life should be as the gospel of Christ requires, so that, whether or not I am able to go and see you, I will hear that you are standing firm with one common purpose and that with only one desire you are fighting together for the faith of the gospel. Don’t be afraid of your enemies; always be courageous, and this will prove to them that they will lose and that you will win, because it is God who gives you the victory. For you have been given the privilege of serving Christ, not only by believing in him, but also by suffering for him. Now you can take part with me in the battle. It is the same battle you saw me fighting in the past, and as you hear, the one I am fighting still.

Hymn 181 For the beauty of the earth

click > play to hear the music


Have you ever had one of those conversations with an elderly relative (say, mother or grandmother) where you say something like, ‘See you on Tuesday’, and they respond with ‘If I’m spared’ or ‘God willing.’ It goes with not buying green bananas, and refusing to invest in a new carpet or curtains ‘because I’ll not get my money’s worth from it.’ Some people are very conscious of their own mortality – maybe too conscious for the comfort of family or friends. Others absolutely refuse to consider it – and when something happens there’s no will, no Power of Attorney, no hint about funeral preferences.

Usually such matters are only a concern to a small segment of the population: death is not a topic that most people want to think about. With the pandemic about, however, this year has been rather different, and many younger people have felt compelled to confront an issue that doesn’t usually come up on their radar. Quite a number have turned, among other places, to churches and other faith groups for some help in seeking answers to the difficult questions surrounding the topic.

At the same time, lockdown and shielding restrictions stopped people going to places, seeing people, participating in the usual social or sporting activities. They left people asking questions about how to survive (and preferably thrive) once they had done the Spring Cleaning three times, had the garden looking immaculate, read every book and watched every box set. Some retreated under the duvet, other took up new hobbies and interests (and for a while you couldn’t buy yeast or flour in the shops because so many we baking their own bread).

Wrestling with serious questions about life and death lies behind today’s Bible reading. Scholars debate when and where the letter was written, and whether what we have now started life as two separate letters – they don’t doubt however that it was from Paul. He speaks about writing from prison, and at the end of the letter refers to the Christians living in the Emperor’s palace, so the commonest conclusion is that the letter was written while Paul was incarcerated in a prison in Rome.

He had experienced the inside of many prisons (dark, damp, ill-lit, smelly, uncomfortable, vermin) and had suffered verbal abuse and physically punishment (usually lashes from a whip across his back). If indeed the letter were written in Rome, then he would have been an older man, we known from other letters that he had health issues, he refers elsewhere in this letter to the frustration of being locked up while others are going round challenging what he said and giving out a different message, and maybe he feared that this time he would not simply get the lash, but would be put to death (as later legend suggests). It would have been so easy for Paul to feel weary and disillusioned, to wonder why he had ever bothered trying to be an Apostle. But if he was tempted to feel that, he didn’t give in to it. The prospect of death didn’t frighten him, rather he saw it as a release from this world’s pain to go to something better. Maybe a reminder and reassurance for us if we have a bad day during the winter.

But Paul wasn’t really ready to go yet, whatever lay ahead. He still had plenty to do, to keep him occupied, things that he did not want to leave incomplete. The common factor to all this unfinished business is engaging with his friends and keeping going for them. He’s old, he’s in prison, he’s miles away from them, but he knows that they need him, that their lives will be the poorer if he goes, so he strengthens his resolve to keep going for their sake – knowing that in helping them he is doing God’s will. Maybe that too is a reminder and reassurance to us if we have a ‘wobble’ over the winter – our families, our friends, our neighbours, need us, and we need to keep going for them. Maybe there are things we can do (like phoning, or writing), maybe just being there. But whatever it is, God has work for us to do this Autumn and Winter – and if we’ve time left after doing it, he’ll let us get on with the baking, painting, knitting, or even that new boxset.

Prayers for others

Heavenly Father

Jesus was arrested and held in the Roman fortress

Peter, Paul and many other faithful followers of Jesus –

 from the earliest days of the church to the present –

have experienced arrest and imprisonment

and sometimes enduring verbal or physical abuse

because of their faith

We pray for all who are imprisoned, tortured or persecuted

 for their faith or beliefs –

 Christians, people of other faiths and none –

 may they be treated fairly and have their freedom restored

We pray too for other prisoners who have broken laws –

 maybe relating to theft, or violence or worse –

You know why they did what they did

 you know the backgrounds against which they grew up

 we pray that they may seek a new and positive way forward in life

 and for all who are seeking to help them achieve that

We pray for all who are ill,

 those who look after them

 and those who worry about them

those waiting for or receiving treatment

 and those for whom there is no treatment

those who are lonely, feeling down, or grieving a friend or loved one

those who are worried about home, work or money

 a friend or a relative

those who are living with the after-effects of natural disasters

those who do not have enough to eat, or somewhere to call home

those who long to live in peace and safety

those who have fled from their homes seeking safety

We pray for the Queen, the Government

 all in positions of leadership in this and every land

We pray for your church

 our own congregation

 the wider church in Dumbarton

 the world-wide church

We bring to you our prayers for people and situations of special concern to us

And we sum up our prayers in the words of the prayer Jesus gave us

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 debts,

 as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation;

 but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

 the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

Hymn 584 Like fireworks in the night

click > play to hear the music


God the Father sends you out

 to be his witnesses wherever you go

 to work to bring healing and wholeness in all you do

and the blessing of God Almighty

 Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

 rest and remain with you,

 today, and every day, and for ever. Amen

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