Sunday 10 January 2021
The Lord is strength to his people, a safe refuge for his anointed one. Save your people and bless those who belong to you, shepherd them and carry them for ever. Psalm 28: 8-9
Watch today’s service:
If you wish to follow the hymns with music, pause/restart the above video at the following times:
- Hymn 103 Fill your hearts with joy and gladness (at 1m 30sec)
- Hymn 448 Lord the light of your love is shining(at 16min 15sec)
Hymn 103 Fill your hearts with joy and gladness
There is a saying that patience is a virtue.
Sometimes we don’t have that virtue.
We want everything done now, if not sooner.
You work to a much longer timescale
and we find it hard to adjust to it
There are some things – suffering, need –
that can’t wait, shouldn’t wait
people need help and relief now
But sometimes the problem isn’t with you – it’s with us
we are the ones who are slow to react, to respond
we are content to say that Somebody should do something
but we aren’t first off the mark to volunteer
Forgive us when we are too impatient
and when we are too slow
Help us to learn to live with your timetable
to learn patience
to learn to wait
and help us too to learn when we need to move fast
to respond with prayer, practical help
and financial support
Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen
All age time
(Ann Jackson speaking about plans for Sunday School till Easter – see video at the top of this page)
Mark 1: 4-11
‘If ‘twere done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well
it were done quickly.’
words that Shakespeare put in the mouth of MacBeth as he contemplated the murder of King Duncan. Hopefully we aren’t planning to murder any kings, but generally people like things to be done quickly, and completed without loose ends hanging around for ages afterwards. It often goes along with admiration for a positive, ‘can do’ attitude. Both appear to appeal to electorates, whether the slogan is Barack Obama’s ‘Yes we can’, Donald Trump’s ‘Make America great’ or Boris Johnson’s ‘Get Brexit done’. What electorates often find, with whoever they elect, is that in practice things often don’t slip into place quite as easily or quickly as the slogan implied.
No matter how focussed or well-prepared a government (or anyone else, whether contractor, supplier, church body or whatever) is, it often takes longer to implement a planned project than originally envisaged: there are unexpected complications, and delays outwith their control; there need to be negotiations, perhaps compromises, and budgets usually go up rather than down. When some major change is being considered, it is common practice to get together a group of experts to investigate the matter in detail: it might be called a Special Commission, a Royal Commission or, in church circles, a ‘committee anent..’. Such groups look at matters in depth and from a variety of angles, and produce very worthy reports, but sometimes by the time the report is complete the original problem has changed. Sometimes the widespread human tendency towards procrastination (leave till tomorrow what you don’t have to do today) kicks in – sometimes referred to a ‘kicking the can down the road’.
Our reading comes from the beginning of Mark’s Gospel. Mark doesn’t tell us about Jesus’ birth or early years, instead he begins with the arrival of John the Baptist, fulfilling a prophecy of Isaiah, getting the people ready for the arrival of Jesus. Then in the space of 3 sentences Jesus appears, is baptised and is acknowledged by God as his Son. In what follows, as Jesus begins his ministry, things move quickly, with little time wasted on unnecessary detail. God is on the move, so there’s no time to waste, no time for distraction.
God is on the move, but the Jewish people had been waiting a long time for it to happen. Isaiah’s prophecy was made when the Jews were in exile in Babylon about 500 years before. It is fair to say that the prophecy originally related to Jews being allowed to return to the Holy Land, which did indeed happen, but it was also regarded by many Jews as a promise by God to intervene and ‘sort out’ the world. 500 years isn’t exactly fast tracking things. We need to recognise that God’s sense of time is rather different from ours. Seen against the age of Planet Earth, or of the whole universe, 500 years is not much. But when we hope to have about ‘three score years and ten’ to make our mark, that represents a lot of generations.
We might think much the same about the 2000 years that have elapsed since Easter: most people still do not know about, let alone know, Jesus; and as any newspaper or news broadcast would remind us, the values and standards of Jesus are a long way from being implemented – whether we think of health, justice, peace, inclusiveness or whatever.
God wants us to embrace both aspects of time: on the one hand being ready to accept his time-frame, acknowledging that we may not see the fruit of our labours, or see the Kingdom come on earth in its fullness; and yet on the other have a sense of urgency about getting things done, not putting them off till tomorrow, having confidence in God’s ability to help and support us through these hard times, and all the other challenges that we will face.
There is no doubt that the next few months will be tough, that we do all carry scars from our journey so far through the pandemic, but God calls us to be up and active working to build the Kingdom, and to understand these awful months in the context of his ever-lasting love for us.
Prayer for others and Lord’s Prayer
The resurgence of the virus
and the new restrictions imposed to curb its spread
are proving very difficult for many people
we pray for them all
for key workers, particularly healthcare staff and teachers
for those who are working on the development and roll-out of the vaccines
for those struggling to juggle work and childcare
for children and young people trying to learn from home
for those worried about jobs and finances,
putting food on the table and paying bills
for those who have contracted the virus
and those who have lost loved ones
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 you church
the worldwide church
the wider church in Dumbarton
our own congregation
help us always to be faithful to Jesus our Lord
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
Hymn 448 Lord the light of your love is shining
May the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ
shine in your hearts,
transform your lives,
and brighten the world
and the blessing of God Almighty
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
rest and remain with you
today and every day and forever. Amen