Watch this week’s service:
- Hymn 113 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5W5j1Y7aAl8
- Hymn 43 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AbtegyVibg
- Hymn 458 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI2rKRCWmOU
Scroll down for the full service and embedded videos of the hymns:
Hymn 113 God the Father of Creation
Thank you that you are a God who cares –
we matter to you
we are special to you
you know us through and through –
and still you love us
you see through our faults and failings
you know the things we try to keep hidden –
but still you love us
You love us so much that you gave us
your Son Jesus to be our Saviour
he was ready to suffer and die for us
by his death and rising again
we are yours for ever –
your friends, your children
We praise you, we adore you
but we are also ashamed of all the times
we have let you down
we haven’t followed Jesus’ teaching or example
we have hurt you or others
Help us to love you
as you want your children to do
Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen
All age time
When you see a photo of the coronavirus, it is an attractive image, and if you didn’t know what it was you might think that it would make a good picture for the wall, or computer screen saver or for entry into a competition. It might look attractive, but as we know it has created havoc around the world: over a million people have died because of it, many more have been very seriously ill, its long-term consequences on some lives will be life-changing, and it has wreaked havoc on economies, educational opportunities, social and family life. Appearances are very deceptive.
It isn’t only viruses that can present a deceptive image. There are people who look and sound interesting, who have a charm or way with words that wins people round to them, but their motives are not good, their words sow hatred or distrust, and their actions cause harm. We always need to be careful of them.
There are situations too where everything looks safe and OK, but in fact it isn’t and we have to be careful.
Jesus encourages us to be careful and on our guard, to watch out for dangers, to see beyond the external appearance, and always to listen to his guidance on how to live our lives – thinking about and caring for others.
Reading Mark 1: 21-28
Hymn 43 O God you are my God alone
Do you ever find yourself saying, ‘fingers crossed’ or ‘touch wood’. They are everyday terms that relate back to old customs to ward off evil spirits. People who use the terms may or may not believe in evil spirits, but they are part of our everyday language, like many other old sayings and customs.
Up to the mid-20th Century, many children in Scotland were born at home. Latterly a midwife and maybe a doctor were on hand, but that wasn’t the case for many centuries before that. Neo-natal mortality was high, and was usually attributed to the ‘faeries’. There were many customs, like how to position the bed in relation to the door or window, to stop the faeries getting access to the new-born child. Today we might attribute the high death rate to the lack of skilled help and the general state of hygiene and sanitation. The faeries got the blame for a whole lot of other things from a cow becoming lame to a poor harvest.
The idea of attributing unfortunate, unpleasant, tragic, cruel things to unseen malevolent forces goes back a long way in human history, and is found in most cultures. It was common in both Jewish culture and the culture of the Greeks and Romans in Jesus’ time. It is still found in a number of cultures today, and from time to time seems to be re-inforced in the ‘West’ through social media.
Healthcare staff trained in Western medicine at times have great difficulty in convincing people in some cultures that the way to deal with diseases like coronavirus is not to carry out exorcisms or wear charms to ward off evil spirits, but to use vaccines and medicines. Maybe it is hard to convince people that evil, unseen spirits don’t exist, while at the same time indicating that the cause of the trouble is something so small that you can’t see it with the naked eye.
In the middle of a pandemic like the present one there are many deep questions we want to ask:
- Why does something like this virus have to exist?
- Why do so many good people, innocent people, people who make such a contribution to the community, have to suffer in this or other ways?
- Why do so many cruel, abusive, corrupt people get away with their actions, and die peacefully in their beds?
- Where is God in all of this? If he’s supposed to be loving and caring, why does he let it happen, why does he not intervene to stop it?
They are all important and understandable questions, but looking at each in turn would be longer than this service in itself. So we’ll leave them for another day, but not forget about them.
We can perhaps see a couple of thoughts we could take away from today’s Bible reading:
- Jesus doesn’t get into a theological or philosophical debate with those in the synagogue – debates are for another day, with people who wanted to get into a debate. The people in the synagogue want action, and that’s what Jesus gives them. We shouldn’t avoid other people’s difficult questions, but there is a time and a place, and in the time of crisis it is action not answers that they usually want
- Jesus doesn’t try to address every illness, every (in their terms) evil spirit all at once. He deals with the situation in front of him. He deals with a specific person with a specific need
Maybe there are things that we can do to follow his example
Prayer for others and Lord’s Prayer
When the number of deaths associated with coronavirus
exceeded 100,000 last week
we pray for all who have lost someone close
all who have suffered from the illness
or are suffering from its after-effects
all living with the worry of a sick relative or friend
for all healthcare staff
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 458 At the name of Jesus
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