Sunday Worship 30 May 2021

Welcome

Can you fathom the mystery of God, or attain to the limits of the Almighty?

Job 11: 7

Hymn 113 God the Father of Creation

Opening Prayer

Lord

We call you Father –

 because that is what Jesus called you

 and he told us to follow his example

 because you want us to be your children

We praise and adore you

 for bringing into being all that is

 for your continuing care for your world

 for your loving concern for us

 such that you gave your Son to suffer and die for us

Lord Jesus Christ

 your Father’s only and well-beloved Son

  from before the beginning of time

 you came into our world as one of us

 you came to make your Father known to us

 you came to make known his will for us

 you came to win us for him, for ever

Holy Spirit of God

 power of God active in the world

 creating, sustaining, healing, empowering

 gift of the Father to his people

 to draw us closer to Jesus and to each other

With the whole company of your people

 in heaven and on earth

 we join in bringing you

 our thanks and praise this day

 confessing and repenting of our failings

 and seeking anew your blessing and guidance

 on all that we do and say

Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen

All age time (for ages 0-100)

When babies are born they can howl, and they can make sucking noises (and snore) and that’s about it. As they get a bit bigger they start to make more noises. I’m not a paediatrician, so I can’t say definitively, but I suspect that they make a noise, discover that they can do it again, and that making certain noises provokes a reaction from other sentient beings round about. Eventually, having mastered that sound, they’ll move on to another one.

It seems as though the earliest sounds they can make resemble voiced dental and labial plosives, and voiced labial nasals – d, b and m. They seem to work out quite quickly that the one who gives you milk likes the m sound, and the other one likes the d sound. From that we find that many languages create the baby-language words for mother, father and baby (whether the baby realises that or not!). In English the maternal parent is mum-mum-mum giving us Mum and Mummy, the paternal is da-da-da giving us Daddy. In Hebrew and Aramaic they understood the sound used to describe the paternal parent as ab-ba-ba, giving Abba as their equivalent of Daddy

When talking about Jewish society in the time of Jesus, most of the information we have relates to the aristocracy, among whom relationships between father and children could be quite formal and remote (or downright toxic in the case of the House of Herod). Some of the heroes of the past, like Jacob and David were very poor examples of parenting. Things may have been somewhat less remote among town and village families, but maybe it was more like industrial Scotland a century and more ago – women worked in the house, men worked to earn a living, mother was closer to the daughters, father to the sons.

Sometimes we find God being described as ‘Father’ (cf Hosea 11: 1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son), but it seems to envisage the rather remote and formal relationship aristocrats had with their sons. But Jesus encouraged people to see God in a new light, to call him Abba, Daddy. It wasn’t an invitation to get all pal-sy with the Maker of Heaven and Earth, but to approach him as a baby or toddler would a parent – loving, trusting, feeling safe. To many people of Jesus’ day it was shocking and disrespectful, but Jesus wanted us to know that God is not cold and remote, but is loving and caring, and wants a close relationship with us that grows and develops over the years.

Bible reading

Romans 8: 12-17

Hymn 590 Holy Spirit, gift bestower

Reflection

Jesus shared with people the idea that, though God is very different from humanity, he isn’t cold and unapproachable, fierce and terrifying, but is loving, caring and keen to have a living and growing relationship with everyone. The relationship between Daddy and his child.

For many people, for many different reasons, referring to the relationship between us and God as being like the relationship with Daddy isn’t helpful: maybe because that relationship never really happened, or because it wasn’t a good one. So when we think of God as Daddy we are not necessarily picturing our own association with the word, but with some of the best examples of it. God is constant, faithful and true. He is always there for us, always accessible, always approachable. He doesn’t hide away, he doesn’t demand all sorts of gifts and treasures to attract his attention. He knows our needs, he knows our thoughts and worries, he stands with us in all the highs and lows of life.

But he doesn’t want it to be a one-sided relationship, where he does all the work, and we give a nod in his direction when it suits us. He wants it to be a living and growing relationship. It can never be a relationship of equals, because he is God and we are human, but it can grow and change as it matures from baby to toddler to small child to adolescent to adult. He gives 100% commitment to that relationship. He wants us to be committee to it too – through prayer, through study, through thinking about our faith, and reflecting on how it affects our lives:

  • from relationships with family and friends we know that they are deeper and more meaningful when we have regular contact and conversations, rather than seeing them once in every other decade. So it is with God. We need to speak with him often, ideally every day
  • again, with family and friends, the more we know about them – what they are doing, where they have been, their interests, their views – the more we can know them and the deeper our relationship can be. With God we learn through the Bible, from a range of books and material on other media, from talking with one another in study groups
  • if friends and relatives matter to us, we don’t do or say things that will hurt or offend them, whether to their face or behind their backs. So it is with God, and we are never out of his presence, so he always knows what we think, say or do. If we really want to give him pleasure through the kind of people we are, if we really want to try to be like Jesus, then the Spirit will help us. But he challenges us to take seriously looking at how we live our lives, at the kind of people we are
  • and from that he asks us to think about how our relationship with him impacts on our daily lives, and every part of our lives – what we do with our money, how we spend our time and energy, how we treat the world around us (people, animals, plants, the environment), how we vote, and so on

Prayers for others

Gracious God

In you we see the perfect model for how relationships should be

 the way in which the Father, the Son and the Spirit

 relate to, respect and love each other

We strive to have good relationships with family, neighbours and colleagues

 but it doesn’t always work out right

 sometimes there are misunderstandings

 sometimes clashes of personality

 sometimes we never seem to be on the same wavelength

 sometimes old wounds become running sores

help us always to strive for the kind of relationships you want us to have

We pray for all who live with difficult or broken relationships

 present or past

 who feel pain, guilt or anger

We pray for all who strive

 as mediators or counsellors

 to assist others to address issues in difficult or broken relationships

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 110 Glory be to God the Father

Blessing

God the Holy Trinity make you strong

 in faith, in hope, and love

And the blessing of God Almighty.

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