Sunday Worship, 6 June 2021

Welcome

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then the God who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give new life to you through his indwelling Spirit.

Romans 8: 11

Hymn 608 Spirit of truth and grace

Opening Prayer

Lord

You created a universe with freedom and potential

 the Big Bang could have produced something very different

 matter could have come together as different stars, systems, galaxies

 life might not have developed

 or might have developed in different ways

we have freedom

 within the constraints of our humanity

  and where we find ourselves

 to take very different paths through life

You give us freedom

 but you do not abandon us to cope alone

you have a hope, a vision

 for what your world can be

 what we can be

in your Spirit you are always active

 addressing the failings, the injustices, the hurts

 caused by people or by nature

You want your creation

 you want us

 to achieve our full potential

 and be in a right relationship with you

You have called us to be your children

You have called us to belong to Christ Jesus your Son

But we have messed it up

We have misused our freedom

We haven’t acknowledged our potential

We have caused hurt to you, to others, to ourselves

We are sorry

Forgive us

Draw us back to you, to your path

 that we may enjoy the true freedom

 of loving and serving you

Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen

All age time (for ages 0-100)

Video from Tina about Holy Land Bursary Scheme – see today’s YouTube service

Bible reading

2 Corinthians 4: 13 – 5: 1

Hymn 259 Beauty for brokenness

Reflection

It is estimated that in the years just before Christianity was legalised in the Roman Empire, the majority of people living around the eastern Mediterranean were Christian – in spite of that being illegal, and with the threat of persecution being very real. In the video that we watched earlier we were reminded of the current situation for Christians in the Holy Land, where numbers have fallen drastically and they now represent a very small proportion of the population. The same is true for countries like Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey. Politics and population movements mean that just because the church has at some stage been established in a particular place, it won’t necessarily be there for ever.

If we look at the situation in Scotland, in Dumbarton, we see much the same thing. We don’t need to go back 100 or even 50 years – just picture what it was like 20 years ago:

  • churches were much fuller, the average of the congregation was much younger
  • how many have children who came to Sunday School, but don’t want to be part of the church now, or have their children involved?
  • baptisms were a regular feature on Sundays, now we have very few
  • similarly with weddings
  • even funerals – until a couple of years ago we had quite a number of parish funerals each year. Now we have very few – people prefer using a Civil Celebrant or Humanist, even though they charge and we don’t
  • we still have our chaplaincy links with Aitkenbar, Braehead, Dalreoch, Knoxland and Dumbarton Academy, which they appreciate. But a combination of curriculum changes and a small, but vociferous, secular group of parents means that input into assemblies and classwork has changed – even before Covid restrictions came in.

There are fewer of us, we are getting older, we have to cope with all sorts of new regulations concerning fire safety, health and safety, Covid regulations etc. It’s easy to be dispirited. And yet…! As Paul put it, ‘We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us.’ Paul had every reason to feel dispirited: he had been arrested, imprisoned and beaten so many times; the new churches he established kept going off the rails; and from the number of letters he sent the Corinthians, and the tone of them, he must have been getting fed up to the back teeth with them. But he looked beyond human strength, beyond the situation around him, and as he said, ‘we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen’, and trusted in the power of God. If God could raise Jesus from death, God can surely empower his church to do the work he has for it.

We cannot presume that just because the church has been present in Dumbarton for 1500 or 1600 years, it will be here in 100 years’ time. It may not. But God calls us to do our bit, to go out, make contact, tell the story, live the story, show his love – and trust that he can use our witness. If we can’t go out? We can still pray. Maybe we can phone people, or write letters, to show continuing concern for folk who are lonely or not well. God always has something for us to do, something we can do, if we are willing to give it a try.

Prayers for others

Gracious God

We sometimes feel dispirited

 because things are not the way they were

 we are older, and many of us feel less fit

 church is not what it used to be

 work is not what it used to be

 family life and social life are not what they used to be

 and the world seems different

sometimes it is hard to accept change and adjust to it

But you are constant, faithful and true

 a God who works through change

 who strives to put right mistakes and faults

 who showed us your power in the raising of Jesus from the dead

Help us to trust you

 to see beyond the immediate problems

 to the potential for your world

 to the potential that you see in us

help us as your church, your people

 to see things as you see them

 to be ready to do new things to share your love and Good News

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 pray for Christians in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East

 for all who face difficult or opposition for following Jesus

 and for the children helped by the Bursary Scheme

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 595 O breath of life come sweeping through us

Blessing

God the Holy Trinity make you strong

 in faith, in hope, and love

And the blessing of God Almighty.

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