Sunday Worship 17 October 2021


God will show us the path of life; in his presence is the fullness of joy, at his right hand are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16: 11

Hymn 113 God the Father of Creation

Opening Prayer


How great and wonderful is your love for us

In this vast universe

 you know each of us through and through

 you see the things that we try to hide from ourselves, let alone others

 you see things that give us peace and pleasure

 you see things that worry and annoy us

 you see the pain and injustice in the world

and you care

you care enough for your Spirit to be active every day

 seeking to bring healing and wholeness to your world

you care enough to have come amongst us in Jesus

 suffering and dying for us

 -long before we were born-

accepting that his sacrifice would be ignored by many

we have never deserved your love

 and could never earn it

but you give it freely and graciously to us

 it is constant, faithful and true

 and we marvel at it

we are ashamed in the face of it

 for we have taken it for granted

 have been indifferent to it

 have ignored your teaching

 have turned away from your Son’s example of how to live

We are sorry

Forgive us

In your Spirit rekindle in us the fire of your love

 cleanse us and restore us

 make us the people you want us to be

 loving you and serving you

 and being examples to the world of how it can be

Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen

All age time (for ages 0-100)

I was trying to register a new online account during the week, and nearly consigned it to the lowest level of Hades by bell, book and candle because I wasn’t progressing at all with the security questions. I tried to input an answer and it kept rejecting it. Some of the questions they ask are a bit strange. It might be: what is your favourite colour? To judge by my tee-shirt collection, like quite a few colours. Am I supposed to be more specific about particular shades of colours, like a paint catalogue?  Or it might be: what is your favourite flavour of ice-cream? I like strawberry ice-cream, but I also like white chocolate and raspberry, and apple crumble, and chocolate and hazelnut, and quite a lot of other flavours. How could I choose one as my particular favourite? Would I remember next time I’ve forgotten my password and need to access the security questions?

Sometimes people ask us all sorts of ‘what’s your favourite..?’ questions. What’s your favourite sport..? what’s your favourite football team? what’s your favourite Scottish castle/ holiday resort/ restaurant/ band/ singer/ song/ piece of music/ book/ play/ film/ actor or whatever?

Sometimes there is somewhere, something, someone, who really stands out for us, but for most people there are lots of places we like to visit, to go for a meal out, to go to on holiday or visit for the day, lots of things we like to watch, to listen to, to read. All are different, but the variety adds to our enjoyment. We might like both the hills and the sea, woods and open country, going into Glasgow or being at Loch Lomond, Glasgow and Edinburgh. We might enjoy eating fish and chips and a Chinese meal, watching pantomime and an opera, a BBC1 comedy show and Shakespeare, eating strawberry ice cream and chocolate and hazelnut. We can enjoy so many different things, that it is hard to have a favourite.

A few people think it is OK to have favourite people. We find stories in the Bible of people like Jacob and David who had favourite children  – which caused a lot of trouble. Most families don’t have favourite children, or favourite aunts and uncles, or favourite friends – all their children, all their aunts and uncles (and everyone else) are special, loved and valued.

If that is true in a human family, how much more is it true with God? He knows all of us so well (sometimes better than we know ourselves). He knows all the things that make each of us different and special, and loves all our differences. He loves us for who we are – all different, all special to him, all with a special place in his family. And he wants us to love other people too – with all their differences – hard though that might sometimes be.

Hymn 65 Jubilate everybody

Bible reading

Mark 10: 35-45


‘Jesus, you’re going to become King. Can we get the top jobs in your Kingdom, please.’ Effectively that’s what James and John were asking him. What jobs did they fancy? Was it maybe being in charge of the money, or the army, or what? Had they been eyeing up some of the palaces in Jerusalem, to see where they fancied living, or maybe some of the country estates?

We might be shocked by their forwardness, their self-centredness, in asking such a question. The other disciples were annoyed, but probably because James and John had put their request in first, rather than being appalled by the audacity of the two brothers in making such a request. Whether people lived in the Holy Land, under Jewish traditions, or in the city of Rome and its colonies, the usual way to survive and get on in life was to have a patron. You supported him (‘him’ because it was a male-dominated world), helped him where you could, and he looked after you in return. He might get you a job or a contract, even try to get you out of trouble with his ‘contacts’.

To us such a system might smack of corruption and cronyism. We prefer to have things open and transparent: you apply for jobs – and the most suitable, in terms of qualifications and experience, are taken on; you tender for a contract, and it is awarded to the firm that offers the lowest price or best value for money. Or at least, that’s the theory. We have probably all encountered the job that was advertised, but everyone knew in advance who was going to get it, though HR had to go through the appearance of advertising it, accepting applications and interviewing people. There are occasions in the public domain when there is a deep suspicion that cronyism was involved in getting someone a job, an honour or a contract, but it is hard to prove it. Similarly there are many tales that at one time where you went to school, or where you didn’t go to school, got you a job, or kept you out of one: in Edinburgh and England it might relate to a public school, in the West of Scotland to a school that had or hadn’t the word ‘saint’ in the name.

In Jesus’ time patronage was simply accepted as how things were done, and people probably couldn’t envisage any other way of doing things. As Son of God, as King and Head of the church, Jesus is indeed a patron. He doesn’t hand out lucrative contracts, or make high status appointments – his patronage system is almost the complete opposite of what happens in the rest of the world, whether now or two thousand years ago. If he wants something done he doesn’t advertise for volunteers, ask for their CVs, conduct interviews or issue contracts. He simply picks people and sends them to do a particular job. He knows the skills and experience he is looking for, and he knows the skills and experience of his followers (often better than they do themselves). He is happy to take people out of their comfort zones, and help them to discover skills they didn’t know they had. He doesn’t sit down with us and go through a regular appraisal process, asking us to highlight areas of success, and areas where we think we need more experience or training, in what area we would like to specialise in the future. (It might be that as part of our private devotions we could make the time to reflect with God on such things; it might be that out of it we feel able to say to God, ‘I’d like to do this’, but God is quite capable of turning round and saying, ‘well actually, I want you to do that’ – and if you want a Biblical example of that think of St Paul wanting to go East from the Dardanelles, but God sent him North to Europe. There’s no arguing with God and winning.)

Jesus didn’t get cross with James and John (he left that to the others). He just warned them that jobs that came through his patronage were rather different from those offered in the rest of the world. He didn’t offer lavish salaries, honours or palaces. Rather the jobs he offered involved service and suffering. Acts reports that James was ‘put to death with the sword’ by King Herod Agrippa; and legend (backed up by John’s Gospel in the case of Peter) reports many Apostles meeting a violent end, after imprisonment and beatings.

Over the centuries many followers of Jesus have experienced violence or imprisonment, and sometimes death. It still happens today – in some cases where people leave their faith community to become Christians, in some cases where Christians are a minority in a country dominated by another faith tradition, in some cases where they strive to build the Kingdom by speaking out against corruption or injustice, or seek to do work which impacts directly on people’s lives for the better (but against powerful vested interests). We may not face any of that, but we may find that following Jesus and doing what he wants involves a ‘price’ for us, in terms of time, finance and effort. Instead of spending them on ourselves, we are using them to do Jesus’ work. Sometimes the work is enjoyable, and though we are tired we have derived a lot of pleasure from it. At other times it is a hard slog: there is no expression of thanks or appreciation, we feel taken for granted, there may be criticism about what we have or haven’t done, there may be little to show for all the effort we invested. In the eyes of the world around it may be pointless work, but God sees and knows everything that goes on, and when we do his work he appreciates it and is grateful for it. We can’t really complain to Jesus when life is tough – he has been there, he knows what it feels like. He suffered and died for us, but he was raised to new life and to glory, and he promises us that if we follow faithfully in his way then we too will share in his resurrection and glory

Hymn 191 Do not be afraid

Prayers for others

Gracious God

We thank you for your care and concern for us

 that you know us through and through

 and still love us

 and for all the love you showed

  in the life, suffering, death and rising again of Jesus

We give thanks for all those who have accepted hardship and suffering

 to share the Good News of Jesus with the world

 to work for a more peaceful and just world

 to remain faithful to Jesus in a hostile situation

and pray for those who, today, face difficulty

 because they are followers of Jesus

 and wish to carry out faithfully his call to them

We pray for ourselves

 that we will cope with the challenges and difficulties that we face

 that through it all we will let the love and patience of Jesus

  shine through what we do and say

help us to be ready to respond when you call us to do something

 and help us to be ready to support and encourage others

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 363 We have a Gospel to proclaim

Blessing (3-fold Amen)

And the blessing of God Almighty..

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