Sunday Worship, 20 March 2022

Service starts at 11:15am in Riverside.

Welcome


Prove your repentance by the fruit you bear

Luke 3: 8

Hymn 173 Sing to God new songs of worship

Opening Prayer

Lord

We thank you for your great love

 the love we see in the life of Jesus

 he came from the glory of being your Son

  to live a life like ours

 to share our feelings and experiences

 ready to serve you and others

  even though that would cost him his life

We thank you that he was faithful to the end

 and that on Easter Day you raised him to new life

  that lasts for ever

 and so we now have a new and solid hope for the future

 that there is a life beyond this life that will never end

 and that goodness, truth and love will have the last word

You love us so much

 but we must admit that our love for you is so faint and poor

 we forget to say ‘thank you’

 we don’t follow Jesus’ teaching about how we should live

 we don’t follow his example of how we should live

 and we are sorry

Forgive us

Help us to love you as we should

Help us to live as we should

Help us to share your love and Good News with others

Through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen

All age time

Today is the National Census Day in Scotland. Where we are today, anyone staying overnight with us, is recorded for posterity.

The current system of Censuses began in Scotland in 1841 – though for that Census adult ages were rounded up or down to the nearest 5 or 10 (and some seem to be complete guesses). Many adults still couldn’t read or write, so people took the details from families, and as a result some of the spellings are interesting. [Rutcul Rosich. Rebeekah] Later censuses give a bit more information, like occupation and house size. I spent ages looking for my grandmother in the 1911 census, and found her recently with the whole family having a Mc stuck on the front. Why I don’t know, but my great grandfather did have something of a reputation as a practical joker. Was he making fun of the census system?

The OT seems to have mixed views on censuses and counting people. In various parts of Genesis, Exodus and Numbers figures are given for the number in each tribe or clan, and some censuses are taken to establish the military might of the Israelites. There is a bit in Exodus 30 that says that when a census is taken, people must make a donation to God’s sanctuary for being counted. Then the whole people were punished when David as king organised a census. Some scholars wonder if there was a fear of ‘the evil eye’ being at play if exact numbers were known. It may also be that at different times in their history the Hebrew people accepted censuses as being OK, and at other times regarded them as banned under the Law.

Nowadays censuses are designed to compile data on the demographics of the country for officials to use when planning future policies. It wasn’t like that in NT times. Then it was all about taxation. That’s probably what the famous census at the start of Luke’s Gospel is about. We know from outside sources that many nationalist Jews opposed it because it meant paying money to the Romans. Many commentators think Luke got his sources a wee bit muddled, as Quirinius didn’t become Governor over Judaea and Samaria till 6AD, some ten years after Herod the Great died.

I wonder is anyone taking part in that Census was a bit like my great grandfather, and ‘doctored’ their response – especially if the Romans were going to use it to raise taxes? (Though please complete yours accurately)

Hymn MP 1072 The Lord’s my Shepherd

Bible reading

Luke 13: 1-9

Elaine King

Reflection    

‘Repent’ was a word that John the Baptist used a lot: be sorry, change your attitude and behaviour, that’s what he meant. Some did respond – they felt personally that call and challenge to live their lives differently, to turn from the way they were living, and strive to live lives pleasing to God and respectful of others.

But many did not ‘repent’. A lot don’t think they have anything in their lives for which they need to repent or say ‘sorry’. They perform the required rituals, they give money to good causes, so they are perfect. They don’t see the prejudice and pride in their hearts. If they see someone in need, but that someone doesn’t tick the right boxes for them, they are quite ready to pass by on the other side. They never ask whether their position or behaviour in some ways contributes to that person being in need. Look at those killed when the tower fell: some say it was a punishment sent by God on wicked people, but was there maybe carelessness in building it, or in work going on around it? So where does the real responsibility for the deaths lie?

All too often I meet people who are so full of their own importance: getting a name for themselves, a reputation, a legacy for future generations to honour. They’ll scheme, they’ll struggle against others, they’ll lose their temper, rant and swear, all designed to ensure that they get their own way.

I’ve noticed too that a lot don’t know how to say the word ‘sorry’ – and if it does cross their lips it really doesn’t sound genuine. How many times have I hear something like, ‘I’m sorry if you took offence at something I said’ – never, ‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that because it was offensive’? How many say, ‘I think I’ve been misunderstood’, or ‘misrepresented’, rather than ‘Sorry I opened my big mouth without engaging my brain.’? How many enunciate words that are represented as an apology, but they stand alone – there is no sign of contrition, no change of behaviour, no attempt to make good any hurt caused?

Life cannot be explained simply by the formula, ‘everything bad that happens is a punishment sent by God’. Some things do happen because of choices that people made. Some are the inevitable consequence of their lifestyle. But some things happen because of what other people do, of their carelessness, their greed, their indifference. And some things just happen. It’s also a picture that misrepresents God. He doesn’t spend his time spotting who is next for punishment. Rather it’s the reverse. His very nature is unconditional love. He sees need and wants to act: he wants the hungry to be fed, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, everyone to live in peace and safety, with whole and full lives, and all injustices and wrongs put right.

As the prophet said, God is not concerned with sacrifices and ritual offerings, the tally of good works or following the liturgy to the letter. His concern is living lives by the values he shows and the standard he sets. Everyone falls short of that mark. But God is gracious and merciful. He is ready to forgive and give a new start in life. To receive that grace and mercy – from the highest to the lowest – people must be ready to repent: to admit their short-comings, to be genuinely sorry for what they have and haven’t done and said, seek to make good any hurts they have cause, and change their ways. Through the Spirit, God will help them to do all that.

Hymn 522 The Church is wherever

Prayers for others

Gracious God

You see into the hearts and lives of people

 to see what their real needs are

we bring you our prayers now for other people

 trusting that you know far better than us

 what people actually need

 and yet you can take and use our prayers

 in your work of bringing healing and wholeness

we pray for those struggling with unhappy lives

 hurting, broken or abusive relationships

 families not speaking

 who have lost contact

 for people who feel that their life is going nowhere

 that no one loves or values them

we pray for the Queen, the Government

 all in positions of leadership in this and every land

we pray for those who don’t have enough to eat

 don’t have somewhere to call home

 who are ill, waiting for or receiving treatment

 those who worry about them, those who care for them

  and those for whom there is no treatment

 those who are feeling lonely, down

  or grieving a friend or loved one

 those who are worried about family, friends, work, home,

   money

those who long to live in peace and safety

we pray for your whole family through Jesus

 the worldwide church, the wider church in Dumbarton

  our own congregation

 may we all be faithful to you

  have the strength to cope with our challenges

  and have success in our witness to Christ

  and our endeavours to bring change to the world

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 512 To God be the glory

Blessing (3-fold Amen)

Grow in grace

 and in the knowledge

 of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

and the blessing of God Almighty

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

rest and remain with you

today, and every day, and for ever

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