Sunday Worship, 29 May 2022

11:15am in Riverside, streamed to St Andrew’s & on YouTube

Sunday 29 May 2022

Welcome

I will always be with you, to the end of time. Matthew 28: 20

Choir Introit

Hymn 436 Christ triumphant

Opening Prayer

Lord

In Jesus you experienced the limitations of space and time

 the all-knowing one could know no more than any other

  human being

 the all-powerful one could only do what any man could do

 the all-present one could only be in one place at one time

only those with him in Galilee or Judaea could met him face to

  face

only they could hear his teaching

voice their concerns

encounter his healing

But now he is risen and ascended

he has regained the knowledge, power and majesty he had

 before

but he has neither turned his back on the humanity he took at

 Bethlehem

nor the people among whom he lived and for whom he died

he is with us wherever we are

he cares for us as much as ever he cared for people long ago

he welcomes us all

he offers us a listening ear, his healing hand, his word of

 comfort and challenge

We come to you now seeking to meet with him

 and through him, with you

accept us, accept our worship and praise

speak to us your word for us

grant us your forgiveness, healing and wholeness

that we may be faithful followers of him and servants of you

through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen

All age time

[Tripe in the local butchers] There are some things that we don’t eat because we know that they disagree with us (food allergies or intolerances, or whatever), there are some things we don’t eat because the doctor has told us they contain things that are not good for us (salt, cholesterol, sugar etc), and there are some things that we don’t eat because of ethical reasons (the production is unsustainable, there are animal welfare issues, or the carbon footprint is high). But there are some things we just plain don’t like. When we were small we had to eat them [you’ll get it for your breakfast. Starving children of Africa], now we can choose. But why don’t we like them? Could we explain it to anyone?

There are lots of other things that people ‘don’t like’. It might be living things like snakes, spiders or mice; it might be ‘the dark’, or winter, or rain; it might be certain kinds of music; particularly post-pandemic, it might be going out into busy places. Sometimes these ‘dislikes’ are not just a matter of choice, but are linked to fear; and sometimes that fear can gnaw away at us, and spoil our lives. Maybe we can make some time to think about things we don’t like, why we don’t like them, and whether they are impinging too much on our life. Talking about dislikes, about fears, with someone who will listen sympathetically can be really helpful. Occasionally we might need a bit of extra help.

Sometimes there are people that we don’t like. It might be because of some particular characteristics of theirs (they are ‘loud’, or painfully quiet; they have strong opinions which they aren’t afraid to share, whether the time is right or not; their personal hygiene or manners might not match our expectations). Or it might be because of their accent, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle, where they live.

There are no commandments that say ‘Thou must eat tripe’, or shellfish, or Brussels sprouts or whatever. There are no rules that say, ‘Thou must be ready to play with spiders, climb ladders, or crawl under the floorboards’. Unless those dislikes are really affecting our lives, we can live with them. But when it comes to people, God has intervened and made some definite rules, like ‘Love one another’ and ‘Love your neighbour’. It isn’t optional, it’s compulsory. He didn’t say, ‘Like them’, he said ‘Love them’. Even if they irritate, even if the drive us up the wall, Jesus commands us to value and affirm other people just as he values and affirms us, and to seek the best for them, as he seeks the best for us. It’s hard. It can be very hard. But through his Spirit he helps us to do that.

Hymn 448 Lord the light of your love is shining

Admission of elders

There are different gifts, different ways of serving God, who works through different people in different ways. But in each case it is the same Lord who is served, and the service is for the common good.

Those who are chosen for the office of eldership have the particular responsibility of caring for God’s people and exercising oversight and leadership.

Today the Kirk Session of Riverside is met to admit William Duncan and Gordon McConnell as elders in the congregation.

In this act, the Church of Scotland,

as part of the Holy Catholic or Universal Church,

worshipping one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

affirms anew its belief in the Gospel

of the sovereign grace and love of God.

Through Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

incarnate, crucified, and risen,

he freely offers to all people, upon repentance and faith,

the forgiveness of sins,

renewal by the Holy Spirit,

and eternal life,

and calls them to labour in the fellowship of faith

for the advancement of the kingdom of God

throughout the world.

Invite to come forward

William and Gordon, on the occasion of your ordination

you declared that you believed

the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith

and promised to seek the unity and peace of the Church;

to uphold its doctrine, worship, government and discipline;

and to take your due part in the administration of its affairs.

Do you now reaffirm your adherence to that vow?

Loving God

you have chosen for yourself a Church

 in which your Holy Spirit inspires people

 to serve your purposes of love.

We give thanks that by your grace you have called

 William and Gordon to lead and care for your people

 as elders in your Church.

We commend them to you now

 as we admit them to the Kirk Session

 in Riverside Parish Church

Grant them the gift of your Holy Spirit

Through Christ our Lord we pray.

In the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ,

 the King and Head of the Church,

 I admit you as elders in Riverside Parish Church

Traditionally I would have invited members of the Session to come and welcome you with the right hand of fellowship. We are encouraged to apply ‘Covid sense’ at the minute, so I’ll scale that back – and it gives us an opportunity to be ‘different’. I’ll give you an elbow bump of fellowship, ask Catherine the Session Clerk of Riverside to do the same, and Elizabeth of West Kirk to welcome you on behalf of St Andrew’s and West Kirk, and then invite everyone else to clap or rummel your feet.

Bible reading

John 17: 20-26   

Reflection   

[London Christmas lunch] I had a similar feeling some years ago when I heard a story in the news about a brawl in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, involving clergy, monks and worshippers, which led to the police being called and two clergy or monks being arrested – because someone said that someone from another tradition had tried to come into their bit of the church.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built on the supposed site of the tomb where Jesus was buried, and rose from the dead. For many it has long been regarded as the holiest Christian site, because that was where the resurrection happened. Responsibility for looking after it has caused fierce arguments among different Christian traditions. A long time ago Moslem rulers of the Holy Land imposed a compromise, where different traditions each had their own ‘bit’ (a bit like the mum who puts one child in this corner and another child in that corner, and tells them to stay there till they can play nicely together).

Although he warned us not to be judgemental about other people, it makes you wonder what the Good Lord himself would say to them, and what people of other faiths and none would say. It is by no means an isolated incident of trouble between or within different Christian traditions, or of the church authorising or condoning things like the slave trade, executions for witchcraft and heresy, anti-Semitism, punishments for breaking the Sabbath customs etc. What would he say, what do those outside the church think?

Jesus may only have lived for about 30-odd years, but in that time he had gained a pretty good grasp of what people can be like. He didn’t come just to voice nice-sounding platitudes about ideal ways to behave or to promise a better world beyond the grave, but to bring about marked change in people and in the world. He wanted people to have a new relationship with God, and to live by his values and standards. They were to be changed people in the way they behaved, especially in the way they related to other people.

Jesus knew that he was going to be leaving them, and though the Spirit would come to help and support them, they were going to have to do a lot of things themselves. He wanted them to be an effective community, praising and serving God together, providing support for each other, working together to share his Good News with the world, but also being a visible example to the world of how different things could be if people would live by his teaching.

That last bit is hard. It is hard enough trying to follow Jesus’ teaching when you are on your own, it becomes harder when other people become involved, and harder still when those other people are either ‘different’ from us in some way, or have something about them that rubs us up the wrong way. It may be that they are ‘different’ in terms of their interests, opinions, appearance, speech or lifestyle; they may be people with whom we would not naturally bond; or they have something about them that really antagonises us. However God effectively says to us, ‘Tough, I love them, so you will love them, and you will work with them and seek the best for them.’ That’s why Jesus prayed for his disciples and those who came after them: ‘loving’ each other, and living together as an example to the world of how it could and should be, would be a real challenge.

People are all different, and God delights in our differences, our quirks and our foibles, the things that make us individuals.

As human beings, we struggle to understand what God is like, but we believe that Jesus revealed to us that in God there is both unity (one God) and difference (the persons of the Father, Son and Spirit). In the same way he wants us to retain our individuality, the characteristics that make us who we are, but have a sense of unity that draws us close to each other, and to God. Unity is not the same as uniformity – insisting that everyone must think and do the same thing, as though we are all clones of a particular model.

Just as people are different from each other, so when people come together in groups, those groups are different from each other. Congregation A is different from congregation B (because it is made up of different people); denomination C is different from denomination D, for the same reason; the church in one area/ country/ continent is different from the church in another. However the Spirit works to bring us together, to make our differences sources of strength not division, to use our different skills and experiences to assist each other, to build the Kingdom, and be an advert for the Kingdom.

Hymn 445 Alleluia sing to Jesus

Prayers for others

Gracious God

You have made us all different from each other

 and you delight in our differences and individuality

 help us to accept our differences

 to love ourselves for who we are

 to love other people too –

 especially when they are very different

 or have something about them that rubs us up the wrong way

help us to remember that you have called us to live our lives –

 individually, and together –

 as an example to the world of how you want it to be

 through your Spirit, help us to try to do that

You care about your world

 and are always seeking to bring healing and wholeness to it

 take and use these our prayers in your work

those who are ill, those who worry about them,

  those who care for them

 those waiting for or receiving treatment

  and those for whom there is no treatment

 those who are feeling lonely, down

  or grieving a friend or loved one

 those who don’t have enough to eat

  don’t have somewhere to call home

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

   money

 those who long to live in peace and safety

we pray for the Queen, the Government

 all in positions of leadership in this and every land

we pray for your church

 the worldwide church, the wider church in Dumbarton

  our own congregation

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 439 Look ye saints

Blessing (3-fold Amen)

Christ our King make you faithful

 and strong to do his will,

 and bring you to reign with him in glory.

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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