Sunday Worship 15 November

Online Service prepared by Rev Susan Thorburn

Based on Psalm 26.

Here we gather, O Lord, test my heart and mind, try me and prove me.

I have been honest. I have followed You and

I trust you without wavering, I am walking with integrity.

Make me fit for service inside and out.

O Lord, singing in our souls with thanksgiving, our songs

     tell of your wondrous deeds.

In a house which we love, and in which you dwell let us worship You,  

     keep us safe from all dangers

Listen or sing or read the words of this hymn – CH4 192  All my hope on God is founded

2020 11 15 heart.jpg

Let us pray.

God, you are solid and sure and reliable, while at the same time being creative, adaptable and free. We change too, but not always in a good way. We catch sight of something new and life-changing in the teaching of Jesus and we vow to be different, to follow him for ever. Then the kaleidoscope turns, and a new picture emerges: one that involves cost, and letting go, one where people do not come flocking to hear what we have to say, but are hostile, or, worse still, indifferent; a future that holds the real possibility of dying, and we are not ready for that.

Gentle God, help us to take things a bit more slowly; to get our balance and find a way of following that is sustainable for us and honouring to you.

May we neither shame ourselves by dwelling on all the mistakes we have made in the past, nor frighten ourselves by looking too far into the future.

Help us rather to take one day at a time, to keep going by putting one foot in front of the other, lifting our eyes now and then and surprising ourselves to see just how far we have come. And if the way for a while is easy, let us enjoy it; and if suffering comes, give us strength to bear it. And in both remind us that you have been there before, and have promised to stay with us to the end, which may, if the impossible promises of our faith turn out to be true, not be the end at all, but a glorious new beginning.

Keep us faithful, keep us hopeful; above all, O God, keep us going.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3 (in particular v 6 - 13) - to read please click here.

Faith Without Holes

What do you do when your world caves in? How should a Christian respond when hard times come? What can we do to keep our faith strong? All of us face those questions because we all go through deep trials eventually. When that happens, everything we believe will be put on the firing line.

 

Sometimes the best thing you can do for the health of your soul is to re-read an old book.

This week I set aside some time to re-read Tim Keller’s book, Prayer: Experiencing

Awe and Intimacy with God. Much of the strength of his work lies in collecting spiritual

insights on prayer from writers throughout the history of the church.

 

As I read through Keller’s book, I realised that you can tell a lot about what someone

believes (or doesn’t believe) about God from the way they pray. On the one hand, you

have people who pray all the time and are afraid to miss a beat lest they miss out on

a divine blessing might otherwise receive. If something goes wrong in their life, their

first thought is, “How could this happen? Did I not pray enough?” Their life verse is 

James 4:2, “You do not have, because you do not ask.”

 

Paul knew the Thessalonians were near the breaking point and that’s why he sent Timothy to check on them. When Timothy came back with a good report that the believers were standing firm under pressure, Paul’s joy knew no bounds. He was encouraged (v.7), the news was like a new lease on life to him (v.8), and he couldn’t stop thanking God for them (v.9). That brings us to Paul’s prayer in verses 10-13.

 

Here is an excellent way to pray for those going through a hard time. It’s worth pondering because every week we’re asked to pray for people in difficulty. Very rarely does anyone say, “Things are going great. Pray for me. Here are three ways to pray when life is heard. First, you should pray for . . .

 

Paul says he prayed day and night. When was the last time you lost sleep because

you were praying? There have been times when I have been woken up in the

middle of the night to pray and felt urged to pray for someone. Has that ever

happened to you? Sometimes the person I have been urged to pray for tells me

that they had been up during the night in pain.

Paul’s prayer was in earnest. He uses a very unusual expression that has the idea of going above and beyond all normal measures. You might translate it with the phrase “super abundantly.” Prayer must be earnest to be effective. Weak, shallow, half-hearted prayers produce weak, shallow, half-hearted results. God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Be fervent in prayer. What is a “fervent” prayer? The Greek means something like “boiling.” It has nothing to do with posture or whether you are sitting or standing or lying down, and it doesn’t matter whether your eyes are open or closed. A boiling prayer has nothing to do with how loud you pray or how many words you use. It’s not about folding your hands or waving them above your head. When your closest friend is taken to hospital in an ambulance or someone close to you needs a life-saving surgery, no one will have to tell you what to do. You

will pray a boiling prayer right there in the waiting room at the hospital.

You may not utter any audible words, but your heart will pray a boiling

prayer. It is the type of prayer which needs a suck of breath before

exclaiming “Oh God! Oh Jesus!”  When anything becomes life or death

to you, you’ll pray an earnest, fervent, boiling prayer, and it won’t matter

how long or how short your prayer.

Paul cared so much for these young Thessalonian believers that he couldn’t help but pray earnestly for them. His prayer was earnest, fervent and boiling. We should take the time to do the same for the people we love.

 

Paul had a particular goal in mind. He wanted to supply what was lacking in their faith. The word “supply” was used for mending torn nets and setting broken bones. He used the same word in Ephesians 4:12 for equipping all the saints for the work of ministry. It’s what an equipment manager does before the start of a football or rugby or hockey match. He (or she) makes sure the players have all the equipment they need. Here’s the prayer: “O God, my brothers and sisters are in a great spiritual battle. I pray they will be fully equipped for whatever they might face. Grant them strong faith—with no holes — so they can stand and fight victoriously no matter how hot the battle may be.”

 

Love, Paul says should be Without Limits (verse 12) Love is the supreme

grace. You can never have too much of it. You can never have enough of

it. Paul is saying, “I pray God will make you an overflowing fountain of

love.” Many years ago, this song was made popular by Diana Ross and

Dionne Warwick: ‘What the world needs now is love, sweet love’. It's the

only thing that there's just too little of ‘What the world needs now is

love, sweet love’ for everyone.  Paul prays that he wants God to increase

the people’s love, so God may become established in their hearts.

Literally, God may fix their hearts, or make their hearts firm in faith.

It is not only faith that makes you strong; love makes you strong, as well.

 

Years ago, a man named Eddie got tired of living and jumped from the Tay bridge into the river. Jim, a total stranger, saw Eddie being swept downstream and jumped into the water to save him. Jim floundered in the current; and Eddie, who was a good swimmer, knew that without his help Jim would drown. So, with all his strength, Eddie swam over to the man and rescued him. As a result, Eddie found new hope and meaning to life in saving the stranger, who had attempted to save him. (T. Huffman Harris, Open the Door Wide to Happy Living)

We can all find new hope and meaning to life if we reach out to others in need. So today, right now stop feeling sorry for yourself, in our current near lockdown society. Stop holding that pity party. Like the old telephone commercial says, “Reach out and touch someone,” and find that someone touches you, as well. 

 

What does Paul pray for? Look again at the verses - for God’s mission.

Why do we pray? Because we’re convinced of the Lord’s

faithfulness. How do we pray? With confidence in the Lord’s

work. Concerned for mission, convinced of the Lord’s faithfulness,

confident in the Lord’s work – that’s what biblical prayer looks like in

action.  So, keep on praying, because the faithfulness of God ensures

his word will not fail to bear fruit. Pray for the words of the God to

be in your own heart. Pray for the word of the gospel to be at the

centre of our church and at the centre of our community. Let’s ask for

God’s help to do that right now as Jesus himself taught us to pray as

Jesus taught saying: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.

Amen.

Listen or sing or read the words of this hymn – CH4 191   Do not be afraid

Let us pray

Loving God of the ages,
Lord, set on fire the hearts of all those that worship you! Mighty God, raise up prophets in every age who speak truth through and to your church. We pray for peace in so many parts of our troubled world where ethnic, tribal and religious differences continue to fill our news headlines.  In a week where we have seen more acts of violence, received further threats of terrorism, seen film of more distraught families and funerals of those who have lost their lives help us not to live in fear but to trust in you. We pray that those with influence and authority will heed and promote the calls for tolerance, peace and justice.

We pray for those who are faced with finding solutions to the problems of mass migration where people, fleeing poverty, war or persecution, take ever increasing risks to seek sanctuary in Europe. We remember that Jesus himself was taken as a refugee to Egypt and pray for the work of all engaged in humanitarian work amongst refugees in many parts of the world. We pray for those who find it hard to cope. We pray for all who bear the responsibility for suffering.

Just as we have fallen short of your expectations and have need of your forgiveness we ask for you to help us forgive those who cause us to suffer or others to suffer.

We pray for those who are anxious, or watch and wait, for those who don't know where to turning their need, & we ask you to help us, your people, to support and encourage them in their duty of care.
We ask it through Jesus, through whom we have learnt of your gracious love. All-loving and most generous God, we gratefully thank you for all your good gifts to us, we ask your blessing on the gifts we have given this day may they be used wisely as we seek to further your kingdom.

 

Blessing

May your life be blessed by God as you continue to walk in His footsteps. We have been gathered in by God, the source of all wisdom and wonder. May we, who have been nurtured by God’s consolation and welcome, share consolation and welcome all we meet, knowing that from God’s great goodness, all goodness and love flows. Amen.

 

Thank you to those who have taken the time to contact me. Take care out there this week.

May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you this day and each day. 

Rev. Susan Thorburn, sthorburn@churchofscotland.org.uk 

If you choose to email me, please can you tell me who you are and where you live. Thank you.