Sunday 14th March 2021
Lift up your eyes, for your redemption draws near. The darkness is passing away and the true light is shining.
God, Eternal and ever Blessed, who has given us this season of reflection and repentance, that we might honour the memory of our Lord’s sufferings for us, we come before you to offer our worship and praise, to confess our faults and to seek forgiveness. So we ask that our minds might come to know your truth and our consciences your laws that we might recognise how far we fall short of your will for us.
Before you we confess our failures and our sins recognising that we have wandered far from God, have forgotten our duties and allowed our faith to grow dim. Hear our prayer and grant us the assurance of pardon and peace.
God grant that now being forgiven we may be ready to listen and respond to the voice of the Spirit. Help us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. We know that of ourselves we do not have the power to walk with Christ or to follow his example. Give us, therefore, that power that comes through the Holy Spirit that our lives may be transformed closer to the image of Christ and of the God who is our creator.
May the Strength of God be with us, May the Power of God preserve us, May the Wisdom of God instruct us, May the Hand of God protect us, May the Way of God direct us, May the Shield of God defend us and guard us against evil and the temptations of the world, this day, O Lord, and evermore, through the same Lord who has taught us to pray, Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory, Forever. Amen
St John 9:1-16
A thought for today
The fourth Sunday in Lent is properly known as Mothering Sunday, though now, thanks to American influences it has become Mother’s Day. In fact, strictly speaking, Mothering Sunday has little to do with mothers. It was the day when those who had to leave their town or village for work returned home to visit their mother church and, of course, their families. It was traditional to take with them a simnel cake.
In a strange roundabout way, there could be a connection between motherhood and one of the gospel readings for this day. In St John 9:1-16 we find the story of the blind man whose sight was restored by Jesus. It is an unusual miracle for it is about the only one where Jesus actually laid hands on someone. Jesus made a paste from the earth and applied it to the man’s eyes, telling him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. When he had washed off the paste the man could see.
Now we would think that this would be a cause for rejoicing, but when, as instructed, the man went to the pharisees they were far from pleased. The reason was simple. They were not annoyed because the man had been given his sight but because the miracle had been done on the sabbath and by their convoluted way of thinking healing someone on the sabbath was work and so prohibited.
How can this story have any connection with mothers? Until not so long ago the favourite baptismal hymn was “By cool Siloam’s shady rill”. One of the reasons it fell out of favour was that in its original form the hymn had little to say that could connect it to the sacrament. The only connection being the water in the pool that had cleansing properties linked up with the spiritual cleansing in baptism. Perhaps in an attempt to change this, the hymn was merged with another baptismal hymn when CH3 was published, though in the new version all reference to the Pool of Siloam has been lost.
The scripture sentences for the fourth Sunday in Lent are strangely appropriate for us today. Things are improving and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter which means that soon we hope to return to our mother church. All being well we shall be able to reopen for worship on Easter Sunday, though this must be provisional until there is a further announcement from the Scottish Government on 23rd March. At the moment the signs are promising. All the vital statistics are moving in the right direction, but caution means avoiding fixing dates in stone too soon. It is a further reminder that though there are encouraging signs we dare not relax our guard too soon. We must hope that the disgraceful gatherings last weekend in Glasgow do not have consequences that put all the progress we have made in jeopardy by causing a spike in new cases.
There is a certain symbolism in being back in church at Easter. That is the Day of Resurrection, fitting then that it should be a day of resurrection for the church. I know from my weekly phone calls that many of our members are longing to get back together in church on Sundays. A lot of the anxiety felt at the end of last year is being replaced by hope generated by the success of the roll out of the vaccine. Indeed, by April most of our older members will have had their second dose and almost everyone will have had their initial inoculation and be looking forward to the second by the end of May. The signs are that this will be the key to further unlocking of restrictions.
Worship will be much the same as it was in the autumn, numbers limited to 36 in our case to maintain the necessary social distancing, and sadly no singing yet. Hopefully if we can continue to suppress the virus the day will not be too far off when we can at last “Sing a joyful song to the Lord”.
A closing prayer
Most mighty God the creator of all things, the source of light and life, who is worthy to receive praise and thanksgiving from all your creatures, before you we rejoice in the benefits of your providence, through which all that we could ever need is showered upon us. We give thanks for the love of friends and family, and above all for your divine love for each one. In this holy season we recall with thanksgiving how Jesus walked the narrow way that led to the cross where for us he suffered and died, that on the third day he might rise again. We rejoice that he has bequeathed to us the Holy Spirit to be our strength and stay.
Almighty God, arm with the sword of that Spirit the church throughout the earth, that she may be strong in the face of opposition and be able to shed the light of God’s truth in the dark places of the earth. Bless especially the church of our land. Direct her that she may ever follow your ways. Be with us as a congregation of your people in this place that through us something of the love of God might shine clearly.
O God in whose favour alone are the happiness and well-being of a nation, bless our land and our rulers. Give to them wisdom and understanding of the needs of the people that they may truly seek to order and determine things for the benefit of all. Lead our government through these difficult times. Guide all those who are seeking to find the ways to relax the restrictions that have protected us from the threats posed by Covid19 without risking another surge in the virus. Help us all to continue take all necessary precautions and to do nothing that endangers others.
Most gracious God look in mercy upon the sick in body and mind, the sad in heart, the troubled and anxious. Inspire your children to seek to give aid to the homeless and the refugee. We remember before God those who mourn the loss of loved ones, granting them comfort and peace through the knowledge of your presence with them.
May the light of the Love of God guide us, and the blessing of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit be ever with us.