"To create places of belonging where people discover Jesus and are equipped to follow him"

Sunday 18th July

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The Lord is our strength. He is our God and we shall praise him and exalt him.

Almighty God, the Father everlasting, who has given us rest in sleep and has awakened us to this new day, enable us to rejoice in your goodness. Receive us as we approach the throne of grace to offer our worship and praise. Hear our prayers and grant us answers.

O Lord our God who hast willed that the gates of mercy should ever stand open to the contrite, hear our confession, for we have been sinful and wayward. We allow the days to pass without trying to amend our ways. We continue to allow ourselves to be beset by temptation and vexed by trivial desires. Seldom do we think of the mystery of our being and are forgetful of the honour and dignity with which you have crowned us. So all too often we fail to seek your kingdom and its righteousness, striving instead after the things of this passing world. Most merciful father, do not hold our faults against us but forget our sins and in mercy grant us pardon through Jesus Christ our Lord.

O Holy Jesus, friend and brother, help us to know you more clearly, to love you more dearly and to follow you more nearly. Enable us to cast off all anxious thoughts for tomorrow and, trusting only in you, to live in your presence from day to day. Grant us the strength of the Spirit that we may seek out and fulfil your will. So may we labour for the advancement of your kingdom until at last your will is done on earth as it is in heaven, through Jesus Christ our 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.

The readings

Exodus 20:1-18

Ephesians 4:1-16

A thought for today

Until our son moved to Australia almost 10 years ago we were regular visitors to Tyneside where he lived. This gave us opportunities to explore the north east of England. One place we found to be particularly interesting was the ruins of the monastery at Jarrow where there is a recreation of life in the 6th century.

Jarrow was the home of the Venerable Bede. His writings shed a light on the history of the early church in Britain as he recounts how the Celtic Church came to be replaced by the Church of Rome. He also gave a detailed account of monastic life in the 600s.

 Life in the monastery centred on worship and the study of scripture. Everything revolved around them. The monastic day was long beginning at 2.00 a.m. ending at 6.00 p.m. in winter and 9.00 p.m.in summer. There were 7 services and set times for study. All this was the Opus Dei, the work of God, but the monks had to fit in the more ordinary work as well. The crops and the livestock had to be tended. A monk had little time for relaxation.

The thread running through is all was the notion that Scripture was the supreme rule for faith and life. That is still true for us today. The Declaratory Articles, the constitution of the Church, affirm the centrality of Scripture, as does the Westminster Confession which asserts that Scripture “is the sole determinant” of our beliefs.

This must surely lead us to reflect on what the place of Scripture is for each one of us today. As far as the world is concerned it is peripheral to say the least and it is probably true that for most today it has become irrelevant. Indeed not so long ago in a town not too faraway it was impossible to buy a bible in any of the shops that sold books. None were stocked, new or second hand, because there was no demand.

A colleague once told of the first visit to the Primary 1 class in the local school at the start of the new session. None of the new pupils knew what a bible was and knew nothing about Jesus. As she said this gave her plenty of scope with no need to fear that the class might have heard herstories before!

If ignorance is the reason the world places no value on Scripture, perhaps in the Church the reason might be familiarity. Perhaps we are tempted to feel that we have heard it all before. Knowing our bible stories can lead us to feel we can set them aside.

Another colleague once told of his surprise when a lady in her 80s whom he knew to be a member of a neighbouring congregation suddenly started attending his church. After a few Sundays he paid her a call and discovered that she had changed because as happens with age her hearing had deteriorated. Her own minister was soft-spoken and she was finding difficulty in hearing what he was saying. She did not have that problem in her new church. Even in her 80’s she valued being able to listen to the Word of God for she was well aware that she had not heard it all before. Scripture may be old, yet from it day by day God brings out something new, provided we are prepared to listen. Though times change and as Isaiah has said, the grass withers and the flowers fade, the Word of God stands forever.

 In his letter to the Ephesians Paul exhorts us not to be tossed about by every word of doctrine or sleight of man. These things are transient and do not lead towards the goal which is that maturity measured by the fullness of the stature of Christ.

 Instead he urges us to rely only on the unshakeable foundation of Scripture. We are on a journey in which we use Scripture to shape our faith so that we can find answers to the questions and doubts we encounter along the way. Questions and doubts are an inevitable part of living. To admit to them is not a sign of weakness. The real weakness is to pretend that they do not exist. The trouble is that seeking answers and resolving doubts leads to the one thing we detest and try at all costs to avoid – change. Of course we all know that life is all about change from cradle to the grave. Remaining exactly as we are, is never an option.

 The ancient monks held Scripture as their supreme guiding principle and found there the answers that enabled them to make sense of life in this world and prepared them for life in the next. That is as true now as it was then. Until we place Scripture where it belongs at the heart of life we shall struggle. Then though we run our race with all our might the goal and the prize will always be beyond our grasp.

 A closing prayer

Almighty and Eternal God, because you are ever merciful to your children, we give thanks and praise unto you for every good and perfect gift bestowed upon us. Your full hand supplies our every need. Your strength upholds us in every difficulty and your peace and comfort are ever around us in times of trouble. We praise you for the Word of life in the scriptures that you have given to be our guide and above all for Jesus Christ who is the pattern and example of all human life. We bless you for the ministry of the Church in prayer and for the fellowship of the faithful. We give thanks that we can take comfort from the worship of your House and find peace within its walls, a peace that we can carry with us wherever we might go. So may the peace of God abide in our hearst now while we praise your name and remain with us always.

Bless our land and people. God save our Queen and direct all who bear authority under her that following your guidance they may order all things for the good and welfare of all the people. Guide all in authority at this time that they might consider all the evidence carefully as they seek to find a safe way to relax the restrictions that have governed our lives for so long. Help us all through the power of the Holy Spirit to use our greater freedoms wisely to avoid making our situation worse. Most merciful God, remember the tribulations of those who suffer from anxiety as restrictions are eased and make them to know that they are supported by our prayers.

May God grant healing to the sick, comfort to the troubled in body mind or spirit and peace to all who mourn.

Dear Father in heaven graciously watch over us and our loved ones, granting us faith that we may hold you to be our God, our Father, our guide through the years, our Saviour for ever.

The Blessing

 Grace mercy and peace from God, Father Son and holy Spirit be with us all.

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