Sunday 20th June 2021
This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Lord God Almighty you have given us the gift of another new day, with all its possibilities and opportunities. May we, through the power of the Spirit, spend its hours in your service, so that at its end we may truly give thanks to you.
Most merciful God, we have to confess that we have failed you in so many ways. We have been afraid of what others might think and say and have hidden the light that is in us, though we know full well that through your Son we are commanded to let our light shine. Our eyes have been closed to the light of your love, for we are afraid to see ourselves in that light, for it reveals all too clearly how far short we fall of your will for us. Our ears have been closed to your voice, for we are afraid that your words only condemn us. Yet if we would listen we would hear words of comfort and peace and forgiveness, for the love of our God reaches out to each one. He knows our weakness and is ever ready to forgive. Be pleased to open our eyes to cure our blindness; open our ears that we may no longer be deaf; and so bring us to a spirit of repentance that we might be forgiven and know the grace of God in our lives.
O Father in heaven, enable us to fulfil to the best of our ability the duties laid before us. Make us wise in all that we do. Guide us by your Holy Spirit that we might not only discern your will but seek tirelessly to fulfil is. Knowing that we need your presence every passing day, abide with us always. May we go from this time of worship confident that our God will go with us, journeying where we journey, dwelling where we dwell, and be our God for evermore.
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, the power and the glory, forever. Amen
St Mark 6:30-42
A thought for today
The Gospels clearly show Jesus was well aware of the place of agriculture in the Palestine of his day. It was certainly important in the life of Judaism as many of the festivals were harvest festivals. The climate of Palestine meant that harvest was not confined to Autumn as we are used to. In the spring the Pentecost festival marked the barley harvest and in the autumn when crops such as grapes were harvested this was marked by Tabernacles, so called because at that time of year many farmers built shelters in the field and lived there to make the most of the daylight to gather in the crops.
We ought not to be surprised that Jesus often drew on farming themes in his teaching. We have the likes of the parable of the Sower and the rich farmer who hoarded his harvest each year building new barns to lay up stocks for years to come, though unfortunately he never lived to enjoy them. Then of course we have the notion of the Good Shepherd.
Here Jesus was using a strand that runs through much of the Old Testament where God is depicted as the shepherd of the flock. Immediately we think of the 23rd Psalm but the idea is found in many other Psalms and in the prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel also make use of it.
The fact is that the Old Testament is full of the picture of the shepherd and his sheep.
It is an image Jesus took to make a picture of himself. He is the shepherd who goes out into the hills, across the valleys and crags, even down into the ravines to seek and to find the lost sheep (Luke 15:4). He is moved with compassion because he sees the people like sheep without a shepherd (mark 6:34). For him the disciples are his little flock (Luke 1232) and when the shepherd is smitten the flock is left leaderless and is scattered. The picture reaches its fullest form in the stories of the Good Shepherd in John 10 where Jesus is seen as the shepherd who knows his sheep, calling each one by name so that they follow him. He guards and protects them from danger even at the risk of his own life.
In time the picture passed on into the language and thought of the early church as we see in the letters of Peter and in Hebrews.
Today it has become an image we rather take for granted. It has become so familiar that we fail to recognise why Jesus chose to use it for we seldom connect the shepherd motif with God Himself.
In a way this is not too surprising for so many of us now are town dwellers for whom the realities of rural life mean little. The fact that this week should have been the week of the Royal Highland Show at Ingleston might not seem significant. Pandemic restrictions have meant it has been changed into the Highland Showcase with all the judging being streamed online which means that in our farming community have again this year been deprived of the opportunity to make their annual trip to the show to meet up with friends and judge for themselves the quality of today’s livestock.
It has also been a week when farming has been in the news because of the possible impact on the industry from the new trade deal with Australia. Things have been hard enough for farmers recently and now there are fears that the greater scale of production in Australia with less stringent regulation could lead to cheaper imports that might undercut prices here, potentially forcing farmers out of business.
There is little detail yet about the terms of the Australian trade deal, but the consensus in the media is that it lacks a proper understanding of the realties of the needs of the agricultural community.
As a Church we must stand with our farmers supporting them in practical ways as much as by prayer. There can be little doubt that this is what Jesus would do if he were with us today in body. He would identify with all in agriculture as he did with the shepherds. The farmer is as much part of his little flock as anyone else, something we ought not to forget. Proper support might lead to paying more but that surely is better than bringing about the demise of farming and leaving ourselves at the mercy of foreign agriculture. That according to some could be the long term effect of the new trade deal were it to become the model for the future deals the Government would like to do with The USA, Canada and Brazil where farmers have much lower costs because of larger scale operations and many fewer restrictions on farming practices and animal welfare.
This has to be our concern for we are being urged to do our bit to save the planet by buying local. We have become accustomed to our food being transported across the world. While that inevitably results in increased carbon output it does mean that the days of seasonal food, of glut and scarcity have gone. Perhaps as in everything else what is needed is to keep things in proportion. Too much brought in from abroad will damage our farming industry yet by itself it cannot realistically support our population today. Neither can we hope to survive without it.
A closing prayer
Almighty God, the heavens are telling your glory, the earth your power and the sea your might. The whole creation proclaims the greatness of God. To you belongs glory and honour and thanksgiving now and for ever. Thus we bless your name for all your good gifts to us. We rejoice in our creation and bless you that we can, albeit dimly, trace your mighty plan. We give thanks for all who have gone before and who have left behind them a great inheritance in our Christian Faith. May we not only give thanks in words, but in our living prove ourselves worthy successors of their endeavours. But chiefly we bless you for the humble cradle, the perfect life, the wise teaching, the caring love, the bitter cross and the glorious resurrection of our Lord. May all from the rising of the sun until its setting ever give thanks and praise to you.
Hear now our intercessions. Bless the church here and everywhere. May she continue to proclaim without fear or favour the Good News of Christ’s gospel of love. God grant that all the faithful continue to pray for the Kingdom and work for its coming. We pray for your children elsewhere in the world who face persecution because of their faith. Enable them to stand firm, sure in the knowledge that any who suffer for your cause shall not lose their live but enjoy it for ever in your nearer presence.
God bless our country, our Queen and all who bear any kind of authority under her. Give them wisdom that our affairs may be directed in accord with your will. Bring peace throughout the whole earth. Guide those who take counsel for the nations that they may walk the paths of peace until all conflict is brought to an end.
We pray that God will hear our prayer for those who till the land and who raise the livestock on which we depend for so much. Keep us aware of them as they seek to come through difficult times as prices fluctuate and costs rise. Sustain them in their labours and in time grant them a worthy reward.
Before God we remember the sick and the distressed, the lonely and the old, the hungry and the homeless, the victims of famine, disease and poverty. Uphold those who seek to bring them comfort, healing and aid. As we face the disappointment of delays to further relaxation of restrictions give us patience. Make us strong to continue our personal battle with the virus that we do nothing to jeopardise the progress that has been made so far. Bless us and our loved ones and friends, whether near or far off, keeping us all in the knowledge of your love and protection.
May the God of peace who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus the great shepherd of the sheep, make us strong to do his will and the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and for evermore.