The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle

Reflections for the Locked out - Locked Down Church from Peter Neilson - May 3rd.

Hello to all my friends in Crail and St Ayle.

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome to worship as our dispersed community of faith. Make sure you have a bible and a hymnbook and some means of listening to your favourite music.  Please use as much or as little of this offering as is helpful for you to worship God in your own way. Taking time around our usual worship time, will give us a sense of worshipping “alone together”.

Gathering into the Presence of God

Come, let us bow down in worship

Let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker;

For he is our God

And we are the people of his pasture

The flock of his care.  (Psalm 95:6,7)

Deeper, Lord, deeper

Beneath the waves of swirling thought

And anxious activity,

Lead us, Holy Spirit, to the place

Of silent adoration

Before our God of endless Love.

Hold silence....  

 

Deeper, Lord, deeper

Beneath the veneer of goodness

And the image we present to others,

Lead us, Holy Spirit, to the place

Of healing honesty

Before our God of endless purity.

                Hold silence....

 

Deeper, Lord, deeper,

Beneath the clamour of guilt

And the moments of clinging shame

Lead us, Holy Spirit, to the place

Of thankful release

Before our God of endless forgiveness.

                Hold silence....

Wider, Lord, wider

Beyond the borders of self-interest

And the acts of cautious kindness

Lead us, Holy Spirit, to the place

Of open-hearted generosity

Before our God of endless grace.

                Hold silence....

 

Wider, Lord, wider,

Beyond the small circles of friends

And the bonds of natural affections  

Lead us, Holy Spirit, to the place

Of spacious love

Before our God of the endless embrace.

                Hold silence....

 

Deeper and wider, Lord, deeper and wider

Till our lives reflect the image

Of the God we worship

Changed by the Spirit from glory to glory

Into the image of Jesus Christ,

our Lord and our Brother.

                Hold silence....

 

 

Listening for the Word of God

 

Traditionally this is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Here’s a brain teaser. Try and list as many Bible passages you can remember that mention shepherds in one way or another, or refer to God as shepherd. If the brain lets you down, try Dr Google who seems to know everything about everything!

 

Here are two passages recommended for us today.

Ezekiel 34:1-10

John 10:11-18

Reflecting on the Word of God

 

I would not like to be a politician today. They have so many tough decisions to make, balancing the immediate health challenges of this virus against longer term health risks from a collapsing economy. Reluctant compliance is giving way to a deeper critique of systemic weaknesses in our health provision over many years. “Unprecedented” is the word of the moment, but it can be used too readily as a cover for “unanticipated”. Constructive critique can too easily become demoralising blame. Listen for the barbs in the press briefings. Watch the shoulders of beleaguered Ministers sag.

 

Of course, political accountability is vital for the health of our society. The Washington Post carries a sober strap-line: “Democracy dies in Darkness”.  In Biblical times that moral accountability was the role of the prophets. Ezekiel does not mince his words as he critiques the leaders of his time in the imagery of shepherds and their flocks (34:1-8):

  • More concerned about themselves than their people (“sheep”)

  • Feeding themselves on luxury food while the flock goes hungry

  • Ignoring the weak, sick and those damaged by the system

  • Creating division (“scattering”) rather than creating social unity and cohesion.

  • Leaving people to their fate while destructive forces (“wolves”) preyed on them.

 

I think of Ezekiel’s critique of shepherd-leaders as I listen this week to Donald Trump encouraging political rallies to feed his ego, ignoring the plight of the black and Asian underclass, fuelling racial division and displaying an arrogant indifference to the plight of those who are vulnerable to the destructive force of this deadly virus.

 

Ezekiel’s people have fallen foul of a sequence of corrupt governments, and ended up “scattered” to languish in Babylon, modern day Iraq. He has seen it all, but he sees beyond the political movements and systems, to God who is greater than them all. He speaks of the God who will remove corrupt leaders and become their true “Shepherd” offering a different kind of leadership:

  • Taking care of the people

  • Providing for them

  • Protecting them

  • Gathering them together

  • Searching out the lost ones.

 

Jesus picks up this script when he speaks of being the Good Shepherd. Here is a question for today. What would society look like if we let this Jesus-like God be our leader and shaper of our life together? Imagine if Jesus was President, or PM or FM? What would his priorities be?

 

Life under his leadership would be different. He is not self serving, but lays down his life for the sheep. He knows his people and they know his voice – a voice to be trusted. He ensures the people are well cared for, leading them to the best pasture where they can flourish. He protects them from the thieves and robbers – anything that will deprive them of life in all its fullness. He gathers them as one flock – building a multicoloured, multicultural, multi-generational community.  Elsewhere he called it the Kingdom of God. And his “little flock”, the church, is called to offer a foretaste of that God-shaped society. Walk in, look around and get a hint of how God wants things to be.

 

In this time of lockdown, there are signs that some of our values are changing – perhaps becoming more aligned to the Spirit of Jesus. Michael Sandel, Professor of Public Philosophy at Harvard, has pointed out that for too long Western society has feted people who make big money and big reputations, possessed by possessions and seduced by celebrity. He suggests that our values are being turned upside down, as we rediscover the true value of those who serve our communities for the common good.

 

Good Shepherd Sunday is a day to pray for all leaders, and to reflect on what kind of society God might be leading us towards.

 

As an American friend of mine says: “Never squander a crisis!”

 

Responding to God’s Word and God’s Spirit

Good Shepherd, all-wise Guide,

Hear our prayers for our political leaders

our leaders in health and social care

our leaders in business and education.

In these uncertain times,

keep them truthful in their communication

And give them wise judgement in decision-making.

                Good Shepherd, may your voice be heard amidst the clamour of many opinions.

 

Good Shepherd, all-seeing Provider,

Hear our prayers for our scientists

Our researchers, our medical experts and advisers.

In this unknown territory

Guide their thinking to fresh insights

And lead them to ways of overcoming this disease.

                Good Shepherd, may you lead them out of enclosed thinking to unexpected solutions.

Good Shepherd, all-compassionate Carer,

Hear our prayers for our health workers

Our carers in homes and community.

In this relentless season

Protect them from all harm

And give them stamina to go beyond their fatigue.

                Good Shepherd, may you bless their sacrificial caring with the joy of weary satisfaction.

 

Good Shepherd, all-sufficient Saviour,

Hear our prayers for all who live in fear

Of illness, of loneliness, of financial hardship

Of loss of livelihood, of unspeakable loss

Of death in many forms.

In this threatening time,

Speak your word of assurance

That none can pluck them out of Your Father’s hand.

                Good Shepherd, may their fears be banished by your love that casts out all fear.

 

Good Shepherd, all-embracing Lord,

Hear our prayers for your little flock, your church,

Locked out and locked down

Scattered yet contained.

In this unprecedented time

Draw us closer to yourself

Deepen our desire for communion with You

And bless our brothers and sisters in Christ wherever they are.

                Good Shepherd, may you take us deeper and wider, immersed in Your eternal love.

 

A Meditation before we Go

Make me a channel of Your peace
Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love;
Where there is injury, Your pardon, Lord
And where there's doubt, true faith in You.

Oh Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of Your peace
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there's sadness, ever joy.

 

Oh Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of Your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
In giving of ourselves that we receive
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.

                [CH4 No 528 – based on a prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi]

A Celtic Blessing

Imagine blessing our community, our church, and any person particularly on your heart.

Into the Sacred Three I now immerse you.

Into their peace and power I place you.

May their live be yours to live.

May their love be yours to give.

Into the Sacred Three I now immerse you. AMEN

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