The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Rev. Peter Neilson
Sunday 7 March 2021
Good morning, friends in Crail and St Ayle
Grace and Peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
As John and Neilian enjoy a couple of weeks break, I encourage you to pray for them. It is not easy to have a proper holiday when you are not able to travel and get away. We live in a beautiful place which draws many people as a place where sea and sky free them from the pressures of everyday life. I hope that John and Neilian can find ways of letting the responsibilities drop away and be refreshed.
I will be offering a written reflection for this Sunday and next Sunday, while the Worship Teams lead our Zoom services. On 21st I will lead the Zoom to ensure that John can relax for his last week. He will then be back to lead us into Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
I will cover for any urgent pastoral needs during that time.
And now we settle for a time of prayer and reflection. The Lord is with us. His Spirit is here.
We come into God’s Presence
Bless the Lord, my soul, and bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul, who leads me into life.
Bless the Lord, my soul, for a world of wonders,
Designed and sustained by our Creator’s hands.
Bless the Lord, my soul, for a world of grace,
Lavished on the best of us and the worst of us, by our Father.
Bless the Lord, my soul, for the gift of forgiveness,
No accusing voice, no wagging finger, only welcome by our Saviour.
Bless the Lord, my soul, for love poured into us
From family and friends, through joys and sorrows, by the Spirit.
Bless the Lord, my soul, for blessings unnamed and unnumbered,
Woven secretly, unbidden, and often unwelcomed.
Bless the Lord, my soul, and bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul, who leads me into life. AMEN
Our Father in heaven….
Pray the familiar words slowly, savouring each phrase, and following its lead.
The Gospel of John 2:13-25
Jesus clears the temple courts.
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’ 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’[a]
18 The Jews then responded to him, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ 19 Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’
20 They replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.[b] 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
A note for the curious or the confused!
It feels strange to read this story at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry rather than the end. The reason is that John’s Gospel is different from the other three. Mark was the first Gospel to be written, and he set the timeline which Matthew and Luke followed as an historical sequence.
John is not tied to the same timeline. His intention is more theological than historical – to present us with Jesus as God living among us, offering us the very life of God, what he calls “eternal life”. This life cannot be contained in the old systems of purification (water becomes wine just before this) or the Temple building (his body is where God dwells).
John’s Gospel is arranged as a series of signs, pointers to WHO Jesus is rather than WHAT he did or WHEN he did it. The Celtic Church focused on John’s Gospel and symbolised it with the eagle – the bird who can look into the sun and see further. Pray for “eagle eyes” in your heart as you read John.
The Place where God’s Presence Rests
All that remains of the Temple from Jesus day is one wall, the famous Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, where Jews from around the world assemble to pray. The Temple had been built by Herod the Great and had taken almost half a century to complete, as much a monument to Herod as it was to God. At the time it must have seemed indestructible, but it was reduced to rubble by the Romans in 70AD, less that 40 years after Jesus. Part of the Western Wall is all that remains.
I have stood in the great plaza at the Wall watching as Jewish men chant their prayers, some swaying back and forward mimicking the movement of riding a camel. As I watched, I wondered….
Do I long for God with the same intensity and determination as these people seem to do?
I watched fathers taking their sons to the wall showing them how to pray, clearly a deeply significant moment for these boys. It made me wonder….
How much time do we give to teaching our children to pray? These Jews have maintained the chain of memory from one generation to the next, but in Scotland we have lost connection with up to four generations of children. Where are the fathers in the faith?
I watched as fathers staged their boys for the photograph that would soon be on Facebook, and transmitted to family across the world. It made me wonder….
How much of this was about image and how much was substance? How many families have photos of christenings and weddings, but have never followed up on the invitation to faith in Jesus?
One other thing caught my eye – a notice describing this Temple Wall as “the place where God’s presence rests.” That made me wonder….
Imagine Jesus walking round that plaza talking about a different temple – a different “place where God’s presence rests”, a temple that is indestructible. There had been an attempt to destroy it on the Cross, but three days later, it was raised to life. He claims that his body is the new “temple” the place to meet with God. I wonder what stir that would cause….
The eternal Word of God who was with God, and who was God, and who made all things, has now become flesh and blood and lived among us – literally, he “pitched his tent” among us. Tents move around. Temples are static. Now God comes to us where we are. No need for temples made with hands, however famous its walls.
He is here. He is walking among us – “the place where God’s presence rests”.
I wonder if we realise the wonder of that…..
Prayers for Others – Images from the News
Yemen. A bombed-out school. The class being taught by a young boy of nine, blind from birth.
Bring to God these children, the political chaos of Yemen, the complicity of the West in supplying arms – and other places of conflict.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer presenting his budget. Politicians debating the way forward.
Bring to God the policy makers who need wisdom and courage and compassion, and all who have been affected by this period of economic lockdown.
The Scottish Parliament. Scenes around the Salmond-Sturgeon investigations.
Bring to God all who are involved and the implications for the governance of Scotland.
Hospitals. Exhausted medical staff. Care homes. Vaccinations.
Bring to God the sick, the grieving, the staff, and the hope of new freedoms.
Any image from the news that has touched your heart…
Bring it to God and touch his heart.
A Prayer for Imagination
May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger.
To reach beyond imitation
And the wheel of repetition
Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved
Until the veil of the unknown yields
And something original begins
To stir towards your senses
And grow stronger in your heart.
(Extract from “For the Artist at the Start of the Day”, John O’ Donohue)
May the peace of the Lord Christ be with you
Wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness
Protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing
Once again into our doors. AMEN