The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections for the renewing church, from Rev. John Murray
Sunday 4 October 2020
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
‘Be still and know that I am God’: The risen Christ present with us by the Spirit is our ‘temple’, our true and lasting place of worship.
Our readings challenge us to make choices that will bring us life and produce good fruit.
Psalm 80: 7-9: Restore us, God Almighty: make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved. You transplanted a vine from Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it,
and it took root and filled the land………..
v.16: Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish.
Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
Matthew 21: 33-39: And Jesus said: listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Philippians 3: 7-14: Whatever were gains to me, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ- yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on 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.
Things can gang aft agley
Rejection is something we will have all come across at some stage. And that includes feelings of self-rejection that can assail us. Jesus spoke this parable because he could sense that he was going to be rejected by his own people: This was tragic but quite in keeping with what had been happening. In the Old Testament the vine is symbolic of Israel planted in a good land, and it all falls apart: the vine revolts! So much so that when the LORD sent his son to those that were meant to be looking after the vineyard, they fell upon him. Not good fruit from that vineyard.
Paul speaks of a different rejection when he writes about him rejecting the things that once made him proud, and set him apart from others. He now considers that a new reckoning is called for in his life, and one that will end up in a life that he describes as sharing a righteousness that comes from God, knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, which has as its fulfilment the resurrection from the dead.
Nothing is ever wasted with God: nothing. In the case of Paul, that great mind, full of zeal and focus, acquainted with the cultures and philosophies of Greece and Rome, and brought up from birth steeped in the Jewish Law, which mind had once been used to try and kill off the early church, had met with that rejected, resurrected and ascended Jesus, and that meeting had resulted in Paul concluding that he now knew the one thing that was necessary. What good fruit came to Paul as he realised that ‘it is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives within me:’ (Galatians 2:20)
Lord, as we come to you in prayer, we become mindful of who we have become. Created in your image, we have become stuck in things which looked like good ways, but which have led us off into dead-ends, by-ways. How did that happen?
Yet you are the great restorer, able to transform the base into the beautiful. And so we open ourselves to your power: and look up into your face. Shine upon us Lord, and dispel the darkness around us.
Help us to let go of poor choices, and do the one thing necessary: to feel your wind in our sails, and release that cargo of rubbish we need pull around any longer. And in its place to take on board new company for the journey. May we be good tenants of the vineyards that were here before us and will continue on. Be with all those working in this part of your vineyard, here in Scotland in 2020. May we be blessed with restoration: in old divisions, separations: in communities, and in church. Working together for the one thing, serving the one Lord and Father: and producing good fruit. And as we restore may we feel beneath our feet the cornerstone, the solid ground of Christ, the King and Head of the church. God of order and good rule, so much of your world is poorly tenanted, so much thought that opposes your ways. Yet we thank you that your justice and righteousness is on its way, no matter the things in its way:
In the meantime, help us to
set our eyes on the close goals,
and be voices of encouragement
as we run the race together,
looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
The Lord bless and pity us, the Lord make his face to shine upon us and give us peace.
Reflections for the week
Jesus said I am the true vine…. Abide in me and I will abide in you.
I am the vine, you are the branches
Dwelling in Christ and Christ dwelling in us.
The apostle John stresses this living union, and says that this union is so that ‘you bear much fruit’. (John 15:8)
Pause at times this week and let your mind abide in this teaching. Think and pray about it. Jesus spoke this to his disciples when their lives were being shaken: undergoing great change. Jesus also said that he chose them and appointed them to go and bear fruit. We naturally just see and live on the human side of that (our belief) and it is good for us to abide in thinking on God’s choice of us, and this organic and real union. Oneness with God.
And talking of oneness
Have a look again at the Philippians reading and see what ‘one thing’ Paul was minded to do. And here is Ps 27: 4: ‘One thing I ask of the LORD…that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.
We can get distracted as did Martha: You can read about her in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus said that ‘only one thing is needed’. What for you is that one thing?
Have some quality Facetime!
We can be very busy zooming around from this to that. It’s important to get some quality facetime with those who mean a lot to us. In many places in the Psalms, there is the prayer that ‘God’s face may shine upon us’. Take time just to bask and absorb in to your ‘face’, the sunshine and beauty in the face of God.
View from the manse
We have a new address: and are enjoying living at the new address: going in and out and seeing it as our new home. It looks good from the outside. But the real experience is occupying it, knowing it from the inside. In Philippians, Paul is saying in his own way, that he is in a new home: the Lord Jesus is a dwelling so attractive that he wants to stay there and get to know him better, forgetting his old ‘houses’. Paul travelled much, and his conditions ever changed, yet his address is always ‘in Christ’, whatever is going on around him.