There is no local service tomorrow so here is the link to the Provincial Service for Sunday 16th August
It has been so good to be away for a break in the beautiful Scottish Borders, a place close to our hearts and one that is very familiar from many trips there. However, wherever we went and whatever we did this time had to be thought about and done in a different way due to the pandemic that is changing so much of the way we live. As I thought about this it struck me that a most appropriate psalm for these days is Psalm 137. The people of Israel had seen the loss of so much-their Promised Land, their loved ones, their way of life, the beloved and magnificent temple at Jerusalem. A small remnant had been carried into captivity in Babylon and when urged to sing by their captors they cry out…
“How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? “
We may not be in captivity to foreign powers, but it can feel that we are nevertheless in captivity to this virus. Some have lost loved ones; others have lost jobs and businesses. We have all seen our freedom curtailed and our way of living from day to day having to adapt to ever changing restrictions. How shall we, as God’s people living through this time, sing his song in this strange land?
Well, we have already seen so much that is good and creative. People coming together virtually in all sorts of ways- Zoom, Facebook, video calls, You Tube-people have connected with each other and with God. Phone calls, emails, letters, cards through the door, socially distanced coffees, meeting in small groups in houses, the list could go on. Reflecting on this- and especially on our current status here in St James and St Anne’s with two buildings that are expensive and costly to maintain-I wonder what God might be teaching us about singing his song in the future?
Our security should never be in bricks and mortar but in God who lives in us by grace. Singing the Lord’s song is something we do not need a church building to do-especially since we are not able to sing in any church at the moment! But we can all sing the Lords song wherever we find ourselves day by day. A song of thanks for all that we have. A song of praise for the beauty and wonder of the world God has created. A song of joy for the love and mercy given in Christ. A song of hope for the future we have through Christ’s death and resurrection. A song of God’s great love for the whole world- yes, a song even in this strange land. God does not mind how musical or not we may be. He does not mind if we sing in the bath or the kitchen or whilst out walking. What he does long for is that we all sing and praise him however we can and wherever we are. And maybe, as we emerge from this, we will discover that the new song we have learned is one that really does turn the world -and the church- upside down!
In today’s gospel we read that Jesus on hearing what had happened to John the Baptist, went away to a solitary place to try and get his head round what the events meant and to spend time reflecting and I imagine to share his sadness with his father. He often chose to go to solitary places to reflect, as do many people nowadays when wanting a break from their busy lives. He wanted to spend time alone with God, seeking peace and trusting in God to help him through whatever was happening because he knew God’s love for him and he put his faith in that great love. He knew that this was a time of waiting for him, for how long he didn’t know but he trusted God to lead him through it and he saw it as an opportunity to show God’s love in action.
How does this relate to what we are experiencing now with the coronavirus when many of us are forced into that solitary place, waiting for a time when it might be safe to interact with others, looking for some normality, some hope of it all ending. How do we deal with the solitude and in particular, how do we deal with the indefinite waiting of the lockdown restrictions. It is easier to wait and put up with something if we know how long it is going to last for, if we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. At the moment though, it seems like there’s no real idea of how long the lockdown will continue, and in what form. This uncertainty has the potential to create a lot of anxiety, which in turn can have a detrimental effect on our health, our relationships with those around us, and our relationship with God. Can we like Jesus trust in God’s great love for us and see all that is happening as an opportunity?
It can feel as if our lives are on pause at the moment or even worse, stagnating, even though we have plenty of other things to be getting on with, but it is in this waiting that growth can happen, in ourselves and in those we encounter albeit online. What feels like total isolation from all that is important to us in our church life can become an opportunity for us to come closer to God, to learn how to accept what life offers us, to wait on God to show us the way he wants us to be with other people and how we can help bring others closer to him by our patient trust in his love to help us cope.
In this time of lockdown, we don’t know how the world will look when the restrictions are lifted and the coronavirus is under control though it will never be completely gone. Our lives, our society and our world will not be the same. So how do we wait when we are not even sure what we are waiting for? How do we have hope when the life we are anticipating post-lockdown might be worse than the life pre-lockdown? In Romans 11:33 we read: “How great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible is it for us to understand his decisions and ways,” We can’t know how things will be but even though God’s decisions and ways may seem hard and difficult, they will always lead to a place of peace, hope and life, because this is what God does
for us. He gives us hope and creates much out of little as we see in today’s miracle story. There was so little food but it was enough because Jesus trusted in God to provide for all those who were waiting in hope. He knew that God wouldn’t let him down, and that was a lesson he wanted to teach his disciples too, to trust, have faith and to know that in love God would provide for them.
In this time of coronavirus we need to learn what it is that God is trying to teach us. In this time of isolation, fear and uncertainty we can begin to doubt our view of God. We must try not to let our circumstances shape our views, try not to let our fear make us think that maybe God doesn’t care about us after all, that we are really not that important to him. We need to remember the words of our Psalm today: “I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words. Wondrously show your steadfast love…..guard me as the apple of your eye and hide me in the shadow of your wings.”
Words of comfort for us when we remember that God’s steadfast love is there to guard and support us through everything we encounter. We only need to call upon him and he will listen to us., he will hear our cry and be good to us and we shall be satisfied knowing his presence is with us. So, as we wait together, not knowing how and when this coronavirus pandemic will end, “may God, the source of hope, fill us completely with joy and peace because we trust in him and know he is with us in our solitary moments, in our doubts and in our fears and that he gives us his blessing always.”
With thanks again to Rev Mel. (For those on FB I can recommend for daily (& Sunday) services.).
If today was not a Sunday we would be celebrating
SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM
In the proto-gospel of James, written in the middle of the second century, the parents of Mary the mother of Jesus are named as Anne and Joachim. The story appears to be based heavily on that of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. The Church maintains their feast day both to emphasise God’s plan from the beginning to send his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem fallen humanity; and also to show God’s faithfulness in keeping his covenant with all generations.
Lord God of Israel,
who bestowed such grace on Anne and Joachim
that their daughter Mary grew up obedient to your word
and made ready to be the mother of your Son:
help us to commit ourselves in all things to your keeping
and grant us the salvation you promised to your people;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Holy Annie, God’s Granny, pray for us! (Joachim too!)
Today we remember Saint James the Great…
James, often called ‘the Great’, was a Galilean fisherman who, with his brother John, was one of the first apostles called by Jesus to follow him. The two brothers were with Jesus at his Transfiguration and with him again in the garden of Gethsemane. They annoyed the other followers of Jesus by asking to sit one on his left and the other on his right when he came into his glory and they were present for the appearances of Christ after the resurrection. James was put to death by the sword on the order of Herod Agrippa, who hoped in vain that, by disposing of the Christian leaders, he could stem the flow of those hearing the good news and becoming followers in the Way. James’ martyrdom is believed to have taken place in the year 44.
whose holy apostle Saint James,
leaving his father and all that he had,
was obedient to the calling of your Son Jesus Christ
and followed him even to death:
help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world,
to be ready at all times to answer your call without delay;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
With thanks to Rev Canon Mel Langille who posted this on FB today
& lest we forget – We remember St Anne tomorrow.
Whilst I don’t usually share this on the website I thought it might be of particular interest this month as, in addition to the usual news from across the Dioceses, it gives information about churches which are open for private prayer.
There is also a short video showing what socially distanced services will be like as churches reopen.
Can I also remind you that there will be no local online service this week and that links to alternatives can be found on the ‘Worship’ page of the website.
Here is the link to Inspires Online for July 2020.
Here is the link to The Celtic Blessing Barbara referred to in the service of 19th July.
The Celtic Blessing: https://youtu.be/_y3-tRu8MIk
There will not be a local service on Sunday 26th.
Barbara suggested that you might want to listen to the online Cathedral service or for a more contemporary Episcopal service:-
Watch St Paul’s and St George’s Church online on either:
Sunday 19th July 2020
Reflection on Psalm 139
I don’t know about you but there have been times in the last few months when I have simply thought, “what on earth is happening and what is the future going to look like”. I would like to say that it has been a time in which I have devoted hours to meditation, study and prayer; but at times it has been really difficult to pray and a great deal of my time seems to have been taken up with learning about new technologies! My relationship with Microsoft Teams remains deeply troubled and on occasion puts my computer at risk although I know it is not its fault!! Yet, in the midst of the turmoil of 2020, God is present, His loving arms around those who are lonely, bereaved, despairing, exhausted, confused. How do we know this? Well, through personal experience, faith, and reading the words of Scripture and Psalm 139 is a great place to start. This has been described as the “crown of all psalms”. It is about God’s love, knowledge, presence for the individual – for the psalmist, but when we read this poetry, we can own it; it is given to us as a blessing, as sustenance in a dry and parched land.
God knows you better than you know yourself. At those times when you may feel distant from God and perhaps faith is difficult, even then God is with you. God searches, knows, discerns and is familiar with everything about us and does not turn away from us. Indeed God will seek us out. The psalmist speaks of fleeing to the highest heaven or sinking to the lowest depths, of travelling to the furthest lands or hiding in the darkness; but “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast”. The words suggest physical movement, but can also be a metaphor for the inward journey of sadness, despair or loss of faith. In all these situations God is still there and will never abandon his beloved children.
What does the week ahead hold? There is excitement as more of our normal life opens up, but there is also anxiety. We have to adapt to new ways of meeting friends, shopping, working. We now have a new fashion accessory in the form of face masks and they are really quite easy to make so you can have one to match every outfit! We could also have them in liturgical colours! Even so, at times that overwhelming sense of ‘what is happening’ can hit us, but read these words of the psalmist – God is right there knowing and caring and loving us and when you don’t know how to pray or haven’t the energy to pray just turn to the words Jesus gave the disciples – simple words, because God already knows your hopes and fears, so just turn to Him.
Our Father, abba father, let heaven flood the earth, your will be done – your will which is to bring all things back into your loving arms; let there be provision for all people from the resources of this good earth; thank you for forgiving us and let us forgive in the same way, and protect us from all evil; for eternity is in your hands.
St Paul captured the eternal truth of God’s constant presence in those fantastic words in his letter to the church in Rome, chapter 8, “for I am convinced that neither death, not life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
In the week ahead let’s read Psalm 139 together and take it to heart and let’s all say with the psalmist, “search me and know my heart .. and lead me in the way everlasting”, Amen.
Rev Barbara will be doing the Sunday service this week.
The link will be found on the Worship page of the website and on YouTube. Meanwhile attached is the service sheet for those who would like to download.
We hope to see you (virtually) on Sunday and if you are using the direct YouTube link do feel free to comment and greet fellow attendees.
Direct YouTube link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCt0ySQS3x3luJe6tO2ECNgQ
The Cathedral plan to have Sunday services from 2nd August. They will be providing details w/c 27th July but meanwhile the cathedral is open for private prayer and details of times are below together with details of their ‘dial a sermon option.
(from their newsletter):-
THE CATHEDRAL OPEN FOR PRIVATE/PERSONAL PRAYER
On Sunday 28th June the cathedral opened its doors for those who wish to come for Private/Personal Prayer. Much preparation has gone into opening the doors and ensuring the safety, as far as we can.
The opening times for the coming weeks are:
Sunday 19th & 26th July 11.30 to 12.30pm
Wednesday22nd & 29th July 11am to 12noon
Friday 24th & 31st July 3pm to 4pm
There will be a number of precautions in place for the safety of all during this time and in line with the Scottish Episcopal Church guidance and the Scottish Government guidance.
There will be a one way system, using the All Access Door for the entrance with the exit through the West Doors. Please wear a mask in the building. You will find hand sanitiser at the entrance and exit to use. There will always be 2 stewards on duty to welcome you and to help you with where to go etc.
Candles will be available to light and the contactless donation facility will enable donations for candles. Please note that if you prefer to use a Bible/Prayer Book during this time then please bring your own copy as we are not able to have these on offer at this time.
DIAL A SERMON
It is now possible for those who don’t have access to the internet to be able to phone into listen to the sermon/reflection for the week. The number to call is: 01463 219696. Please do pass on this number to anyone who may appreciate this service. Please note that depending on the individual’s telephone contract there maybe a charge associated with calling this local number.