Sunday Reflection 6.9.20

Sunday Morning Reflection   6.9.20   

Good Morning , I am Karen Harbison, the Minister of Westburn Parish Church , Greenock and I am glad to welcome you  to this time of worship. Everyone is welcome, whether you are often at Westburn Parish Church, or whether you have never been there in person before. Everyone is welcome as we, each in our own places, our own homes, come to worship God.

‘ He could start an argument in an empty room’

‘You don’t want to be on the receiving end of her sharp tongue ‘

Sadly comments like these are far too common and reveal that we human beings don’t always find good ways of dealing with conflict and working our way through difficulties. In the passages we are reading today we find guidance and hope for getting better at working through  issues in ways that bring peace and reconciliation. We read from Paul’s letter to the Romans and from Matthew’s gospel.

Opening words

We come to worship you Lord Jesus

Come, Lord Jesus , draw near to us

As we draw near to you.

Hymn – As we are gathered Jesus is here

Let us pray

We may be one or two or three gathering in the same physical space

yet we are glad to come and worship you O Lord

for in your love and grace we are bound together ,

counted as your disciples, part of your church.

We come  with love, hope, and thankfulness,

a people gathered and a people dispersed

wherever we are, we are a community ,

praying for the skills and the abilities to approach difference with grace,

to learn and to grow, and to never close ourselves off from the pain of the world.

We come, not only to confess the wrong we have done,

but to rejoice in the gifts you have given us, to do good in and for the world.

Differences, words spoken too quickly,  arguments, bitterness

cause hurt and pain and push people away from each other,

we seek your forgiveness and ask you to work in us and through us and sometimes despite us , to bring the way of peace and reconciliation

bringing us  and our neighbours closer to each other and closer to you –

and hear us as we continue to pray  as you taught

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.

Lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil

for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory

Now and forever

Amen

We do not have to read too far between the lines of the New Testament , in the gospels, the  Acts of the Apostles  and the letters, to realise that that personal rivalries, disputes over leadership and fierce differences of opinion were every bit as common then as they are now. Arguments, differences, unkind and hurtful use of words both in their content and tone led to breakdown of relationships in the early church and within the community Matthew was writing to and for. So we read from Matthew’s gospel and from Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Let us hear the Word of God

Bible Reading – Matthew 18 : 15 – 20, Romans 13: 8 – 14

Reflection

Yesterday members of the Church of Scotland Guild met online for a time of celebration , on the day which their Annual Gathering would usually take place in the Caird Hall in Dundee. This gathering also marks the beginning of Guild Week. One of the features and commitments of the Guild is to support partner projects by prayer and awareness raising as well as generously giving financial support. Often the work of those project exists prior to the involvement of the Guild and continues long after . Sometimes a project gets off the ground because of the support of the Guild.  Place for Hope which celebrated its tenth anniversary in November 2019 is a project which was launched with support from the Guild and the then ministries Council. The Place for Hope  introduces its work in this way.

‘The meaning of hope’ said Thomas Merton, is ‘to trust in the ultimate goodness of creation.’

We live in times of intense and immense change in society, in politics, in care for our planet. And in the lives of our churches. How we navigate this change together will be the mark of our hope, and of our wisdom.

Rooted in the real needs of congregations working through change and conflict

Becoming an independent charity in 2015, the vision of Place for Hope is rooted in a Gospel of reconciliation: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5: 17 – 18.

We remain committed to:

  • establishing a peace-making network throughout Scotland
  • providing the churches of Scotland with a team of trained mediators/facilitators
  • building a culture of peace within our churches and faith communities

Each of us in our own lives and in many different situations we find ourselves in , have to try  find good ways of dealing with conflict and working our way through difficulties. The passages we are focussing on today  highlight the importance of keeping love at the centre of all our living and talk about dealing with these issues within the Christian community. Paul calls people to live in the light and to obey the command to love. In Matthew’s gospel , Jesus  counsels quietly talking directly to the person who has turned against you with their words or actions. It takes courage to meet someone face to face and have that difficult conversation, but it also conveys respect and a willingness to find a way through. Secondly, the matter is to be kept as private and low-key as possible. Ideally, if it is resolved in that first conversation, no-one else needs to know it ever happened. Only if the first approach is unsuccessful are one or two trusted others to be involved, and only after that has been tried and failed does is it brought before the entire community.  Finally if the offender refuses to accept the verdict of the whole church, they are to be treated as if they were a ‘Gentile or a tax-collector’. In a traditional first-century Jewish community that would mean being ostracised. But how often does Jesus tell us, and show by his actions, that his Kingdom is different? Sinners are to be forgiven, enemies loved, Gentiles embraced, and tax-collectors invited to tea. The advice given in the two passages we are reading today gives plenty  for us to think about and to put into practice . May we respond to the call of Jesus so that each one of us and each Christian community can become a place for hope , for peace, for reconciliation and for love . Amen

Let us pray

Lord Jesus guide us always towards peace, hope, and the promise of a new way of life in your church, a community united in love of you and each other.

As we move through the seasons of the year, as we wait for the landscape to change, we are shown the beauty of our world. We give thanks, and we pray for the wisdom to listen to experts, to see the impact we have on your awesome creation, that we might unify and makes changes now, for the generations to come.

As our world continues to grapple with the unimaginable loss and pain experienced by hundreds of thousands of families, we pray, individually and as a church for compassion and the ability to comfort, support, and to have patience and empathy in the grief of others no matter how it is manifest or how long it lasts.

As our church seeks its own way forward in a changed and changing world, we pray for strength to build on what is good, to prune what is dead, and to find new ways to unite in our mission to spread your love to the world around us. In this Guild Week we pray for members of the Guild in our own congregation and across the church that they may know your love drawing them together even though they are not able to meet together as they usually would. We pray for all the Guild’s partner projects and the important work they do.

In our own families, friendships and neighbourhood may we use our words kindly and wisely and may our desire for peace and reconciliation spread out into the world

Amen

Hymn – Make me a channel of your peace  

Blessing

Go now to  follow the Master and to be channels of Christ’s peace  and may the blessing of God , the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you today and always

Amen

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