October 10th, 20th Sunday After Pentecost

A downloadable version of this page is available for anyone who would like to save or print it out.

The Faith Nurture Forum would like to thank the writing group at Stevenston Ardeer Parish Church l/w Stevenston Livingstone Parish Church, for their thoughts on the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost.

Weekly Worship, based on the Revised Common Lectionary, is for everyone – in any capacity – who is involved in creating and leading worship.

It provides liturgical material that can be used for worship in all settings. Our writers are asked to share their approaches to creating and delivering this material to equip leaders with a greater confidence and ability to reflect on their own worship practice and experience and encourage them to consider how this material might be adapted for their own context.

We would encourage continual reflection on the changing patterns of worship and spiritual practice that are emerging from disruption and how this might help identify pathways towards development and worship renewal.

We may not all be gathered in the same building, but at this time, when we need each other so much, we are invited to worship together, from where we are – knowing that God can hear us all and can blend even distant voices into one song of worship.

Introduction

October is a month with a particular focus on tackling poverty. Sunday 17 October is the United Nations' International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and 4-10 October is Challenge Poverty Week. The resources for the first four Sundays in October have been written by Priority Area congregations. You will also find more Challenge Poverty Week resources on the Priority Areas Facebook page, including videos, prayer memes and links to webinars being held throughout October, with a particular focus this year on poverty and the climate crisis. We would encourage you to share these with your congregation as a way of highlighting how the church is engaging in anti-poverty work at a local level.

Since the early 1990s the Church of Scotland has placed a priority on putting resources into the most deprived communities. However, while there is great work happening in Priority Area congregations (those in the 5% most deprived parishes), it is important to recognise that the priority for the poorest and the most marginalised is the gospel imperative facing the whole church.

During this month we are asking every congregation in the country to look at poverty in their own community. Every parish will contain people who are in poverty, even if some of it is hidden. "Deprivation Stats" have been produced to show this for every parish, and new expanded versions of these will be launched in October, including maps showing relative deprivation in your parish and its neighbours​. These can be found via the Church Finder on the Church of Scotland website and we would encourage you to use these as a conversation starter with your congregation or Kirk Session.

[The verses in these introductions are based on the Tearfund publication ‘World of Difference']

Service Introduction 1

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians chapter 2 verse 19, he writes; ‘You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household.'

We meet today on the Sunday designated for a focus on Priority Areas. We are sometimes too ready to focus on labels rather than considering Paul's words in this verse which should help us all to remember we are part of God's family where ethnicity, gender, status, education and income have no relevance, a message every bit as important today as it was when Paul wrote it.

Service Introduction 2

In Paul's letter to the Philippians chapter 4 verse 13 he writes; ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength.'

On this Sunday designated for a focus on Priority Areas the Church, through God who gives strength, we should be determined to take action to integrate those who wider society may look down on and ignore. The Church must never be like the priest and Pharisee in the parable, but instead be Samaritans for those who are in need.

Service Introduction 3

The writers of the Psalms were never afraid to express their innermost feelings to God but also contain words of great insight and understanding, take Psalm 46 verse 1; ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.'

On this Sunday designated for a focus on Priority Areas there is great comfort and inspiration from these words. While the difficulties of the situation may seem crushing, the Psalmist encourages with these words to help us to try not to feel overwhelmed. Our ever present God has not forgotten and likewise the Church must not forget.

Service Introduction 4

In Matthews gospel chapter 11, verse 28 these words are found; ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.'

We meet today on the Sunday designated for a focus on Priority Areas. For those who believe, these are words are of immense comfort regardless of their circumstances. For the Church they are words of exhortation to be the bringers of rest to those who are weary and burdened.

Job 23:1-9, 16-17 (NKJ)

Job's sufferings starkly illustrate the plight of the dispossessed, the marginalised, the victim, which sadly and all too familiarly resonate and mirror the situations of those living in high priority neighbourhoods. There is in this passage a deeply poignant and discordantly harrowing sense of loss expressed by Job that speaks into our times in how we are navigating this pandemic. This fear of loss and of being lost is picked up in v3 and repeated in vv8 and 9 and is important to consider even in spite of Job's proclamation in affirming his trust and faith in God (vv10-14), and precisely because it has something to say to us.

The passage offers us a human insight into Job's emotional rollercoaster and suffering. He trusts in God, but at this moment the fear of loss seems as if he is perhaps remembering an experience with one of his children (possibly in the marketplace), when the child lets go of his hand and Job suddenly realises amidst the crowded throng that he can't see his child! How must Job feel when he is suddenly jolted out of his thoughts to realise his current plight and that he has lost all his family? The writer captures the pathos of the moment mirrored by their feelings of where God is to increase this harrowing sense of loss upon all or the sufferings and burdens Job faces.

Job stands, it seems, as a voice or representative of those affected by anxiety, fear and depression. This speaks into our pandemic experiences which have led to a considerable rise in mental health issues. Job can empathise with those separated from family or coping with grief and anxiety of how to support your family due to unemployment. The voices of his friends, judgemental and harsh, seem like the negative small talk many who are affected by anxiety experience. However, there is more that can be drawn from Job's experience of his resilience in the face of suffering. Even in spite of having lost all, we can trace in Job's experience a connection to God; there is a sense of a rule of prayer life which builds resilience, enabling him to endure even though all too often Job can't see it and yet it is his faith which keeps him from going under.

In these uncertain times we need to take special care to watch out for those in our neighbourhoods who are vulnerable. Job reminds us to be ever vigilant and sensitive to understanding how people's struggles vary over time. Job's experiences offer insight and hope to those on the margins as someone they can empathise with, while offering hope in the midst of one's trials. Let us like Job cling to the truth that God will be there in the midst of our sufferings.

Job 23:1-9 (NLT)

The passage seems to reflect a person who is in deep despair and oscillates from one extreme to another. In verse 7 a degree of optimism and certainty: "Honest people can reason with him, so I would be forever acquitted by my judge."

But immediately following we have the description of frantically seeking God, but being unable to find God and falling into total despondency in verse 17: "Darkness is all around me, thick, impenetrable darkness is everywhere."

These verses encapsulate the words of a real person. They are experiencing a period of life where they feel that the world is against them. Underlying this is the certainty that God is the answer if only God could be found. They have belief, but it is under tremendous attack by what life has thrown at them. The writer is honest about this and they are not afraid to speak to God about it.

Importantly they realise speaking to God is part of a two-way conversation – verse 5: "Then I would listen to his reply and understand what he says to me."

The sentiments expressed are timeless, they indicate a deep rooted faith, one that is being severely tested by circumstances. The phrase ‘if only' could be used to summarise; If only he could find God, if only he could speak to God then the darkness he finds himself in would be dissipated.

The timeless aspect comes with consideration of current circumstances. Society has many who must rail against God in this way and feel the same absence of any light at the end of their tunnel. This leads to the big question, ‘What are we, as Church, as God's representatives, doing to bring light to that darkness?'

Psalm 22:1-15 (NKJ)

The Psalmist presents a graphic description of physical torture in the form of a lament as observed through the eyes, senses and emotions of the bearer's suffering. The narrative has a dynamic feel where the structure and use of language (vv13-15) make it seem as if we are active participants to what is unfolding. Nothing is omitted, we can almost feel the bearer's pain (v14), their desolation (vv1 and 2) their thirst and pending death (v15). This scene prophetically foreshadows Christ's crucifixion; consider for example v1, which are the words Christ uttered (Mat 27: 46) and the crowds jeering in vv6 and 7 (Luke 23: 35) as well as other references. This goes some way to explain the Psalmist's approach; they want our full attention – our devotion.

There are parallels between Christ and Job: their suffering and how in the midst of such suffering it is the fear of losing God that predominates in their emotions. Christ is about to die, while Job has lost everything but compellingly their first thought is of God and to praise God (Psalm 22:3 and Job 23:12). Digging deeper: in the midst of suffering there is a devotion, a rhythm/rule of life that governs their faith in God which led me to think how the examples here might inspire those in priority areas. Loss is a compelling theme of this pandemic period: of grief across many communities; of people separated from families, friends, work and children from school. Songs of lamentation can be an appropriate medium through which people are able to articulate their grief while offering scope to generate resources by which to counsel, encourage and empower those on the margins.

The stories of Job and Christ presented in this psalm offer a human, emotional insight to the characters' plight that the dispossessed and marginalised may find empathy in their suffering. Digging deeper into the stories there is a theme of resilience, which underscores their endurance in the midst of suffering that offers hope to those in priority areas. Viewed in this way might these examples offer us a way of establishing rhythms/way of life that celebrates joyous, righteous living and which holistically impacts all aspects of one's life? Might this be direction of travel informing our mission and discipleship to priority areas?

How might we draw from the inspiration of the Psalmist and Job in offering a way of life that sheds light in guiding people out of poverty and inequality?

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 (NLT)

These verses bring a challenge. Amos is holding a mirror up to his society and forcing them to look into it. Do they see what God sees or are they blinded by their own self-righteousness and vanity?

The verses begin with a command, an invitation or a plea, v6: "Come back to the Lord and live!"

As the remainder of the reading reveals, Amos is keenly aware of the failings of the people and that they are happy to go along with the abuses that are happening all around them. As the saying goes, ‘he does not miss the mark and hit the wall'. Amos is issuing a wake-up call, still relevant for the Church today. Speaking to those who are the equivalent of today's ‘comfortable' Christians who can coast along without taking issue with the inequalities going on around them.

In the remainder of verse 6 Amos graphically portrays the consequence of continued ignoring of God: "Otherwise, he will roar through Israel like a fire, devouring you completely."

Verses 10 to 13 give more detail about the wrongdoing rife in the society, highlighting dishonest judges and lying (v10); unfair taxes and rent (v11); oppression of the honest through bribery (v12a); and using wealth to ‘buy' justice (v12b).

That mirror is still relevant today, where too often wealth bends justice and the poor take second place.

Having administered the stick, in verses 14 and 15 Amos holds out the carrot. Firstly, what action must be taken, verse 14a: "Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live!"

Then follows the carrot, verse 14b: "Then the Lord God of Heaven's Armies will be your helper, just as you have claimed."

It should be noted that those who benefitted from the wrongdoing obviously thought their lives were comfortable because God approved of how they lived. How wrong they were! Amos demands a new beginning, verse 15a: "Hate evil and love what is good, turn your courts into true halls of justice."

A call for social justice.

Psalm 90:12-17 (NLT)

The Psalmist displays honesty and speaks from the heart. Behind the words there is a sense of puzzlement. In verse 12 there is a sense of wanting God's guidance to achieve self-improvement: "Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom".

However, in verses 13 to 16 there is a greater emphasis on God improving the situation without the Psalmist (or the people) contributing. This is illustrated by the following phrases: "come back to us" (v13), "take pity" (v13), "satisfy us" (v14), "give us gladness" (v15), "let us […] see you work again" (v16).

The section suggests all the action for improving the situation has to come from God. There is no mention of action the Psalmist or the people should take to improve their relationship with God. As God's people today, do we contribute to a similar situation?

It is easy to see why the Psalmist wants change when phrases such as: "So we may sing for joy to the end of our lives" (v14), "Replace the evil years with good" (v15).

The Psalmist is obviously living through a very difficult period in their life and in the life of the people. It has left them feeling deserted by God and they appear not to know which way to turn to improve the situation. Perhaps it is in this state of desperation that they want God to be the prime mover.

The final verse of the reading sums up with the words: "And may the Lord show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!".

The Psalmist refers to our efforts, yet in this particular psalm there is no explicit mention of what these efforts are. The people need their sense of worth restored, but don't see the opportunity to bring this about. The cry is for God to do the restoration. If we apply that idea to the current situation, helping to restore a sense of worth should be part of how the Church works in the community.

Hebrews 4:12-16 (NLT)

The passage opens with a rallying call, a reminder, in verse 12a: " For the word of God is alive and powerful"

Which poses the question who is this aimed at? Surely it's aimed at the Church reminding us all of the importance of God's word and therefore the role it should play in the lives of everyone who belongs to the Church. The letter writer also directs towards the capabilities of that word verse 12b: "It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires."

The question, is the reader ready for this? There is a stark contrast between the thought of tapping into the power offered by studying God's word and the mirror it holds up to the reader. By implication we are destined to fall short, which makes verse 13b a frightening prospect: "He is the one to whom we are accountable."

In leading the readers to this point, the writer now produces the answer, in verse 14a:

"[…] since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God."

The passage then first directs towards God's word, then towards Jesus less we become despaired by not being able to walk the path that God has set out. The writer further reassures in the words of verse 15: "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same testings we do."

The comfort offered is the knowledge that our advocate before God has first-hand experience of the temptations to be faced in life, AND, verse 15b: "yet he did not sin."

God has shared that experience of human frailty through the person of God's Son and knows the challenges faced. The writer concludes by specifying the difference this makes to us in our relationship with God, verse 16: "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."

The Church is not alone, there is the living power of God's word, there is the example and advocacy of Jesus, an ample sufficiency.

Mark 10:17-31 (NLT)

The opening of the passage raises many questions about the young man,

  • He "came running" – What was his urgency?
  • He "knelt down" – Why did he kneel?
  • His opening, "Good Teacher" – Did he really think that?
  • His question, "what should I do to get eternal life?" – Was the question sincere?

Jesus responds by teaching and testing. First affirming "Only God is truly good",followed bystating some of the commandments. Looking at the commandments referred to, did Jesus choose these specific ones for a reason?

The man's response seems quite confident, or perhaps over confident, there is no hesitation, verse 20: "I've obeyed all these commandments since I was a child."

Some answers to queries about the man and his motives lie with how Jesus reacts to his answer, verse 21: "Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him."

Could this be the kind of parental love which sees a child ineptly trying their best but despite their pride in what they have achieved, missing the mark? The young man can obey scripture as it suits him, but completely misunderstands what it really should mean for him. This is exposed by Jesus' answer to his original question and the man's response, in verses 21b and 22: "'Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' At this the man's face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions."

The reaction highlights the difference between what the man needed and what he wanted.

Jesus now turns to His disciples and begins to teach them based on what they have just witnessed, in v23, how hard it is for rich people to get into the Kingdom of God.

Verse 26 shows a serious misunderstanding on the part of the disciples who perhaps equate worldly success with God's favour: "Then who in the world can be saved?"

Jesus then reminds the disciples not to limit God to the confines of human experience, verse 27: "Humanly speaking , it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God."

As he does so often, Peter now intervenes, v28: "We've given up everything to follow you".

Jesus responds in vv29-31 by asserting that what they gain far outweighs what they have given up, and in v31 a reminder not to judge by the world's standards: "But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then."

Sermon Ideas

Sermon themes grew from arranging the passages by grouping Job with Psalm 22 and Amos with Psalm 90. This proved helpful when compiling the exegesis, as ideas could be referenced in subsequent passages in an iterative form. This approach suggested that Mark 10 fitted well with Job and Hebrews 4 with Amos. The passages are therefore grouped as follows: Job, Psalm 22, Mark 10; and Amos, Psalm 90 and Hebrews 4.

Lamentation is a predominant theme that speaks into our times. There are numerous references in each of the passages. The focus should be on how grief and loss is a subject that in priority areas is underserved. But now in times such as these, can the stories of Christ and Job offer empathy to our circumstances, providing a means by which we can reach the isolated, the marginalised, the unchurched? There is an opportunity to contextualise the stories into their circumstances and in this way make the Gospel relevant. And what emerges is the potential to draw upon the poetry and songs to develop resources that support people struggling with mental health, isolation, grief and loss.

Consistent with this sense of lament was a theme of resilience evidenced by Amos, Job, Psalmists, and Christ. In the midst of their suffering, a worshipping reverence underpinned by a rule of life helped them endure. This has validated our missional efforts by incorporating monastic themes such as a discipling culture when cultivating networks of missional communities, consistent with fresh expressions that evoke early Acts' mission. The passages offer evidence (in particular Hebrews 4) of how we might be able to create resilience resources to serve people in need and to persist in our efforts.

Using the idea of a rule of life as a theme, the idea of a righteous life described by Amos emerges. This passage was insightful in offering a way to evaluate context of the parish and community something that Amos presents concerning the Israelite nation. Inequality and injustice mark priority areas and is consistent with what we find in our context. A righteous life is exactly what people are searching for and if paraphrased as whole-life opens up countless opportunities to engage. Contextualising the Gospel, situated into peoples' lives, we have an opportunity to effectively engage with people across all aspects of one's life. Thinking this way allows us opportunity to connect with other agencies whose values of whole-life we share and by collectively sharing practice we can begin to raise up peoples' talents incorporating Asset Based Community Development approaches to empower people and build resilient, strengthened communities.

We might consider group activities, with people moving from one to the other, covering:

  • What/who (people groups) are the specific needs?
  • Which services/agencies/churches could we partner with?
  • What needs are not being met?
  • Reflective prayer station covering issues of grief/loss.

Sermon Idea 1 - Honesty before God

It is useful to use two complimentary or contrasting passages from scripture to illustrate a particular theme or message. The use of contrast can challenge the listeners to review their own position or belief. The use of complimentary passages can help to reinforce the message God wants to give to the Church. In either case the preacher/leader must approach the preparation prayerfully and with an open mind to ensure that it is God who is leading.

Honesty before God with reference to Amos 5 and Mark 10

Amos delivers a very stark message to the people. Like present day society there has been a drift away from God. That statement itself would prompt a question. How do we, as Church, fit into our society?

  • Do those who are participating think that is a true statement about current British society?

Amos sees a society that has become accepting of its faults. They are not moved by the wrong doing they see around them and certainly don't appear to want to do anything to deal with the misdeeds. The people in Amos' time had become passive to the evil around them, a grave warning for the Church today. Does this picture describe us as Church in our area?

  • Are we currently in the same position, have we become deaf and blind to the unfairness we see around us?

Amos illustrates his accusation by these examples, dishonest judges, ignoring the poor, bribery. Emphasising the point by stating ‘how you hate honest judges', ‘you trample the poor',' you oppress people by taking bribes and depriving the poor of justice'.

  • What do you see as the equivalent ills in our society?

While these may not be the evils that permeate our particular society, there are evils, many of which don't correspond to breaking civil law, but could well find us far from God's expectation that we should love one another.

Having wielded the stick of accusation and holding a mirror to the peoples' faults, Amos now summarises the path back to God. ‘Do good and run from evil', ‘Hate evil and love what is good, remodel your courts into true halls of justice'.

  • What steps should the Church be taking to address the evils that lead to unfairness in our society?

Amos brings the passage to its conclusion with these almost threatening words, ‘Perhaps even yet Lord God Almighty will have mercy on his people who remain'.

Amos offers the people a road to redemption, but is it a road that people are willing to follow? The passage in Mark will help to tell us if we truly understand the path that Amos has laid out.

Jesus' encounter with the man in Mark is a real eye opener. We could consider why the man approached as he did, what was his urgency, ‘He came running', ‘He knelt down' why kneel?

  • Try to put yourself in the place of the young man approaching Jesus. What is your motive?

The man opens with a big question, what should I do to get eternal life? Jesus responds to his greeting in a strange way. Like Amos He sees what others can't, which may prompt us to wonder if we do the same thing, do we see reality or do we see what we want to see through rose-tinted glasses?

  • How do you judge others appearance, what they are wearing, the way they speak, where they stay, etc.?

The man is able to tell Jesus that he has obeyed the commandments, but like many of us he hasn't jumped the gap between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. He has almost made his obedience into a god in itself. However, Jesus has identified his real god, his wealth.

  • If you consider your own life own lifestyle, can you see anything that you place before God without even realising it?

Note the man's response; his ‘face fell'. Thinking back to Amos, would the people have had the same response to his challenge to them. Do we have the same response when God highlights a similar challenge to us?

  • How do you respond when you feel challenged by God?

In the remainder of the passage Jesus teaches the disciples about what it means to follow Him, the rewards and the difficulties, as well as a warning about not getting above yourself.

Sermon Introduction – Honesty before God

Prior to the main sermon to include children or to introduce the service theme it is useful to have a section for preparing the ground. This will work best after the scripture readings as they can be referred to during the introduction.

Introducing the idea of honesty can begin by using some simple questions. The kind of answer that will be given or thought of will depend on whether the question is aimed at adults or children. Examples may be as follows:

Do you like my new shoes? (helpful to have a pair of shoes of challenging design on hand)

  • An adult might take into account the feelings of the person or perhaps how they feel towards the person when giving their answer.
  • A child is more likely to offer the ‘truth' as they see it.

Do you like rhubarb pie?

  • Adult may be more likely to like
  • Child may be put off by the taste.

God expects us to be honest. God has told Amos to tell the people they are not being honest. Jesus has to tell the rich person they are really kidding themselves as they have placed their wealth above being honest with God.

Sermon Idea 2 – Salvation, physical and spiritual

The passages from Amos and Hebrews show a different emphasis and help us to see the difficulties of earning salvation through our own physical efforts and the amazing offer God has given of salvation through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. It would be possible to also bring in Paul's views on the law of the Old Testament. As he rightly says, the laws in themselves are not wrong but they expose our weakness by our inability to obey them consistently. Perhaps that is a flaw in Amos' exhortation which can only be overcome by accepting Christ as our Saviour.

Salvation, physical and spiritual with reference to Amos 5 and Hebrews 4

Amos begins with this startling offer/demand/warning; ‘Come back to the Lord and live!'

  • Consider Amos' words, how do you see them, is it an ‘offer', a ‘demand', or a ‘warning'?

Clearly God sees what is wrong with the people and Amos is to be the spokesperson delivering God's message. Explore the background to Amos' mission by continuing through the verses in the reading. By implication the people have taken to worshipping other gods (verse 6b): ‘Your gods in Bethel certainly won't be able to quench the flames'. The rules are unjust and act against the poor (verse 7a): ‘You twist justice, making it a bitter pill for the poor and oppressed'

  • Consider today's society, indeed your local area: do you see a similar picture today and does the Church contribute to the situation positively or negatively?

Amos now goes into more detail on what God sees as the people's wrongdoing. Verses 10 and 11a ‘How you hate the honest judges! How you despise people who tell the truth!' You trample the poor and steal what little they have through taxes and unfair rent.

  • Imagine yourself as one of the rich, do you think you would feel there is anything wrong. Imagine being one of the poor, can you see a way out of your situation?

There is a reminder in verse 12a of how well God knows us and how close he is to us: ‘For I know the vast number of your sins and rebellions'. Is that a comfortable position to be in?

  • Remembering how well God knows each and every one of us, how comfortable does that make you feel and what aspect of God is strongest for you, God's love and offer of forgiveness or God's judgement?

Amos in verse 14a highlights the physical route to salvation, to being right with God; ‘Do what is good and run from evil – that you may live!) Contrast how easy that sounds with how difficult it is to do.

But there is more on offer, verse 14b: ‘Then the Lord God Almighty will truly be your helper'. What a contrast with the outcome described in verse 6. Amos has a punchy summary of what is required, verse15a: ‘hate evil and love what is good'

  • Do you find that summary helpful, could we apply it to our society starting with ourselves? What problems do you see?

So obtaining salvation through our own physical efforts is hard if not impossible, fortunately God has provided an alternative route.

The reading from Hebrews begins with an important statement, verse 12: ‘For the word of God is full of living power'

  • What are the key words here for you, ‘full', ‘living', ‘power'?

‘Full' implies all of the Bible is important. ‘Living' implies that its application is current, whatever the age. ‘Power' implies that it can bring about change in lives.

Like Amos, the writer of Hebrews draws attention to how well God knows us (verse 12b): ‘It exposes us for what we really are.' And verse 13 a; ‘Nothing in all creation can hide from him.'

Verse 13b certainly makes you pause for thought: ‘This is the God to whom we must explain all that we have done.'

  • In a time of silent contemplation consider how you would feel standing before God in this situation.

Fortunately, God knows that we can never attain salvation by our own physical efforts. Verses 14 and 15 show us the spiritual route to salvation. It is through trusting Jesus that we gain an advocate which will enable us to face God. Jesus not only sacrificed Himself for us but through His life on earth, recognised and overcame the temptations that each one of us is exposed to.

By accepting the spiritual route to salvation through accepting Christ as our Saviour we can echo verse 16: ‘So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, we will find grace to help us when we need it.'

Sermon Introduction – Salvation physical and spiritual

Prior to the main sermon to include children or to introduce the service theme it is useful to have a section preparing the ground. This will work best after the scripture readings as they can be referred to during the introduction.

The key to being able to do something often lies in having the ‘special' knowledge. An example could be to challenge people to spin an egg on its end. (The success depends on having a hard-boiled egg as the final demo). Those trying to spin a raw egg will not succeed while anyone using a hardboiled egg will be able to spin the egg on its end.

If we try the physical approach, no matter what we do the egg will immediately topple over. However if we have special knowledge and use it we know the egg must be hard boiled first.

Through Amos, God was pointing out what was physically wrong, in Hebrews the writer is pointing out that if we have the knowledge of Jesus and what He has done for us, we can use that to get ourselves right with God.

Sermon Idea 3 – What Now?

When we are faced with life's difficulties or when the whole of life seems difficult, if not impossible, we can experience a range of emotions, anger, frustration, despair, hopelessness. By turning to the Bible we can find the same spectrum of emotions and it can be a help to see how these were dealt with. The book of Job offers a starting point that some people will be familiar with. He came from a situation of plenty which is attributed to being in God's favour and then he loses everything, family, flocks etc. Contrast this with the situation of the man in Mark who, when we first encounter him, seems to be ‘blessed' with riches. As their stories unfold we can examine their responses to the ‘what now?' question.

In verse 2 of Job 23, we find an indication that Job is still in conflict. On the one hand he feels that life has dealt him a mortal blow, but something drives him to say, verse 2b ‘and I try hard not to groan aloud'. He is being twisted mentally by these opposing emotions. Verse 3 reveals the seat of the problem, ‘If only I knew where to find God'. When people are in despair some will pose exactly the same question, asked for many different reasons.

Consider your present circumstances, if challenged, what do you think you could live without, what do you think you would find it impossible to live without?

Job now states his reason, he wants to talk with God (verse 3b), he wants to state his case (verse 4). But Job does not just want to have a rant to get it out of his system, he wants to listen to and understand God's reply. Prayer should never be a one way conversation with God, it's vital to listen to what God has to say. Job reflects in verse 6a, would God in God's power merely ride rough shod over his pleas? But Job gives his own answer he is secure in his own mind that he will get a fair hearing, verse 6b. And gives the justification for his certainty in verse 7 ‘Fair and honest people can reason with him, so I would be acquitted by my Judge'.

  • Consider verses 2 to 7, what stands out. Can you decide what prompts Job's confidence?

Job brings a certainty to the relationship with God, he believes that God is just despite the catastrophe he has suffered. These few verses are a testimony to Job's faith, a testimony to the faith that we all need to aspire to.

Verses 8 and 9 record the desperate efforts Job makes to no avail, leaving him in the depressed state of verses 16 and 17.

  • Think of difficult circumstances you have encountered, where would you look for God, where do you feel closest to God?

Such is Job's faith that there is still a strong spark, but his current circumstances are reducing its glow. ‘What now?' for Job is to continue to seek God despite the setbacks that life has thrown at him,

A reference to psalm 90 is useful as it reflects the journey that Job is on.

In Mark an immediate contrast is found. The man thinks he has ‘found' God. He obviously believes Jesus is close to God or he would not have come forward with his question. Verse 17 ‘good teacher, what should I do to get eternal life?' Unlike Job, he comes forward with confidence and security. Jesus questions his obedience to the commandments, obedience that all find challenging. The man answers confidently, verse 20 ‘I've obeyed all these commandments since I was a child'. He seems to tick all the boxes as a perfect model for how God wants life lived.

  • Why do you think the man approaches with such confidence, but nevertheless asks ‘What should I do to get eternal life?'

However, Jesus has a different view, verse 21, the man has created his own unworthy god, his wealth. Unlike God, the man has chosen to rely on something transitory, his riches… His reaction to Jesus' suggestion confirms his misplaced trust, verse 22 ‘the man's face fell and he went sadly away - - - ‘.

  • If you were the man, what would you do now?

This prompts a period of teaching by Jesus in which he points out that wealth is not a passport to eternal life. Human values and success criteria are not God's. Those who put God first in their lives may have made huge sacrifices in human terms but what is gained can only come from God. ‘What now?' for the rich man is to make a decision about the god he wants in his life, is it to be the one true God or his riches?

  • How comfortable do you find Jesus teaching in verses 23 to 31?

Whatever the circumstances, life is better lived with God, like Job, than without him like the rich man.

Sermon Introduction – What now?

Prior to the main sermon to include children or to introduce the service theme it is useful to have a section preparing the ground. This will work best after the scripture readings as they can be referred to during the introduction.

For children it could be useful to have a mock route that ends in a junction with choices. Otherwise, describing walking or driving and coming to a junction where you have to decide which way to go. The description or challenge should be followed by posing the question;

"What now, how do we decide what is the way to go?"

Ask how we might make the decision, ‘Are there signposts?', ‘do we have a map?' ‘can we ask someone?'. Job and the rich man have to turn to God for the answers. The rich man already has a direction given by Jesus.

Sermon Idea 4 – The God we Trust

There are times when our life's experiences challenge our faith and our trust in God. The Psalms are an often comforting reminder that the writers anguished over the difficulties they encountered. Their cries can be painful to read, perhaps echoing some of our own cries. It is their honest reaction to their circumstances that accurately reflect our own attitudes and feelings. It is all the more wonderful that we find, particularly in the New Testament, that God's love of us is unconditional. By exploring Psalm 22 and Hebrews 4 it can be seen how these aspects are clearly shown.

Verse 1 of Psalm 22 is a real cry from the heart: "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help?" The writer's pain can be felt in the words. They shout the depths of his despair and are endorsed by the second verse.

  • Consider the neighbourhood: are there circumstances that could lead to the same feelings of hopelessness?

People around this very gathering today are experiencing the same depths of forgottenness and lostness. As God's symbol in the community the Church is not being found.

Despite the situation the Psalmist still utters these words, verse 3: "Yet you are holy". Verses 4 and 5 give some justification for the Psalmist's assertion.

  • In your own experience have you been in situations or learned of situations where youcould echo the words, "They put their trust in you and were never disappointed"?

The Psalmist's faith has something to cling to or indeed build on.

Verses 6 to 8 are very inward looking. While it is important to look honestly in the mirror, it is what is done with the reflected information that is even more important.

  • Looking in the writer's mirror, sum up what you think they see. Do people in the church's community see anything similar?

Verse 9 to 11 could be described as a bit wheedling; does God really need reminded of the writer's dependency, what the writer sees as their due? Think of the swings of emotion that the writer is going through that might be reflected in our own lives.

Verses 12 and 13 give a dramatised picture of what the writer feels. Consider the equivalents that those around might be feeling, experiencing today.

  • Consider the equivalents that those around might be feeling, experiencing today.

Finally in verses 14 and 15 the impression is given that the Psalmist has virtually given up. They have reached a place that many around have arrived at. The important point to consider is how the Church reaches out to people in this situation and helps restore their trust in God.

Hebrews chapter 4 verse 12 offers a starting point: "For the word of God is full of living power". Reading on the remainder of verse 12 and verse 13 reveals more about that power. It's a power that takes us back to the mirror, verse 12b, "it exposes us for what we really are". Scary!

  • In a few moments of silent contemplation, think what is being exposed to God in your life which you wish could be kept hidden. What are you going to do about it?

Knowing these personal flaws where does the confidence to trust God come from or is the situation one of despair like the psalmist. Verse 14 provides the answer: "That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him."

In the same way that God has not abandoned us we, as the Church, must not abandon those around us who are experiencing hardship. It is by exercising that trust in God that the Church can become effective in all circumstances.

What factors limit the effectiveness of Church in your community?

Verse 15 is a strong reminder that Jesus, part of the triune God, is such a powerful advocate for us: "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the temptations we do, yet he did not sin." This God in whom we place our trust did not give in to ignoring the needs of those God met, nor should God's Church today. The incentive the Church needs to be effective is summed up in verse 16: "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and will find grace to help us when we need it."

  • Pray that God will use the Church's trust to be a power for good in the surrounding community.

Sermon Introduction – The God we Trust

Prior to the main sermon to include children or to introduce the service theme it is useful to have a section for preparing the ground. This will work best after the scripture readings as they can be referred to during the introduction.

Introduce the idea of trusting; e.g. when we walk along the floor we don't continually imagine our foot is going to go down into a hole (if firefighters have to enter a burning building, they have a special walk to test the floor at every step so they don't fall through).

Bring in the ‘trust' idea of falling backwards, knowing that the person behind is there and will catch you. If children are present they can actually try this, but it must be done safely.

In the psalm the writer trusts God even though they are having a hard time, which is challenging that trust. The writer of Hebrews is affirming the benefits of trusting God and accepting salvation through Jesus' sacrifice.

Prayers

Prayer of Approach

It can be useful when framing prayers to use different forms of address for God which is a reminder of the different ways God can impact on our lives. As, in teaching His disciples what we refer to as ‘The Lord's Prayer', Jesus refers to God as ‘our father in heaven' there can be no reason not to refer to God as our ‘Heavenly Father' and this will therefore be included in these prayers. It is important to say what the focus of the prayer is.

Our prayer of approach

Almighty God,
we come before You with heads bowed in reverence and awe.
We are aware of the grace extended to us,
that we, mere specks in the immensity of Your creation
have not earned this privilege.
Yet, in Your unfathomable love You invite us to come.
We are in awe of Your creation in all its rich power and diversity,
amazed that You offer humanity insights into its workings.

Dear Lord
we acknowledge that we do not earn the right to approach
through our riches, intellect or positions of power,
all are welcome in Your presence through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
That same Jesus taught us that human standards of importance do not matter to You. Instead, a contrite heart and a willingness to set self aside in Your service
gain the reward of entering Your presence.

Heavenly Father,
as we stumble along Your way
help to keep us to the path of obedience that Jesus trod
that we may continue to enjoy the glow of Your presence.
Amen

Prayer of confession

This prayer can be quite difficult, the supplicant is opening themselves to God and there can be areas where people find such exposure difficult. There are also those who can convince themselves that anything they have to confess is of a trivial nature. Our God is all knowing and already knows whatever we bring. The strongest part of the prayer concerns asking forgiveness and the strength not to repeat the error. It can also be useful to allow a short time of silence to allow for personal confession.

Our Prayer of confession

We bring before God our sins of commission and omission,
Your word has sometimes remained closed,
gathering dust when we were most in need of its comfort and direction.
We have been guilty of harsh words
when words of support or encouragement were needed.
We have misused the time You have given us,
pursuing our own desires instead of seeking the path You want for us.
We are forgetful of loving our neighbour
and following the example Jesus set for us.
In a moment of silence we bring before You our sins.

Almighty God
we ask for Your forgiveness
through the saving blood of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Amen

Prayer of thanksgiving

In offering the prayer of thanksgiving it is important to avoid the kind of prayer portrayed in the gospels where those praying where the individual is essentially boasting about how good they are or what they have. As, in teaching His disciples what we refer to as ‘The Lord's Prayer', Jesus refers to God as ‘our father in heaven' there can be no reason not to refer to God as our ‘Heavenly Father' and this will therefore be included in these prayers. It is important to say what the focus of the prayer is.

Our prayer of thanksgiving

Heavenly Father,
we come to offer the thanks for the blessings that we enjoy.
We give thanks for the many seen and unseen people who contribute to our daily life.
We thank You for those who grow and prepare our daily bread,
we thank You for those who develop and maintain
the energy supply and transport systems that we have access to.
We give thanks for those who work to keep us safe,
those in the forces and the police.

Lord we are grateful for the array of carers who help to support us,
those who work to heal us,
those who help us in our frailty,
those who help develop medicines to fight disease.

Almighty God,
we thank You for the gift of Your word –
‘a lamp for our feet and a light for our path'
and the example set by Your son, Jesus Christ.
These are gifts beyond all measure.

For all this and much more we offer our humble thanks.
Amen

Prayer of intercession

The intercession prayer is one which should be dependent on the current situation as well as ongoing needs. It is important to note what is happening in the world as events can arise very quickly where the intervention of prayer is important. Prayer should also be offered for those who are the decision makers in the world. Rather than an actual prayer, what follows is a list of likely prayer prompts.

  • Pray on behalf of those who are suffering because of world events, natural disaster, wars, climate change, etc
  • Pray for those who find themselves suddenly in changed circumstances, there could be both positive and negatives here, bereavement, loss of job, birth of a child, entering a new opportunity. If bereavement is local to the church, pray for the family concerned.
  • Pray for young people, particularly at times of transition, moving primary to secondary leaving school, times of examination.
  • Pray for those involved in ministry and mission work both local, nationally and internationally.
  • Pray for guidance for those making decisions in industry and government that they would be open to god's prompting.
  • Pray for those who are in times of illness, financial hardship, suffering from addiction.
  • Pray for those who are suffering persecution because of their commitment to God
  • Pray for those who are yet to make a commitment to God and accept Jesus as their Saviour.

Prayer of Blessing / Closing prayer

In the closing prayer any of the common benedictions is suitable. It is useful to preface the actual benediction with a few words of prayer that stem from the sermon theme.

Alternative Prayers

This prayer approach focuses on monastic themes in the form of spiritual disciplines which are interspersed throughout the service. The practice of forming a rule of life is something we feel is central to our missional effort in establishing a discipleship culture by which to reach the dispossessed and marginalised in our context and enriching the faith of the congregation.

Approach to God

Opening: Request a moment of silence using a centring discipline to centre our thoughts by focusing on ones breathing. People are called to visualise the exhaling as dispelling distracted thoughts, frustrations, etc., from their mind, while when breathing they are called to visualise Christ's presence. This pattern should be repeated for 30secs followed by a short, uninterrupted period of silence.

Call to worship

Incorporating themes from Hebrews 4: 12-16

Minister: Brothers and sisters we are reminded of the power of the word as being sharper than any double-edged sword let us therefore come boldly in an attitude of celebration to the throne of grace to worship our Blessed Trinity. Hallelujah!

Thanksgiving

Set according to Breen's (Building a Discipleship Culture, 2017) Lifeshapes by incorporating the triangle by which to frame the prayer:

Up –
Heavenly Father we give thanks to You for the divine work of Your creation and continued protection over our lives.
We thank you for sending Your son, Jesus Christ
whose redemptive ministry has saved us from the consequences of sin
and through His death on the cross and resurrection
has provided the way by which we have access to You Abba father.
We give thanks to for sending us Your Holy Spirit our comforter
and one who leads us in righteousness. Hallelujah!

In –
We thank You for the opportunity we have to share our faith in fellowship with one another in praise and worship to the glory and majesty of Your son
the architect and finisher of our faith.
We humbly come before You in adoration praying for one another
that we cherish those bonds of love which bind us
and pray for those suffering under trials of persecution
that You will strengthen their faith so that Your church may continue to prosper.

Out –
We give thanks for Your word sharper than any double-edged sword
which has the power to transform lives.
Let us therefore be emboldened by the power of Your spirit, Lord
to share Your message with those in need
and see Your kingdom come in our streets and neighbourhoods.

Confession

Let us take a moment in silence to examine our hearts and visualise we are in the presence of Abba father.

(Adapted from Ps 101)
Oh lord we come before You
humbled bearing our faults and transgressions in submission to Your forgiving grace.
Bear with us oh Lord when we stumble and behave foolishly.
Help us oh Lord not to judge, nor act proudly or speak ill of others.
But instead let us sing praises of Your mercy and loving kindness
so that in this way our eyes will be on You that we may continue to walk in your ways. Amen, Lord.

Intercession

Incorporating a visualisation technique recommended by Anthony De Mello (Praying Body and Soul)

Minister guides the congregation in a time of contemplation where they are urged to visualise being saturated in the presence of Christ and in this attitude they are to visualise laying on of hands. Minister intimates that they will pray for various people groups while the congregation are encouraged to ask of the Holy Spirit for whom and intentions they should pray for.

Minister –
Heavenly father we bring before You our loved ones.
Father You know them intimately and what their circumstances are.
As we imagine laying hands may You fill them with love and offer comfort, encouragement and healing for those we bring before You.

Followed by a moment of silence.

Minister –
We pray for those in our community,
for those who are suffering in the midst of this pandemic
from isolation, anxiety, grief, all forms of abuse
as we visualise the laying on of our hands may You fill them with Your grace.

Followed by a moment of silence.

Minister –
We pray for those in our community who support those in need.
Father You know who they are the carers, the doctors, the nurses
and all those agencies who provide such support which is so preciously vital in these times of need.
As we imagine laying on our hands may You will fill them
with an overwhelming sense of love.
Lift their weariness and frustrations
and help them to persist in the midst of the challenges they face.

Followed by a moment of silence.

Blessing / Closing prayer

May the grace of our lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all. Amen.

Alternative Material - focus on COP26

The General Assembly has endorsed the ‘Five Marks of Mission', which includes the commitment to Christian mission, "To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth." Care for the environment continues to be a core part of what it means to be a Christian, and in the context of the climate crisis our response as the Church of Scotland will be a demonstration of our commitment to working for the integrity of creation. As we approach the COP26 international climate summit being held in Glasgow in November 2021 we invite congregations, ministers and worship leaders to reflect on and communicate the following ideas:

  • The urgency and gravity of the situation, as highlighted by the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was described as a ‘code red for humanity', and the acknowledgement that the climate and biodiversity crisis not only represent a failure of our stewardship of God's creation but that the precipitous decline in global ecosystems threatens the wellbeing of billions of lives dependent upon them
  • The role of faith, communal worship and prayer in helping to shape our attitudes and behaviours, including to continue to have hope even (or especially) when a situation is difficult, and in particular to have the chance to remember the situation of sisters and brothers all over the world suffering from the impact of global heating
  • The practical decisions the Church has taken for itself, including to disinvest from fossil fuel companies and setting the church on a pathway to Net Zero carbon emissions by the year 2030
  • The importance of decisions by governments from countries around the world to set more ambitious carbon reductions targets, for rich countries to be generous in the sharing of wealth to support poorer nations affected by loss and damage caused by the changing climate, and for an end to government subsidies and investment in fossil fuel businesses
  • How to support young people within and outwith the Church through the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) to raise them up and let their voices be heard

For further resources on COP26 activity from Church related organisations visit

Suggestions for hymns around the theme of care for creation and COP26

For further information about what the Church of Scotland is doing in relation to COP26 and carbon reduction, please email faithimpact@churchofscotland.org.uk

Musical suggestions

Our online music resource is on the Church of Scotland website; you can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship. You will also find playlists for this week and liturgical seasons and themes on the Weekly Worship and Inspire Me tabs.

You can find further musical suggestions for this week in a range of styles on the Songs for Sunday blog from Trinity College Glasgow.

Hymns selected from CH4, Songs of God's People (SoGP) and Junior Praise 1986 ed (JP)

Sermon Idea 1 – Honesty before God

  • CH4 96 – "You are before me God, you are behind"(Psalm 139) SoGP
  • CH4 187 – "There's a wideness in God's mercy"
  • CH4 191 – "Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you"
  • CH4 192 – "All my hope on God is founded"
  • CH4 259 – "Beauty for brokenness"
  • CH4 493 – "It's me, it's me O Lord standing in the need of prayer"
  • CH4 549 – "How deep the Father's love for us"
  • SoGP 33 – "God forgave my sin in Jesus name"
  • SoGP 107 – "Through the love of God our Saviour all will be well"
  • JP 42 – "Father I place into your hands"
  • JP 206 – "Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water"

Sermon Idea 2 – Salvation , physical and spiritual

  • CH4 87 – "Lord, from the depths to thee I cried"
  • CH4 154 – "O Lord my God! (How great thou art)"
  • CH4 187 – "There's a wideness in God's mercy"
  • CH4 192 – "All my hope on God is founded"
  • CH4 259 – "Beauty for brokenness"
  • CH4 506 – "All I once held dear"
  • CH4 531 – "My Jesus, my Saviour"
  • CH4 559 – "There is a Redeemer"
  • SoGP 93 – "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God"
  • SoGP 206 – "Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water"

Sermon Idea 3 – What now?

  • CH4 36 – "God is our refuge and our strength" (Psalm 46)
  • CH4 187 – "There's a wideness in God's mercy"
  • CH4 259 – "Beauty for brokenness"
  • CH4 493 – "It's me, it's me O Lord standing in the need of prayer"
  • CH4 506 – "All I once held dear"
  • CH4 530 – "One more step along the world I go"
  • CH4 549 – "How deep the Father's love for us"
  • CH4 559 – "There is a Redeemer"
  • SoGP 33 – "God forgave my sin in Jesus name"
  • JP 14 – "Be bold, be strong"
  • JP 42 – "Father I place into your hands"

Sermon Idea 4 – The God we Trust

  • CH4 87 – "Lord from the depths to thee I cried"
  • CH4 132 – "Immortal invisible God only wise"
  • CH4 154 – "How great thou art"
  • CH4 251 – "I the Lord of sea and sky"
  • CH4 465 – "Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart"
  • CH4 549 – "How deep the Father's love for us"
  • CH4 559 – "There is a Redeemer"
  • CH4 600 – "Spirit of God, unseen as the wind"
  • JP 58 – "God sent his Son, they call him Jesus"
  • JP 206 – "Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water"

Reflecting on our worship practice

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the way we worship has changed and we need to reflect on the changing or newly established patterns that emerged and continue to emerge as a result of the disruption.

We can facilitate worship for all by exploring imaginative approaches to inclusion, participation and our use of technologies in ways that suit our contexts. This is not an exhaustive list, but some things we could consider are:

  • Framing various parts of the worship service in accessible language to help worshippers understand the character and purpose of each part. This is essential for creating worship for all (intergenerational worship) that reflects your community of faith.
  • Holding spaces for reflection and encouraging prayer to be articulated in verbal and non-verbal ways, individually and in online breakout rooms
  • In online formats the effective use of the chat function and microphone settings encourages active participation in prayer, e.g. saying the Lord's Prayer together unmuted, in a moment of ‘holy chaos'
  • While singing in our congregations is still restricted, we can worship corporately by using antiphonal psalm readings, creeds and participative prayers
  • Using music and the arts as part of the worship encourages the use of imagination in place of sung or spoken words
  • Use of silence, sensory and kinaesthetic practices allow for experience and expression beyond regular audio and visual mediums.

The following questions might help you develop a habit of reflecting on how we create and deliver content and its effectiveness and impact, and then applying what we learn to develop our practice.

  • How inclusive was the worship?
    Could the worship delivery and content be described as worship for all/ intergenerational? Was it sensitive to different "Spiritual Styles"?
  • How was the balance between passive and active participation?
  • How were people empowered to connect with or encounter God?
    What helped this? What hindered this?
  • How cohesive was the worship?
    Did it function well as a whole?
    How effective was each of the individual elements in fulfilling its purpose?
  • How balanced was the worship?
    What themes/topics/doctrines/areas of Christian life were included?
  • How did the worship connect with your context/contemporary issues?
    Was it relevant in the everyday lives of those attending and in the wider parish/ community?
    How well did the worship connect with local and national issues?
    How well did the worship connect with world events/issues?
  • What have I learned that can help me next time I plan and deliver worship?

Up-to-date information for churches around COVID-19 can be found in our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) advice for churches section.

You can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship in our online hymnary.

You can find an introduction to spiritual styles in our worship resources section

You are free to download, project, print and circulate multiple copies of any of this material for use in worship services, bible studies, parish magazines, etc., but reproduction for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Please note that the views expressed in these materials are those of the individual writer and not necessarily the official view of the Church of Scotland, which can be laid down only by the General Assembly.