Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Prayers For The Week 5

 We who are strong ought top bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.

Each of us should please his neighbour for his good, to build him up.  (Romans 15: 1-2)

These Covid-19 days continue.

Days of isolation and frustration when personal horizons are limited.

When friends and family are at a distance, when plans for the future are daily subject to change, when times of celebration are muted, when our mourning is without the support we would normally depend upon. 

We are driven within ourselves despite our best efforts to be distracted, diverted, entertained.

What we need in this moment is to be turned out towards our broken world, 

What we need is to find ways to be connected with those whose lives have always been a relentless struggle.  

What we need is a new orientation towards others, a willingness to bear their burdens and to build them up.

What we need in this time of worship is a new awareness of the Spirit of Jesus refreshing our spirits and renewing our commitment to work and to pray for Your Kingdom to come.  

Forgive us our self-obsession, our reluctance to reach out to others,  our willingness to accept the world as it is and not as it should be.  

Give us the Spirit of Jesus and His drive to care for the sick, feed the hungry, and comfort those who mourn.  

Friday, 26 February 2021

Still Quarrying 190: 'Dare To Be A Daniel'.

 Media voices are telling me that the next week or so is going to see the most momentous events in recent Scottish political history.   That may just be journalese but there is little doubt that the integrity of individuals and the institutions they serve will be brought into the spotlight.  However, I do not expect to hear or see anything that is new in the history of the nations.  

The book of Daniel tells of events that took place sometime in the 6th century BC.  It is the time when a large section of the population of Judah is exiled in Babylon.  King Nebuchadnezzar selects a talented group of young Hebrews to serve in the Babylonian civil service and they make a significant contribution to the governance of the country.   The day comes, however, when the king sets up a huge image of gold which he calls upon all the population to worship.  This was quite possibly a way to consolidate the unity of the country but it has the opposite effect.   The young Hebrew men have continued their worship of the God of Israel and according to His laws they cannot bow down to any image.  

This is reported to the King by a group if his advisors and as a result Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are sentenced to death,  incineration in a furnace of fire.   It is one of the most powerful moments in Scripture.  When confronted with their ‘crime’ and the consequences they say:

‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’  (Daniel 3: 17-18)

When political power overreaches itself, pushing its way into areas where God alone reigns, there can be only one response from the believer even in face of death.  

In course of time Babylon was overcome by the emerging Persian Empire.  Under King Darius the Hebrew Daniel retained his position as one of the foremost civil servants in the land.   This was a source of concern to others in the circle of royal advisors and a conspiracy was enacted to undermine Daniel in some way.  There was not the least of whiff of impropriety in Daniel’s life or work so it was decided to make an issue of his faith.  The conspirators persuaded the King to enact a law forbidding the worship of any god other than the King throughout a period of thirty days.  To disobey this law meant death in a den of lions.  Daniel was exposed.  He continued to pray to his God openly and was reported to the King.  Reluctantly the King gave the order for Daniel to be thrown into the den of lions.  The Kings final words were: ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!’  (Daniel 6: 16).  Miraculously Daniel was preserved. 

What is remarkable is that both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, when faced with the strength of the Hebrew’s faith and the power of their God, came to understand that their God was above all other gods and that His people’s right to worship must be recognised.  

It all happened close to three thousand years ago and yet we still play out the themes.  Conspiracy, corruption, cult status given to politicians, power becoming a means of self-promotion rather than service.   In the end, however, both kings became aware of a supreme Being, a higher Power.   They had  to reckon, however imperfectly, with an authority above themselves.   With some exceptions that perspective does not seem to be common in our political culture but as all our lives will be seen in the light of Eternity so too will the exercise of political power.   Every decision taken, every policy pursued will be measured against the love, truth and justice that flows from God.   

The way forward for us all is perhaps shown in the words of an old Christian song:

‘Dare to be a Daniel

 Dare to stand alone

 Dare to have a purpose firm

 Dare to make it known.’

Monday, 22 February 2021

Prayers For The Week (4)

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.  (Psalm 27: 13-14)

God our Father,

In these days 

We are asked to be confident in those who govern, in those who administer, in those who research.

We are asked to be confident in one another that we will follow guidance and show consideration.

We are asked to be confident that we will find a way through Covid-19 and regain our quality of life.

We do not despise the skills and expertise of men and women who seek to bring us hope.

But on this day we lift our hearts to the God revealed in Jesus and place our confidence in Him.

The God who was one of us, who experienced the pressures of human living, who knew the limitations of our being, who even knew the death that is our final destiny.  

The God who showed that in the midst of brokenness goodness and love are possible.

The God who assures us that even in death His purpose continues.

This is the God who reveals Himself in the land of the living, the God for whom we wait.

He alone can strengthen us from within as we go forward in faith.  

God our Father,

In the midst of changing circumstances and faced with uncertainties in the future, we thank you for the eternal things that keep us strong. 

We thank you for the sustaining fellowship of your Church.

We thank you for the Gospel with its hope of renewal for humanity and creation.

We thank you for the promise that this life with its brokenness, its disturbance and pain will give way to the New Creation in which every tear will be wiped away.  

We thank you for all those we have known who held this faith and died with this hope in their hearts.

Help us to be encouraged by their commitment and perseverance.

Bless those of us who remain throughout the earth.  Grant us the will to press on as faithful witnesses whatever the circumstances.

Bless the nations that you seek to draw to yourself.  May they find in this time that hope that lives in the midst of all challenges and will in the end be fulfilled.

Bless our United Kingdom.  Sustain the leadership in the four nations, provide resources for all those in surgeries and hospitals, keep safe all those in front-line work.

Bless our families and friends.  Draw near to those who are sick or bereaved; grant peace to those who are frustrated and hope to those who fear for the future.  

Saturday, 20 February 2021


 You might call this a kind of superior disaster movie.  The earth is threatened by an extinction event as fragments from a comet rain down.  In face of this governments throughout the world make plans to set apart and shelter gifted people who will be 'useful' when the disaster has past and the work of restoration is undertaken.  Underground bunkers in Greenland, established during the Cold War years, await the privileged few.

The focus is on one family in particular.  Their experience shows well the stress that normally comfortable people experience when the cruel unexpected breaks into their lives.  They come up against the worst in others which is revealed as they go through their worst of times.  But this highlights the importance of kindness, perseverance and self-sacrifice all of which have their opportunity to bring comfort and hope.  

A question.  I wonder how many ministers would be selected for the bunkers?  Any?

Monday, 15 February 2021

Prayers For The Week (3)

 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth.

Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples.  (Psalm 96: 1-3)

We are glad that you have given us good reason to sing a new song.

Every day we can leave behind the mistakes of yesterday and begin again.

Every day we experience our weakness and know that You can renew our strength.

Every day our fears for the future dissolve in your promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth.

Father, we thank you that all of this is our inspiration as we respond to Your call to tell the story of Jesus and to share His love among all peoples.  

Despite the restrictions of these days, keep us close to your Word and constantly in prayer.

Give us opportunity to share what we know to be true, never let us ignore the plea for help, so that others may join with us in singing a new song.  

May all our  times of worship play their
part in declaring your glory among the nations.

God our Father,

It stretches mind and imagination as we remember the coming of Your Son amongst us,

‘To come from highest bliss/Down to such a world’s this.’

Where disease, disaster, dark spiritual powers and death constantly threaten to overwhelm the lives of men and women.

And yet he came with healing, with hope, with the promise of forgiveness and a future life where everything that causes us pain is wiped away in His powerful love.  

Father we thank you for the Good News Jesus preached and the Good News proclaimed in His death and Resurrection, our assurance that the groans of our personal experience will give way to shouts of celebration.

We remember those who were once amongst us, shared the work with us, encouraged us and loved us and who now know the reality of a new beginning in the eternal presence of Jesus.

Wherever there is disaster and despair in the world may Your Church bring hope in her message and her life.

Wherever the leaders of the nations feel overwhelmed by the challenges of these days sustain them in your wisdom.

Wherever our own nation is threatened by division or disorder strengthen our common purpose.

Wherever people are asked to serve in the most demanding circumstances, tending to the sick and maintaining essential services protect them and provide every resource needed.  

Whatever our families and friends are going through in this moment give them your strength and peace.

Friday, 12 February 2021

News Of The World.

If I was asked about my favourite actors Tom Hanks wouldn't immediately come to mind.  But when I think about it I have seen and enjoyed most of his movies.  At least one is on my list of all time favourites: 'Apollo 13'.  (I still have a wee man-cry at the end!)   He is just Tom Hanks, always there and always dependable.    

I enjoyed this one about a former Confederate soldier, Captain Jefferson Kidd, who makes a living travelling from one community to another reading extracts from newspapers and broadening people's perspective on the world.  The news is remarkably contemporary: epidemics, industrial disasters, dodgy politicians.  And along the way he comes up against the brutality of racial prejudice, the vulnerability of children to abuse, the power of painful memories, irresponsible stewardship of the environment,  intolerance of ethnic lifestyles,  not to mention how the news can be controlled by dubiously motivated individuals.  

The news of his world and ours?

It might sound grim but without floating any spoilers goodness, kindness and love still find a way.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Lockdown In Moscow.

In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution Alexander Rostov, an aristocrat and poet, is sentenced to a lifetime of house arrest.   This will be served in the luxury Metropole Hotel but he is promised that if he sets foot outside he will be shot.  So a kind of a lockdown story although with plenty of stimulation and a level of comfort not known by many Russians at the time.  

There are dark days but he is sustained by human contact, positive memories, music and wisdom gleaned from classical Russian writers and philosophers.   There is also a sense of a destiny being worked out which will not be overwhelmed by the control government seeks to have over its people.    

Elegant is the word that comes to mind in describing the writing.  There are times when Amor Towles takes you to another place where there is goodness and hope.