SUNDAY 24TH JANUARY 2021
OPENING SENTENCE OF SCRIPTURE
God alone is my rock and salvation
Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
COLLECT FOR PURITY
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
SUMMARY OF THE LAW
Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. Amen. Lord, have mercy.
CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION
God is love and we are God’s children. There is no room for fear in love. We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.
God our Father,
we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
God, who is both power and love,
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.
sung by Dougie Byers
Almighty and eternal God,
behold us in our weakness:
and stretch out your hands to protect us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen
PROCLAIMING & RECEIVING GOD’S WORD
FIRST READING: Jonah 3:1-5, 10 read by Kate Lidwell
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
SECOND READING 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 read by Liz Ballard
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
GOSPEL READING Mark 1: 14-20 read by Rev Ann Wren
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Mark chapter 1 beginning at verse 14
Glory to Christ our Saviour
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious Gospel
Praise to Christ our Lord.
‘I have a dream’. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed- the creed that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. I have a dream said Martin Luther King Junior!
Martin Luther King Junior’s dream in many ways was realised when Barack Obama was inaugurated as president of America. Dreams are all about changes. Change is in the air for the people of America again. They are bursting with hope and expectation for the great changes that Joe Biden will bring during his time in office. Change of one description or another is definitely on the cards!
Change is happening even as we speak. It was Benjamin Franklin who once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” He is right but there is another certainty and that is change. The only certain things in this world are death, taxes, and the fact that nothing stays the same. We live in a constant state of change. Our lives change in little ways each day. Gray hairs appear on our heads or hairs fall from our heads. We break a glass or we buy a new sweater. Little things are always happening to change our lives but big things happen as well. We find ourselves in lockdown. We expect a new child or we are furloughed or we lose our job. Our children grow up. We retire or we move. Change happens. Whether we like it or not, it is always happening to us, around us, and sometimes through us.
Change was happening for Jonah whether he liked it or not! God wanted to work through Jonah to bring about a change of heart in his people in Nineveh. However Jonah is not kindly disposed to the people of Nineveh and so he heads off in the other direction for Tarshish. However God’s plans are not to be thwarted. Jonah is thrown overboard and is swallowed by a large fish, before he is spewed up on dry land!
It is just after this bizarre event that our Scripture reading for today begins. We are told that for a second time the word of God came to Jonah telling him to go to Nineveh. This time Jonah goes. He walks to Nineveh. Geographically this was a demanding journey of about 900 miles across desert routes.
In walking to Nineveh Jonah had to cross various boundaries: territorial, cultural and religious between Israelite and Gentile, between the holy and unclean, the sacred and profane. Nineveh was the zenith of cultural civilisation in its day. Large cities like today which are often characterised by their extensive power and wealth, often have a downside seen in gross poverty, neglect, drugs and trafficking and human exploitation. Nineveh was seen as wicked and evil in God’s eyes and in dire need of rescuing and repentance.
Jonah is charged with the task of proclaiming to the people the danger of their situation and their urgent need to repent. A task that Jonah does with great reluctance. He wants to see the city perish. He wants his words of prophecy to be fulfilled. He does not want to look foolish even in their eyes. He wants to be proved right and show that his words carried authority and power. Jonah is obsessed about being right and is willing to see all the people perish to be proved right. Despite the fact that he has just recently received God’s own compassion and forgiveness, he is not willing to share it. It is easy to look scathingly at Jonah and think how selfish and childish but have there not been times in our lives when we wanted to be right, and forgot about compassion and mercy? Times when we have been selfish and forgot about the interests of others. What is amazing is that despite Jonah’s hostility and reluctance to speak to the Ninevites, God is willing to use him and work in and through him. Flawed as we are God can work in and through us despite our weaknesses. We see this for ourselves in Jonah.
Jonah preached repentance to this pagan city of Nineveh and was met with an immediate and wholehearted response, even the king repented and tore his clothes and wore sack cloth and ashes. God sees and hears the cries of the Ninevites and welcomes their repentance. God and the Ninevites, all except Jonah are overjoyed. While the people rejoice, Jonah leaves the city in anger and sulks. Jonah is madder than ever and pouts- asking God that he might die. Jonah wanted to see fire and brimstone fall from heaven and destroy the people he didn’t like. He ran from God’s calling because he knew God would have compassion and mercy on them and he didn’t want God to do that. Jonah ran from the change that was coming. Instead of embracing the change, Jonah fought it tooth and nail, but it happened anyway.
Change is inevitable in life! However there is one constant that is not open to change and that is the character of God. God does not change – He is always loving and compassionate, and although he does not change, he seeks to bring about change in us and in others. We see that clearly in our Jonah reading! God’s love and compassion brought about a change in the people of Nineveh. His love and compassion made all the difference for that community of people. It was God’s love and compassion that spared disgruntled Jonah’s life and gave him a second chance! It is God’s love and compassion that changes us and makes all the difference! It is this love and compassion that God wants us to have more and more of in our lives, so that we will imitate him and not only bring about change but make a difference in the lives of other people by our acts of kindness and compassion!
During this pandemic we have seen reflections of God’s compassion and mercy as incredible acts of kindness and love have been shown to so many by ordinary people. Names that spring immediately to my mind are Marcus Rashford with his campaign for food for needy school children, Captain Tom Moore with his inspirational walk for the NHS, Joe Wicks with his fitness programme, Mark Frankland with his vast distribution of food and food parcels to the vulnerable in Dumfries and its surroundings. “The volunteers at the Summerhill Community Centre have produced almost 1000 portions of scotch broth, The Little Bakery in Dumfries has provided 800 pies and a similar number of bread rolls, Irvings Bakery in Castle Douglas is selling us hundreds of packets of biscuits at cost price, and the tab is being picked up by the Castle Douglas Development Forum,” said Frankland.
Such compassion and kindness is not just demonstrated in the lives of adults but also in children. Frank Mills, six-year-old boy from Bristol with a walking disability, walked ten metres a day for the NHS, inspired by the fundraising efforts of Captain Tom Moore. Frank Mills, who was born with a condition called spina bifida, started off with the aim of raising £99 because that was the age of Captain Tom. But, as First News went to press, young Frank had already reached nearly £300,000. The little boy, who only started walking with the help of a frame 18 months ago, walks the ten metres a day on the pavement outside his family’s home. Mum Janet said the family heard about Captain Tom’s COVID-19 fundraising walk for the NHS, and Frank just said: “I want to do that!” She said: “We grabbed hold of that magic moment… and we took his walker outside for him and chalked out 10m on the pavement, with a start and finish line, and 2m ‘You can do it!’ markers.”
As he walked with the aid of his frame, Frank shouted at one of his neighbours to sponsor him. So the family quickly put something up on Just Giving. From that moment, it took off! “We cannot believe how people are responding,” says Janet. Frank needed lots of hospital care when he was born. Now, every time the family drives past Bristol Children’s Hospital, Frank says: “That’s my hospital!” so the family are delighted to be able to give something back.
Making a difference and bringing about change in the lives of others through compassion and kindness was something Tony Campolo had a real gift for! It all began one evening in dingy café. Tony was suffering from jetlag and couldn’t sleep. So he decided at 3.00am to search for a café for something to eat and drink. He found one eventually down an alley- it was no great shakes but hunger and thirst compelled him to go in. He ordered his donut and coffee and was sitting at the counter when 8 or 9 prostitutes came in after their night’s work. They all sat down at the counter and Tony found himself uncomfortably surrounded by a group of prostitutes, recounting their night’s exploits! He was finishing up his coffee, planning to make a quick getaway, when he heard the woman next to him say to her friend, “You know what? Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m gonna be 39.” Her friend replied nastily: “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? Huh? You want me to get a cake, and sing happy birthday to you?” The first woman said, “Aw, come on, why do you have to be so mean? Why do you have to put me down? I’m just saying it’s my birthday. I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should I have a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”
Tony suddenly had an idea. Instead of running off, he sat and waited until the women left, and then he asked the guy at the counter, “Do they come in here every night?”
“Yeah,” he answered. “The one right next to me,” he asked, “she comes in every night?” “Yeah,” he said, “that’s Agnes. Yeah, she’s here every night. She’s been coming here for years. Why do you want to know?” “Because she just said that tomorrow is her birthday. What do you think? Do you think we could maybe throw a little birthday party for her right here in the diner?” A smile crept over the man’s face. “That’s great,” he says, “yeah, that’s great. I like it.”
So they made their plans. Tony said he’d be back at 2:30 the next morning with some decorations and the man, whose name was Harry, said he’d make a cake. At 2:30 the next morning, Tony returned with crepe paper and other decorations and a sign made of big pieces of cardboard that said, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!” Together, they decorated the diner from one end to the other and it looked great. Harry had gotten the word out on the streets about the party and by 3:15 it seemed that every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. At 3:30 on the dot, the door swung open and in walked Agnes and her friend. Everybody yelled together: “Happy Birthday, Agnes!” Agnes was absolutely flabbergasted. Her mouth fell open, her knees started to buckle, she almost fell over. And then the birthday cake with all the candles was carried out, and that’s when she totally lost it and began weeping. Harry, who was not used to seeing a prostitute cry, gruffly mumbled, “Blow out the candles, Agnes. Cut the cake.” So Agnes pulled herself together and blew them out. Everyone cheered and yelled, “Cut the cake, Agnes, cut the cake!”
But Agnes looked down at the cake and, without taking her eyes off it, slowly said, “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if…I mean, if I don’t…I mean, what I want to ask, is it OK if I keep the cake a little while? Is it all right if we don’t eat it right away?” Harry didn’t know what to say so he shrugged and said, “Sure, if that’s what you want to do. Keep the cake. Take it home if you want.”
Agnes got off her stool, picked up the cake, and carried it high in front of her like it was the Holy Grail. Everybody watched in stunned silence and when the door closed behind her, nobody seemed to know what to do. They look at each other. They look at Tony. So Tony got up on a chair and said, “What do you say that we pray?” And there they were in a hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon, half the prostitutes in Honolulu, at 3:30 a.m. listening to Tony Campolo as he prayed for Agnes.
Tony’s acts of compassion brought change and made a difference to Agnes, to the other ladies and to Harry! Acts of compassion speak volumes of God’s love to others and especially in lockdown make such a difference. God is calling us to turn first to him in repentance and then to reflect his compassion and mercy in our dealings with others. Carrying out small acts of compassion make a positive difference and change in the lives of others. God’s love and compassion will continue to flow. God will not change – he will remain constant yet ever seeking to effect change in us and in others. Yes, God has a dream- a dream for a world built on compassion and kindness. This dream one day will be realised, but until that day God invites us to be fulfillers of his dream! What do you say? Amen!
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Christ our light,
by the seashore
you called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow you.
Unite your disciples in your purposes
that lives will be transformed
and that your light will shine in the darkness.
Christ our light,
You break the rods of oppression
and you set your people free.
Inspire with your justice and transparency
all who lead and govern
and may your light shine
in all lands of chaos and darkness.
Christ our light,
you cause your light to shine on creation
and bring forth nourishment and goodness.
Save us from taking all your gifts for granted
and help us by our sharing of gifts and resources
to bring blessing and light to those in darkness and difficulty.
Christ our light,
you shine your rays of hope into the darkest of corners.
We ask for your penetrating rays
to touch and strengthen all who are in anguish,
and all whose burdens are heavy and hard to bear.
We think especially of all those
who are struggling during this pandemic,
uncertain about their employment,
worrying about finance,
out of their depth with home schooling,
fighting exhaustion from working long hours in hospitals,
lonely with all the restrictions.
Bring light and hope into their darkness.
Christ our light
you see clearly the needs of your people
draw near to those in sickness and in pain
hold close those who are lost through depression and despair.
We pray for those in intensive care wards
and for all undergoing surgery or facing cancer treatments.
In the quiet we remember those known to us.
Bring to troubled hearts the light and refreshment of your peace.
Christ our light,
You call and invite us to follow you,
to walk in your shoes.
We pray today for all your disciples
that they will imitate your ways of living.
and spread your light.
Christ our Light
shine your light in the United States of America.
Restore peace and calm.
Bless Joe Biden in his role as president
and give him wisdom in both domestic and foreign policy.
May he as he trusts in you
bring blessings on the people in America
and heal the divisions.
Christ our light,
shine your rays on our path
Just enough light to enable us take one step at a time
and as we go forward in faith
grant us your vision and wisdom.
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those+
who sin against us.
Do not bring us
to the time of trial+
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
Christ the Son of God gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen