As is our custom, our worship time this morning began with communion. We read John 12:37-50, where we hear about faith and unbelief. The Jews wanted a sign, something special for them, yet there had been so many ‘signs’ that Jesus was God. It wasn’t lack of evidence that prevented their belief but a lack of will to believe. Others did believe but were scared of peer pressure. They preferred the praise of their friends to the praise from God.
The theme of the main address was ‘Approach God Confidently’ [1 John 5:13-17]. Coming to God in prayer is something we often find difficulty with - we may focus more on the praying than on God. This is like concentrating on the windscreen rather than on the road ahead. Prayer is just the vehicle- we need to focus on God. The message today advised us that believing the Gospel empowers us to approach God confidently because this passage tells us that we can know that we have eternal life [v13]. Knowing the Scriptures strengthens our faith and solidifies our salvation. We can also know that we have access to God [v14-15] through prayer. Prayer is not bending God to our will but responding to God’s will for us and others; even Jesus prayed to his Father ‘not my will, but yours, be done!’ We can also know that our sins are forgiven [v16-17]. Believing the gospel leads us to pray for all sinners, that is, ourselves and those around. All sin is a violation of God’s holy righteousness, there are no lesser sins; and all sin is dealt with by Jesus. Live in the light of your eternal life, believing that Jesus is God and died for you.
Before the close of the service the 3-5 year Sunday school class told us about what they had been learning. They have been working on a series of lessons based on a Catechism. A catechism is simply a list of questions and answers that help us learn important biblical truths in a short memorable form. A catechism lays the foundation for the children’s belief and trust in God. This group – helped by their teacher, Shiri – told us that God made us and all things for his own glory and that we can glorify God by loving him and doing what he commands, because he made us and cares for us. They did well and were confident in their answers – even the youngest.
News from St James’
Despite the dreadful weather, our congregation was scarcely depleted and were in good form! The 10.30 service was conducted by Rev Lizzie Campbell, who began by reminding the folks of our forthcoming events on Saturday, 1st February: the ever-popular Book Browse from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm, and later from 7.00 onwards the Burns Supper. The raffle taken during the supper will be raising funds for the HIV Aids programme in our linked diocese of Swaziland.
Lay Reader, Anne Geldart, preached on the second lesson, 1 Corinthians, where St Paul was dealing with the problem of internal squabbling within the tiny congregation at Corinth – this small family of God among the Godless. She reminded us of the situation that Paul faced: Corinth was a large city – bigger than Aberdeen – and the congregation came from all walks of life. They had to learn to work together and accept that the name of the minister was not important, as they were all baptised in the name of Jesus. Anne described the economic and social situation in Corinth where the Temple of Aphrodite held 2000 prostitutes and where it was considered an act of worship to have intercourse with them – hence the expression that ‘Not every man can afford a visit to Corinth’. In English the very word ‘Corinthian’ came to describe the loose-living of the Regency bucks.
The little congregation was very mixed – sailors, philosophers, slaves and free, middle-class women, harlots – a truly inclusive church. The Church of God which is at Corinth – the family of God among the Godless.
A family of grown-ups who behaved like children. Paul gave them a good telling-off and reminded them they are all fellow-workers in God’s field, and reminds them of the basic message about the Cross, which is foolishness to those who are perishing, but the power of God to those who are being saved.
And this applies to our own congregation in many ways: we are from all walks of life, all parts of the United Kingdom and from further afield. Bound together to listen to the word and to live according to the word. All prepared to work together – nobody claiming to be more important than anyone else, everybody just doing their bit.
She concluded with her own, personal, message: we are part of the great host of witnesses, a speck in the great cloud of souls that make up the host of witnesses. There are those who have gone before us, those who share this life with us now, and those yet to be born. God’s people. We who are being saved through the power of the cross. We who today represent the family of God among the godless.
Focus on Fetteresso
On a very wintry morning with the wind howling outside the congregation gathered inside Fetteresso church, greeting each other with warm smiles, whilst shaking off the rain.
Everyone, young and old was made to feel welcome. Church notices scrolled on the overhead screens: the world day of prayer is to be held on Friday 7th of March; the UCB Word for Today booklets are available; there is Fair Trade information among other notices.
The first part of the service was devoted to the children. They happily went forward to the platform beside the minister Rev. Fyfe Blair and Matt Sinar the youth worker to demonstrate the actions to the lively Praise songs. Every one joined in. It’s a happy church. The children’s address was all about the choices we make and that they have consequences.
In the sermon, Fyfe tacked the thorny issue of Paul the Apostle telling Timothy: to instruct the women of his church to be quiet and not wear flashy clothes. This very personnel letter from Paul to young inexperienced Timothy was put into context by explaining the cultural background of Ephesus, with its huge temple Artemis, paying homage to Greek goddesses. It’s a distortion of Gods natural order, which is what Paul was addressing here. There is great dignity in living by Gods codes .In this part of the letter, he was also stressing that the men be leaders and to raise their arms in Prayer. The instruction of quietness, well that’s the way we learn Gods way best.