(JESUS PRAYED AND SAID)-THIS IS ETERNAL LIFE: THAT THEY MAY KNOW YOU, THE ONLY TRUE GOD, AND JESUS CHRIST, WHOM YOU SENT… MY PRAYER IS NOT THAT YOU TAKE THEM OUT OF THE WORLD BUT THAT YOU PROTECT THEM FROM THE EVIL ONE.(John 17: 3, 15)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WEB-WORSHIP.
OPENING HYMN (CH-65) – LORD, FROM THE DEPTHS TO THEE I CRIED. My voice, Lord, do Thou hear: unto my supplications’ voice give an attentive ear.
Lord, who shall stand, if Thou, O Lord, shouldest mark iniquity? But yet with Thee forgiveness is, that feared Thou mayest be.
I wait for God, my soul doth wait, my hope is in His Word. More than they that for morning watch, my soul waits for the Lord;
Redemption also plenteous is ever found with Him. And from all his iniquities He Israel shall redeem.
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, The God whom we adore, be glory, as it was, and is, and shall be evermore. Amen.
LET US PRAY:
ALL-SEEING AND ALL-KNOWING GOD, You call us through Christ to go out into the world, to share our faith and show Your love, to make known His Name, and make real His presence. Forgive us that so often we come to You but fail to go for You; so easily we turn in on ourselves and to the evil, and away from You and each other. Forgive us that having received so much we give so little. Forgive us for so often deceiving ourselves and trying to deceive You – refusing to admit or accept our mistakes. Forgive us for the excuses we make for not following You and for holding grudges and being unable to forgive those who have sinned against us. Forgive us for pretending to be better than we really are, and not always following Your way of love. Renew us now through Your Spirit. Restore us through the love of Christ. Remake us in Your likeness, and assure us of Your forgiveness. Help us to accept the freedom Your love brings, and help us to come to You, just as we are, and find true forgiveness, deliverance from evil, and strength to live as Your people with each other, to the glory of Your Name. Give us Your Word, and bless our worship, through Jesus Christ Your Son, and our Saviour. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING-ISAIAH 43:24-27; EXODUS 20: 5-6
… YOU HAVE BURDENED ME WITH YOUR SINS AND WEARIED ME WITH YOUR OFFENCES. I, EVEN I, AM HE WHO BLOTS OUT YOUR TRANSGRESSIONS, FOR MY OWN SAKE, AND REMEMBERS YOUR SINS NO MORE. REVIEW THE PAST FOR ME, LET US ARGUE THE MATTER TOGETHER; STATE THE CASE FOR YOUR INNOCENCE.YOUR FIRST FATHER SINNED; YOUR SPOKESMEN REBELLED AGAINST ME … FOR I, THE LORD YOUR GOD, AM A JEALOUS GOD, PUNISHING THE CHILDREN FOR THE SIN OF THE FATHERS TO THE THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATION OF THOSE WHO HATE ME, BUT SHOWING LOVE TO A THOUSAND GENERATIONS OF THOSE WHO LOVE ME AND KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – MATTHEW 6: 12-13.
FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE ALSO HAVE FORGIVEN OUR DEBTORS. AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE.
I HAVE HIDDEN YOUR WORD IN MY HEART THAT I MIGHT NOT SIN AGAINST YOU (Psalm 119: 11). Long before the Saviour came, the Psalmist knew that God’s Word offers us protection against sin, enabling us to take up position at the side of God the Father in the battle against Evil. But people who think that God’s Grace allows us to continue to sin are mistaken. This is a very dangerous PATH. So many people pray for forgiveness without receiving it. They want to buy their forgiveness, not discovering that Jesus already paid our full debt on the Cross, and that faithful life in that Grace is sufficient for us. But how is that Forgiveness working in lives so much exposed to Evil?
FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS … The need to be forgiven for our sins must be one of the greatest and most urgent needs in everyone’s life. We all have guilt feelings, and try to atone for our sins in some way. At a visit to a Psychiatric Hospital once a doctor told me that he could discharge half of his patients if only they would accept that their sins had been forgiven. Shocking! Many people bear a burden of guilt, being depressed by genuine guilt, debts they feel that cannot be paid. They will remain unfulfilled for ever if their attitude remains blocked in the continuous condemnation of the self or of others. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus wants to share His perspective with us. He does this with the words –US- and –AS WE. I must confess that I have always found the US-theme in this specific prayer the most difficult to understand. My first impression has always been that debt is a very private matter. We cannot plead before God for other people’s debt, and neither can they take the blame for our debt. How many parents have not wished that they could suffer for their children’s mistakes. But we should remember that Jesus gave this prayer in a specific context. He was speaking out against the Pharisees and their I-centred prayers. Jesus is set against their type of prayer-attitude: – A concern for their own guilt only; – As long as their own guilt is dealt with, they are satisfied; – As long as their own slate is clean, they are at peace with the world; – They feel nothing for others who are equally bound by guilt; – They pray for forgiveness only for the sake of their own conscience, not for the sake of the Father and His Kingdom with all its citizens. Jesus teaches us to pray unselfishly when we pray for forgiveness, because our sins make our sisters and brothers just as unhappy as they make us. With these words we can go to God with our concern for our sins, searching our hearts in private to see whether we are contributing to that guilt and debt in which we have been involved. But first we have to make OUR need known to God, being prepared to assume responsibility for my fellow believer’s guilt as far as I am able to. Much is said about Collective Guilt. Christians, we think of sin in personal terms, but the collectiveness of guilt implies the willingness to play a part in repairing the damage we have done as a Church. Jesus teaches us: – to open our hearts to others; – to be aware of other people’s sins and to lay them before God; and – to take responsibility, as part of a group, for that sin’s reparation.
AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS. What Jesus meant here is that we should look at our Father and do our utmost to do what He does, because God knows how hard we are trying (or not trying!) to forgive the guilts of others. With this petition we are closing our account and saying: – Dear Father God, my inability to forgive others is part of my debt. But I accept that it remains part of my responsibility, that Your assurance of my forgiveness is inseparable from Your command to forgive all those who have sinned against me. Very hard, isn’t it ?! Many people cannot accept forgiveness because they cannot forgive. They think that The Heavenly Father judges them as they judge others. Because they find it hard to forgive others, they think that God will find it equally hard to forgive them. You know, do you, the well-known saying, used even here in Skye: – “I forgive, but not forget!” Unfortunately all these Christians forget that the Lord, who taught us this Prayer, was crucified; He took our inability to forgive upon Himself, and He, who rose again in victory, takes our hand and teaches us to forgive. We should never forget that!
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION … What exactly is temptation? When was the last time you were tempted? How do You deal with temptation? Unfortunately we can so easily be superficial about it. We connect temptation with a wandering eye or a hand doing a misdeed, facing the following commandments: – Do not kill! – Do not commit adultery! – Do not steal! – Do not bear false witness against your neighbour! But deep in our hearts we know that it is not that easy to pin down and overcome temptation. It is not always a case of a hand that can be cut off or an eye that can be plucked out. To learn exactly how difficult it is, we must read what the Bible says about it. Jesus came face to face with the Tempter Himself. In the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 4, we learn about temptation that appeals to our desire to assert ourselves, to be the “boss”, to give in to the desires of body and spirit. We are inclined to take this petition of the Lord’s Prayer too lightly. Once again, we tend to pray it without understanding what we are asking for. In our minds, it is simply the end of a prayer. But Jesus teaches it differently – to Him it is the stamp of sincerity with which there is guarantee that this is the prayer of an honest sinner. In any case, it is not Jesus’ prayer. He is telling us what and how to pray. It is for us who have experienced the wonder of God’s forgiveness to confess again: – Dear Father, we are sinners, and we fear ourselves. We have a problem with temptation! John Calvin states: – Temptations, impulses to sin, tear us away from God, and this can happen in so many ways. It often begins with the innocent, seemingly good things on this earth; when the gifts of life become more important than the Giver. (John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion – Geneva, 1536. Book Second: – Of the knowledge of the Redeemer in Christ, as first manifested under the Law, and thereafter to us under the Gospel. Chapter 7: – Salvation through Jesus Christ. -Translated by Henry Beveridge).
BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL. Temptation is the possibility of being torn away from God. There are numerous dangers that threaten us. The TEMPTER (Evil in the biblical language) leans heavily on our hearts when he tries to send a specific temptation across our life-path. As with Jesus in the desert, he presents us with an attractive offer to prove ourselves, by working harder to get a highly ranked position, or having an affair, or material things, or whatever. He knows exactly what moves us most. And he plays with us. I must confess, that there was a time in my ministry when I thought of climbing the church-hierarchy. Then, already in my late thirties, God gave it to me, only for me to realise after a time that church-leadership is not my type of ministry, so I returned to the preaching of the Word. Just remembering it, makes me ashamed over and over again. We have to be constantly on our guard against temptation. We must not talk lightly about temptation, because that puts us on a good footing with the Tempter, and most of all, we are overestimating our ability to say “NO” to Evil. Anything can become a temptation to us – higher respect, burning passions, as well as the good things in life. Literally anything can come between us and our Heavenly Father, and spoil our relationship with Him.
We must do everything in our power to resist evil. In the Epistle of James 4: 7-8 we receive this advice: – Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Three instructions must be emphasised here: – SUBMIT, RESIST, and COME. We must not play with temptation. To resist the Evil one is not enough. Submission to God’s will is the only positive way to resist temptation, and to be assured of a safe return to the Father. In the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, Jesus defeated the devil with the Scripture; as Paul tells us: – TAKE UP THE SHIELD OF FAITH …THE HELMET OF SALVATION AND THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD, and you will be safe from the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16-17). AMEN.
LET US PRAY:
GRACIOUS AND RIGHTEOUS HEAVENLY FATHER, we praise You for Your immeasurable love, always watching over us, constantly reaching out to bless, daily by our side. You are a God full of mercy, always ready to forgive, always prepared to give us deliverance from the evil one when tempted, and eager to wipe the slate clean and start again with us, despite our stubbornness, not always forgiving each other. You are all-loving and all-powerful – reaching out Your hand to bless, to reward faithfulness, to vindicate truth. Help us to recognise the destructive consequences of our sinfulness, to see our faults and to confess them honestly to You. To discover the joy that comes from being at one with You, and to look forward to that day when Your will shall be done, and Your Kingdom come. Forgive us for the things we should have done, but have left undone – the acts of kindness we never found time for, the thoughtful words never spoken, the message of encouragement or comfort never sent, the helpful deed never attempted. Forgive us for our failure to serve You as we promised – the prayers we never offered, the sacrifices we never made, the faith we never had, the commitment we never gave. Forgive us for forgetting each other here, for forgetting those around us, and for so often forgetting You. Gracious Father God, save us from being a people of unfulfilled intentions, and enable us to turn our good intentions into good deeds. Help us to learn from Jesus who laid down His life for others, and, in growing closer to Him, may our lives speak not of ourselves, but of You. Be with our over-tested world in this pandemic; heal, help, and comfort all those who are in any need. Bless Your Christian Church Universal in all its denominations; our Church of Scotland in all its presbyteries and congregations. Be with our parish here in this Island and hear our prayers for loved ones and all those whom we now name quietly in our hearts … through Jesus Christ our Lord.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH-482) – YIELD NOT TO TEMPTATION, for yielding is sin; each victory will help you some other to win; fight manfully onward; dark passions subdue; look ever to Jesus, He will carry you through.
CHORUS: – Ask the Saviour to help you, comfort, strengthen, and keep you; He is willing to aid you; He will carry you through.
Shun evil companions; bad language disdain; God’s Name hold in reverence, nor take it in vain; be thoughtful and earnest, kind-hearted and true; look ever to Jesus, He will carry you through. + CHORUS
To him that o’ercometh God giveth a crown; through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down; He who is our Saviour our strength will renew; look ever to Jesus, He will carry you through. +CHORUS
MAY THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL. (2 Corinthians 13: 14)
Sandor, your Minister.
Please see the News and Intimations page for information about the church re-opening for Sunday morning worship from 28 March 2021 (Palm Sunday)