From The Manse

 

Dear Friends,

The Gospel reading for the fifth Sunday of Lent comes from St John and the 11th chapter. 

We are told Jesus was making His way to the home of Martha and Mary to comfort them following the death of their brother, Lazarus. Martha heard that Jesus was coming and went to meet Him. The first words she spoke to Him were ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask’. There is in these words something of a gentle rebuke but there is also a faith that nothing could shake. ‘Lord, if you had been here…….

I wonder if some of us are asking a similar question in the circumstances in which we find ourselves? These are worrying times and there will be those who, reflecting on what they are hearing in the news these days, may well echo Martha, ‘Lord, if you had been here’.

When Jesus went to the place where Lazarus had been laid, ‘He was deeply moved’. Earlier we are told He ‘wept’. Jesus displayed His humanity and with it, His anguish and His love. In so doing, He confounded the thinking that prevailed at that time which was that God is incapable of feeling or showing emotion. And in calling Lazarus forth from the tomb, Jesus transformed the situation from one of grief to one of joy, from one of despair to one of hope.

In all the circumstances of these days God is with us. He feels for us and looks with anguish and love upon us, in the way that Jesus looked upon Martha and Mary.

I believe that when we remember this, our outlook will be transformed and we will find the strength we need to cope and to endure in the days, weeks and months to come.

 

Donald Caskie was the son of a crofter. He was born in Bowmore on Islay in 1902 and became a Church of Scotland Minister. In 1938 he was called to be Minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris. He was a vehement critic of the Nazis and denounced them from his pulpit

Caskie’s story is a story of a faith that transforms and a resolute determination in the struggle against the enemy, and to this day he is remembered for saving the lives of a great many people.

Following the German invasion of France in 1940, Caskie had to flee from Paris but before he did so, he addressed his congregation for what he knew would be the last time for a while. A true Minister of the Gospel has a very strong affection for his or her own congregation. Caskie was no exception. He wanted his people to feel strong in God, even though the world seemed to be collapsing about them. 

He chose as his Old Testament reading – Psalm 46 – ‘God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in a time of trouble’.

These words and the words that follow in that well loved Psalm encourage us to hope and trust in God, and to be comforted by His gracious presence with His people even in the worst of times.

My friends, God is not like the swallows who leave these shores in the month of September to spend the winter in South Africa! He remains with us and comes to our aid. This has been the experience of His people in every generation and I pray it will be our experience in the midst of this present distress.

Jesus expressed the anguish and love of God to grieving sisters and in so doing He showed that God’s heart is one that beats with compassion and concern.

Donald Caskie, drawing strength from God in challenging circumstances, is an example of the tremendous height to which the human spirit can soar.

Truly, God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in a time of trouble’.

Amen

Let us Pray

God of love,

We thank You that You are always ready to hear us when we speak to You.

Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected by coronavirus, and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know Your protection and be sustained by our gratitude for the great work they do.

God of compassion,

In this time of uncertainty and distress, be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.

In their loneliness, be their consolation;

In their anxiety be their hope;

And in their darkness be their light.

God of love,

We pray for world leaders and for our own leaders who are guiding our nation at this time. Restore to health those who are sick.

Give them insight and wisdom and the physical strength to discharge their duty for the good of all.

God of compassion,

We pray for our homes and families,

For our young people and for the neighbourhoods in which we live.

Help us to put our trust in You, the One who is our refuge and our strength and a source of help in a time of trouble.

These things we ask and pray in the Name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who taught us when we pray to say;

‘Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy Kingdom come.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the Kingdom, and the power,

And the glory, for ever.

Amen.