Sunday Sermon 9th July
A wise heart and a generous heart
Call to worship
Hymn 250: Sent by the Lord am I
Time for all
Hymn 523: Hands to work and feet to run
Reading: Genesis 24: 10-21 Amanda
Hymn 247: Moved by the Gospel
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 259: Beauty for brokenness
Welcome to our reflection for 9th of July.
Today is a wonderfully romantic passage.
A slave is sent out to find a true love for his master’s son.
But it also has a message for us about our own heart, how is it today?
We will reflect on that after Amanda leads us in our prayer and reading today.
Remember, if you are struggling and you would like our prayer group to pray for you then please contact us at revjimalvakirk@gmail .com
If you go into the vestry of Menstrie parish church there are a series of pictures on the wall. They are pictures of all the previous ministers that they have had over the years.
Ministers are the ones that are remembered.
There is a book that is created about every ten years called the Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae (excuse my Latin pronunciation). It has a list of all the current churches and the ministers that have been in those churches since the last edition.
So in this one it tells me that in 1968 there was only one Church of Scotland in Alva led by Albert Gardiner, who as succeeded by Hutton Steel in 1982, who was succeeded by Ernest Sangster in 1990 who was succeeded by myself in 1997.
Ministers are remembered.
There are no pictures in Menstrie parish church vestry of the session clerks, or the gardeners, the people who ran the teas and coffees after the church.
In this book there are no records of the roll keeper, the church officers, the people who cleaned the church, the organists.
Only the ministers and their families are named.
It is as if the heroes of the church are the ministers.
But in truth the ministers are only one person in a community of people who reflect God in their area.
It is often the person who is unnamed in these books that are the link between people in the area and God;
the volunteer that gives of their time in a youth organisation during the week that inspires a young boy or a young girl to achieve wonders,
the visitor that sees an old couple during the week that ensures that they can stay together at home in the twilight of their years,
the neighbour that says a few words of encouragement as their put out their neighbours bin that makes a difference for the better.
This passage reminds me that often it is the unnamed that are the heroes of the story.
For this story revolves round a servant of Abraham who is never named in the whole passage. The only thing we are told about him is that he is the oldest servant of Abraham. So we know that he has been with Abraham and Sarah for a long time.
He has seen the good and the bad in them.
He has seen the unspeakable grief of not having children,
he has seen the unbelievable joy of a child being born,
he has seen the jealously of Sarah and the indecision of Abraham as they cast out Hagar and Ishmael to die in the dessert.
The good, the bad, the ugly...he has seen it all.
He probably knows them better than they know themselves.
And he sees their problem.
Isaac, their son has no wife.
This son Isaac, at a young age, was bound and nearly sacrificed by his father Abraham.
Abraham saw this as an act of trust in God, an act of faith.
We are never told how Isaac saw this.
We know from the Bible that he is never as courageous and vibrant as his father.
I wonder if that single act broke Isaac psychologically in a way that was never faced by the family.
In Genesis 31, Jacob, Isaac’s son, describes God like this, he ‘was the God of Abraham, the fear of Isaac..’.
Why isn’t Isaac sent off to find a wife?
Because Isaac wouldn’t have the courage to push himself.
Isaac would be too easily manipulated, too easily taken advantage of.
So Abraham sends a servant.
So there is this servant and he hasn’t a clue.
So he prays to God, and this is really useful to know.
The servant has thought about his problem.
What characteristics would a good wife for Isaac need?
Good looking? Strong willed? Able to handle money?
Someone easily bossed about?
Someone who will never question what Isaac commands?
Here’s his conclusion.
The person that Isaac needs will be a woman who sees a problem quickly, and deals with it. What’s more, they need to be able to deal with it with a warm and generous heart.
Isaac needs all of these.
If the wife couldn’t see the problem quickly that wouldn’t help Isaac, by the time the problem has hit them it would be too late.
If the wife could see the problem but couldn’t be bothered dealing with it herself then they would be struggling and probably quickly get into a blame culture within the family of accusing each other of letting the family down.
And if the wife didn’t deal with it all with a warm and generous heart then the atmosphere in the home would be full of bitterness and anger.
The person that Isaac needed would be a woman who sees a problem quickly, and deals with it. What’s more, she would have to deal with these problems with a warm and generous heart.
And that is who the servant prays for.
And his time at the well is the way he seeks to find this potential wife.
He needs water; hopefully someone will come along and see that not only does the servant need water, that his camels also need water, and so offer to water the camels.
For watering the camels is easier said than done.
This servant has ten camels. Each camel when it is thirsty can drink 30 gallons of water.
So if Rebecca offers to water all the camels until they had all they want then that is 300 gallons of water she is lifting.
I think there is a message to us about prayer here.
Before we pray to God maybe we should think hard about what we really need, and then pray for that.
This servant prayed for what he really needed, and God answered that prayer.
How often do we pray unprepared?
Can you imagine an athlete that started a marathon without training beforehand?
Can you imagine a surgeon starting to operate without researching the needs of the patient?
Can you imagine a chief deciding to cook for a restaurant one night and not checking to see if they have all the ingredients already before cooking?
Yet how often do we just pray.
We don’t sit down and consider who we pray for, why we are praying for them, what we want to pray for those people.
Maybe our prayer life would be more fulfilling, more constructive, if beforehand we just sat and reflected on why we are praying, and what we want to pray for.
So that is one message from this passage.
How do we prepare for prayer?
And the second message is; what state is our heart in?
Rebecca is faced with a stranger at a well.
The response of her heart will change her future, the future of Isaac, and through that, literally, the future of the world.
She could have had a heart of fear.
This is just a stranger, we don’t talk to strangers, we walk away from them.
What if this stranger was a psychopath, what if this stranger was a conman, what if this stranger had evil on his mind?
She could have had a heart of greed.
This stranger has a need, and I have the solution to that need, and for a price that is to my advantage I will give him what he needs. In this heart the stranger is a commodity to take advantage of. Other people are only useful for what they can do for us, what they can give us.
She could have had a heart of indifference.
There is a stranger in our midst. So what; it isn’t my problem, I have enough problems in my own life to deal with. I won’t do them any harm, but I won’t do them any good.
If they die of thirst then that isn’t my problem, I didn’t do anything deliberately to do them any harm.
If Rebecca had a heart that was either full of greed, or fear, of indifference then this story would have turned out very differently.
The only reason this story has a happy ending is that Rebecca had a generous heart.
The world needs us to have generous hearts.
I find nothing as inspiring as a generous heart.
I see it in those that drop off food for the larder, every time I see someone giving something for the larder it is inspiring,
it gives me hope, it reminds me that there is good in the world.
I see it in the visits that so many of you make to others.
Every time I visit someone and they tell me about a neighbour who pops in regularly to see them, or a church elder that drops off food, or a neighbour who puts out the rubbish bins, or who just talks with them,
it gives me hope, because it reminds me that community is still out there.
I see it when someone falls in the street and they are surrounded by people offering help,
it gives me hope, because it reminds me that most people have a good heart.
The world needs its unnamed heroes.
Those people, who are wise enough to know what to pray for, so see wonderfully answered prayer, and find their faith growing through those answered prayers.
And those people who have generous open hearts, for they are the ones that give us hope that God is still working in this world for good.
Let us be a people of prayer, let us be a people of generous hearts.
Let us pray
You have a wonderful knack of surprising us, coming to our aid when we least expect it.
Rebecca gave a simple offer of water
an act of hospitality, yes,
maybe one we would expect any good person to do
and yet this was the sign of something so much more. This was a sign of hope, a sign of promise, a sign that You were involved and things would turn out right.
And when we look back on our lives we find that You surprise us,
seeing the chance encounters that became life-long companions,
a simple meeting, and invitation of friendship offered, the invitation accepted that brings a new opportunity of friendship.
Sometimes we make the reluctant decision to help someone and then suddenly realise that this has become a life-changing moment for them, maybe for us.
We have felt this in our own church when a simple conversation led to nurses and teachers going off to South Africa to help.
When scout leaders went off to Africa to dig pipes supplying clean water to communities.
We will never know the good that was done by the small groups that supported and helped others in the No 140 shop, or those that are helped by the support they received at the food larder. But we do know that none of it would have happened without the commitment of time and effort of the supporters and volunteers.
From small moments, small decisions, small offers of grace,
flow rivers of experience, shaping our lives, and bringing us closer to you.
As we trust and rejoice in the good that is done, may we be encouraged to let our heart reflect more of your heart, to be open and generous to those in need.
This we ask in Jesus name.