Sunday Service 10th September
Call to worship
Hymn 624: In Christ there is no east or west
Time for all
Hymn 619: Spirit of the living God
Reading Numbers 17: 1-11 Gil
Hymn 716: Come and find the quiet centre
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 719: The one who longs to make us whole
(Tune: O Little town of Bethlehem?)
Welcome to our reflection for 10th September.
In our reading today we have a legal dispute. Land was inherited to the males of the family. But if a man died leaving only daughters, then the land went not to his direct descendants, his daughters, but to his brothers or nephews.
This is a ruling to change that.
But behind it is a longing to have a place we can call home.
And that is what we will be looking at today after Gil gives us our prayer and reading for 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
Today’s Bible reading is from the Old Testament section of the Bible, The Book of Numbers, Chapter 27, and verses 1 to 11.
The Israelites had been travelling in the desert for about forty years. Now they were about to enter their Promised Land, and each family was to be given a share of the land. At that time, only men could inherit property, so when their father died a family of five sisters would become destitute.
This passage has a lot of names in it, and these names are not familiar to most of us, so please forgive me if you think that I am mis-pronouncing anything.
So let us read from Numbers, Chapter 27, and verses 1 to 11. I am reading this from the Good News Translation of the Bible.
1 Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah were the daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, son of Joseph.
2 They went and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and the whole community at the entrance of the Tent of the Lord's presence and said,
3 "Our father died in the wilderness without leaving any sons. He was not among the followers of Korah, who rebelled against the Lord; he died because of his own sin.
4 Just because he had no sons, why should our father's name disappear from Israel? Give us property among our father's relatives."
5 Moses presented their case to the Lord,
6 and the Lord said to him,
7 "What the daughters of Zelophehad request is right; give them property among their father's relatives. Let his inheritance pass on to them.
8 Tell the people of Israel that whenever a man dies without leaving a son, his daughter is to inherit his property.
9 If he has no daughter, his brothers are to inherit it.
10 If he has no brothers, his father's brothers are to inherit it.
11 If he has no brothers or uncles, then his nearest relative is to inherit it and hold it as his own property. The people of Israel are to observe this as a legal requirement, just as I, the Lord, have commanded you."
Now let us approach God in prayer. Let us all pray.
Creator God, you made us, and you know that our understanding is limited by our human experiences. Your power and abilities are far beyond anything that we can imagine, but through Jesus you have shown that you love and care for all of us, and that you treat us as your children.
Jesus gave us an example of how we should live our lives, but we confess that we find it hard to live in the ways that he taught. You want each of us to be the best that we can be, and you give us many opportunities to do what is right, but too often we go our own way and make a mess of things.
Father, forgive us for all the times when we have given-in to our anger or frustration, and have spoken harshly, or behaved badly towards others.
Forgive us also for our thoughtlessness, carelessness, and selfish behaviour, when we have not given any thought to the effect of our actions on other people, or on our world.
Lord, we ask that your Spirit will help us to overcome our anger and frustration, and may we always consider the possible effects of our behaviour.
Heavenly Father, you have given us so much that we can never adequately thank you. You have given us life itself, a place to live, and everything necessary to sustain life. We thank you for all of these things, and we thank you too for all the good people who try to make this world a better place; all whose daily work is to help and care for others, and also all who look after family members or friends.
We thank you too for all the people through the ages who have had the courage to challenge established customs and practices, in order to make things better for others. We think particularly of people like the five sisters, who had the courage to ask the leaders of the Israelites to change the inheritance laws to make them fairer to women. Their action has made life better for many thousands, or perhaps millions, of women throughout the world.
Lord, we pray for all who are trying to help others. May they have the strength and perseverance that they need.
Lord, we all know of people who are finding things difficult. May your Spirit bring comfort to all who are in need; those who have been bereaved, those who are ill, sad, worried, lonely, depressed, or suffering in any way. May they be comforted and upheld by your presence with them. Support and encourage all who are caring for them.
Lastly, we pray for ourselves. We need your help and guidance as we try once more to follow in the ways that Jesus taught. May we do what we can to further your kingdom, and to be a blessing for other people.
We offer our prayer in the name of Jesus, and now I invite you to join in the prayer that Jesus taught his followers:
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, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Last week the church decanted to Menstrie just down the road to share a joint communion.
This was part of a plan to help make the eventual linkage, between our church in Alva with the church in Menstrie, easier. The theory being that if we get to know each other better, get to see them as friends rather than competitors, then the linkage, when it happens, will be a lot easier.
Though the service went fine it did leave some concerns.
There was a worry that if we have joint services like this a lot, and that they go well, then the Presbytery may look at this and wonder,
‘if the two churches are getting on so well, then why are we bothering to keep two church buildings open’?
Suddenly instead of the two churches moving to greater collaboration, they are now in competition against each other.
I know this has been raised because I am the one who has been raising it.
This fits in with our reading today.
Because they both force us to face a truth.
We are looking for a place to call home.
In the girls case it was a physical home.
They had spent 40 years travelling through the wilderness and now was the time for allocating the land where the people would stay once they entered the Promised Land.
But the land was being allocated to the male heads...to then be allocated to the individual families.
The father of these women had died, so where were they to get their land from?
They were dependant on uncles or cousins who would be reluctant to give them land over the needs of their own families.
The women wanted a place to call their own, a place that would be safe for them, a sanctuary where they could build their life from, where they could find peace to grow.
And that is the same need that church members are facing throughout the Church of Scotland, and in every other denomination as well as we contract.
Church buildings are closing throughout Scotland, nearly a quarter of the church buildings should be closed in the next five years.
That’s a lot of disruption, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of pain and grieving.
Because, in the eyes of many, these are not just buildings, these are spiritual homes; a place people call their own, a place people feel is safe for them, a sanctuary where they can build their life from, where they can find peace to grow.
What should we do with those feelings when we feel our place is threatened?
And these feelings really do run deep.
A wee while back I did the internment of ashes for a John Brown.
Not many of you will know who he is.
That is because for most of his life he didn’t live in Alva.
He was born here, way back in 1946; this was his home for the first 20 years of his life.
Then he moved to South Africa because the work was better there, then he moved to Canada 20 years later because the work was better there.
In his 50’s he met Kaye and inherited children and grandchildren.
On Boxing Day last year he died aged 76.
Here’s the thing.
He didn’t want his ashes buried in Canada near his inherited family,
or in South Africa where he made his career,
he wanted his ashes buried in the place near the streets that he played in, where he felt was home.
We have an instinct to find a home.
And when that is threatened, like the women in the Bible faced, then we will do anything to find that security,
they took on a completely patriarchal society that would make the Taliban look like a Sunday School Picnic.
John was willing to ensure his ashes travelled thousands of miles to find that resting place.
And church members.
Well Church members are as human as anyone.
When I first came to Alva I had known of the union between the Eidie Church and St Serf’s that made Alva Parish Church.
When St Serf’s was closed down and the two churches were then in one church building they started off as separate congregations that met in one building.
When they finally united into one community that caused so much hurt in so many people.
A lot of that was due to the way the two churches were forced together by Presbytery. People can still remember individuals from Presbytery that basically railroaded the two churches together.
Those meetings were over 40 years ago, yet the hurt is so deep that they can still remember those meetings.
And many responded with anger and vitriol.
I would visit many from both those original church communities that wouldn’t enter the church building because they felt so much hurt.
The thing is, that anger, though justified in many ways, didn’t help the church, and it certainly didn’t help the individuals.
And now the threat has returned.
We are going to react to that threat one way or another.
So how should we respond to that underlying threat that is affecting every church just now?
And if anger and feelings of injustice are not the way to go forward, then what is the way to go forward.
I would suggest that the way to go forward is to follow the way of the daughters of Zelophehad.
If they wanted a place to call home, then they needed to create a place that was worthy to call home.
God has put this instinct in us.
There is within us, a need to find a place of refuge, a place of rest.
A place we can leave from so that we can seek our adventures, it is not a place to hide in, but a place that gives us the security that we can go forward from.
It gives us foundations we can build upon,
it gives us an anchor to secure us in the storms,
but it also gives us the security we need that we can explore from, reach out to see the rest of the world,
because we know that no matter how scary the world gets,
in the end it is the place we can return to and find safety.
Here’s the thing, in the end that home is not a building of stone or mortar, that home is people.
John Brown, when he finally returned home,
did not return to his house and his street,
he returned to where his parents where.
So this is our challenge.
We know this building is under threat, because all church buildings are under threat.
And if we want we can get angry about that, very angry...if we want.
Or, if we want, we can create a spiritual home here that is worthy of being called home.
But that means ever building relationships of meaning; relationships with God, relationships with others.
If we do that that we will find we have a place to call our own,
a place that is safe for us to explore our faith and our life,
a sanctuary where we can find shelter from the storms of life when they get too hard for us,
a place where we can not only find shelter but where we have the peace to grow.
If we want a place to call home, then we need to create a place that is worthy to call home.
Let us pray
Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, Tirzah
We know we will have forgotten their names before we even leave the church, but they still have much to teach us.
They were women who knew their vulnerability, but instead of pretending that things would be fine and just hoping that things would sort themselves out,
instead of lashing out in anger at their injustice,
they stepped into the power that they had.
Leaving the place assigned them they entered the arena.
Armed with truth they confronted the law,
pleaded their case,
and achieved change for themselves and for the women who followed.
Not only did they confront power with knowledge and truth
they also held space for the many minorities of the future.
Victory is hollow, short-lived,
unless it leads to lasting change.
And now we face our own future with all its uncertainties and unknowns.
We too are faced with leaders who seem to be above us and do not understand what we face, and it does seem at times as if they seem unconcerned at our plight.
We too can face this future just hoping someone else will sort it out, or be angry at the injustice and rant and rave.
Or we can follow their example.
We can take on what responsibility we can to make a difference where we are.
We can use our influence with others to make a difference in the lives of those around us,
creating bonds of love and hope,
strengthening others in your name,
finding ways to touch the souls of our friends and neighbours for good.
You call us to be courageous.
You call us to transform vulnerability into power.
You called to model Your Son and create not just a home, but a kingdom of love.
May we rise to the challenge Your Son gave us.