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Sunday Service 12th May




Call to worship

Hymn 552: The church is wherever


Talk for all   Margaret


Hymn 366: Come into the streets with me 


Reading: Acts 1: 15-26



Hymn 506: All I once held dear





Hymn 550: As the deer pants for the water 




Welcome to our meditation for 12th May.

The thing about crisis is this...we think that we will rise to the crisis,

we will think up new ways forward and grow and expand,

but often that is not the case often the truth is that we often retreat to the past, to a time we think was safer, easier.

And that may be the case in our reading today.

But is that a bad thing?


We will reflect on that after our reading and prayer for today.












I have a very soft spot for the film the Poseidon Adventure.

It was one of the first disaster movies, set on a luxury liner called the Poseidon, which gets hit by a freak wave and it turned over.

It is slowly sinking and the survivors have to find a way to safety.

Gene Hackman plays a priest who is the hero of the story, who guides the survivors to the keel of the ship which is now the only part of the ship above sea level, in the hope that rescuers are trying to create a hole in the keel where the survivors can escape before the ship sinks.


I have a soft spot for this film for two reasons.

The one is that one of my most favourite memories of my dad is watching the film with him.

Now he designed and built ships that big, and he spent the whole film going, ‘That wouldn’t be there, they wouldn’t be able to do that.’

He completely ruined the film because he couldn’t suspend his imagination.

I find that funny because now-a-days any time there is a funeral scene or a wedding scene in a film I spend my time cringing...going, ‘That would never happen.’


The other reason I have a soft spot for this film is that it does show different realities for us in crisis.

There are those that want to do nothing, just stay where they are, because they don’t want to take any risks, they don’t want to make things worse...they drown in the first 15 minutes.

Then there are those that panic and need to do something, but it isn’t well thought out, they die later on in the film when they find themselves destroyed by their own            mis-planning, trapped in a part of the boat that is sinking.

And finally there is the group led by the handsome, charismatic religious leader who are led to safety by thinking outside the box and trusting his radical thinking of trying to get to as close to the surface of the water as they can get.


I have never worked out why I like that film so much.


So what does today’s passage tell us about crisis.


If truth be told, it’s a mixed message.

Part of it tells us that even religious people, have a tendency to retreat to the past when we are in crisis.


The disciples are at a time between.

The major crisis has happened, Jesus has died, they have recovered from that and some have seen Jesus risen. They know that this crisis is not the end of things.

But they still don’t know the way forward.

That will come with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which we will look at next week.


But until then the disciples are stuck at the in-between spot.

The past is the past, the future is not certain, and they are stuck in the middle.

So they want to do something, they think they should be doing something, but they didn’t know what to do.


So they think to themselves.

‘We had a group of 12; shouldn’t we make that back up to 12 again?’

‘Jesus created a group of 12 for a reason; we should recreate what Jesus did.’


Now Jesus had a group of 12 disciples for a reason, each disciple represented one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and Jesus in having twelve disciples was making it clear that he was bringing the tribes back together again, he was seeking to create the true Israel, a nation of priests, where every tribe was priestly, and that Israel became a priestly nation for the world.


It was symbolism.

But it wasn’t complete.

Jesus didn’t have just 12 disciples and no one else mattered.

We know that there were women followers that were never given the title disciple, but these were strong leaders in the group that supported the mission...women like Mary Magdalene.

We know that there were many followers who supplied food and shelter...people like Lazarus.

And our passage today, when they are trying to find out who should replace Judas, talks of one of the criteria as ‘someone who had been with them from the start, who followed but were not designated as one of the disciples’.


There were many who followed but who weren’t designated the title of disciple, so why replace Judas?

I suspect because they felt they needed to do something.

Maybe as leaders of this group they felt they needed to be seen to be doing something.


As I said earlier, in a crisis we often think we will rise to the crisis, but more often we retreat to the past, the past seems comfortable.


Let’s be brutal about this, in their eyes this was a momentous decision, but what difference did it make in reality?

Do we ever hear of Mathias or Barsabbas again?


No, they are never mentioned in the Bible at all.


The future growth of the church will eventually be in the hands of people like Paul and Barnabas and Luke.

But they are not in the picture yet.


So what do we learn?

Well the first thing we learn is that in crisis we tend to want to go back to the familiar.

We find comfort in that.

And maybe short term there is nothing wrong with that.


Anyone who has gone through grief knows that what we are grieving is the familiar, and we miss the presence of the one that is missing, deep down we just want them to come back.

It is their inability of returning that forces us to do something different to cope.


Equally, we know that if that grief is something like a pet, then the great temptation is to replace the pet.

How many times have you met someone who has lost a dog and the first question you want to ask them is, ‘Will you get a new dog?’

Because the instinct is to go back to the familiar, to have the same as we had before.

But that can be dangerous.


Adults who break up with someone and then immediately rebound into another relationship without processing what went wrong with the first relationship are always in danger of another disastrous relationship.


My gut instinct is to suggest that God doesn’t mind.

He knows what we are like and he knows that we have a need to find stability again.

And if we go looking for it in the past and that gives us a tiny bit of comfort then he doesn’t mind, as long as we are open to change when it needs to come.


God would replace Judas with Paul, but that would be months in the future and the original disciples would never make Paul one of their inner sanctum.

But God didn’t care, as long as his work was done.

Peter and his group could reach out to the Jews,

Paul and his group could reach out to the Gentiles, and as long as each acknowledged that the other group was doing God’s work, then God was happy.


And that’s what happened.

Eventually Peter and the group sent out Paul with their blessing into the Gentile world.

In turn Paul and his group would collect money for a famine that was going on in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas to support the original disciples in their work.


So what should we learn from this?

Personally I think the main point is seeing ourselves as we really are,

Just admitting to ourselves that we have our own agendas and we have our own plans and expectations and we feel uncomfortable when we don’t get what we want.

Just admitting that we will always move towards what we want,

but then seeing that there may be another agenda out there...God’s.




If we can admit to ourselves that we actually have an agenda that we want to follow then we can admit that God can have one too that is different from ours,

and we can be honest that there is a choice between them.

and being open to that when God’s agenda for us becomes obvious.


I remember my plans for the ministry after I graduated.

I knew what needed to happen.

I remember talking it through with fellow students and mentors at the time.

I would go to a quietish country parish, maybe a small town parish where I couldn’t do too much damage. Then when I had got all the rough edges out I would go to a urban priority area, a place like Castlemilk, I even mentioned the name Castlemilk because the people I was talking to needed an example of what I was talking about and everyone knew how deprived Castlemilk was.


Everyone felt that was a smart plan, a sensible plan, well thought out.

And God was happy for me to have that plan, because it gave me a slither of security and belief that I was in control, and that slither of belief kept me calm.

Now God knew that plan was rubbish.

God knew that my security shouldn’t be in my plans but in my relationship with him and just going where he wanted me to go.


But God didn’t mind me being long as I was willing to learn.

And to be honest God knew he had plenty of time to work on me.


So my plans...never happened.

I was unemployed for a year, working part time with a church called Camphill Queens Park, million pounds in debt,

no future as far as the church authorities were concerned,

and yet, surprisingly enough, God was working away in those individuals and in that community.

Then I ended up in Castlemilk. Instead of it being my last charge it was my first charge; a church that was terrified that it might be closed because it lacked money.

A Church that needed to learn that its future was never in how much money it had, but in how God was working away in their individuals and in their community.

It was weird that they had a minister that had just learnt that lesson.

It was co-incidence that they had a minister that had just learnt that lesson.

Or maybe it was God’s plan all along.


And then came Alva.

After seven and a half years of getting all those rough edges out, I was now ready for Alva, where I had to learn that I still had lots and lots of rough edges still to sort out.

And 27 years later I am still getting those edges sorted out.





I believe that God doesn’t mind our plans.

I believe that God doesn’t mind our hopes and dreams.

I believe that those plans, those hopes and dreams won’t give us the happiness that we think they will.

But God doesn’t mind us chasing them.


As long as we are open to Him,

because if we are truly open to him, then when it comes to the moment when we we have the choice between our plans and God’s plans, we will have the courage to follow God’s plans.

When the time comes to chose between our hopes and dreams

and God’s hopes and dreams for us,

then we will trust enough, have faith enough, to choose God’s plans.


So if you are in crisis.

Be aware, the temptation is to go back to what is familiar, it is a natural instinct, and sometimes it may even give short term comfort,

but be open to God, God’s plans are often more difficult, but lead to a better place.


For the first time in about three years I am back to reading about Moses.

The number of times the Israelites wants to return back to Egypt, the place where they killed their babies, but it was familiar, and was less scary than going through the wilderness.

But being open to God’s plan would lead them to a promised land that was far batter, if they were open to God and trusted in him.








Let us pray














Look at us, Lord;

your people; diverse, messy, often incoherent.

Look at us Lord:

your church; broken, often fighting, more often than not feeling that we are losing the battle.

Look at us Lord:

your followers; often confused, sometimes lost, many times frightened.


We are your disciples,

alive to the promise,

confused at the same time,

uncertain of who we are and who we are meant to be.


Yet we are living the adventure,

daring to stretch the gospel,

often by mistake as much as purpose,

finding ourselves on new ground by accident as much as design.


In being ‘us’

may we live honestly in all our humanness

and in your name may we proclaim the gospel, the good news of your love.


We know we will do it imperfectly,

but as long as we do it with you, O God,

we know you will help us reach out to all the other imperfect humans out there,

the ones that also need to know and rely on your love and forgiveness.





















Prayer after bible reading


God our Maker

We acknowledge that we have been called by you

And we come together today, just as we are,

with our many different gifts, talents, and abilities

thankful that, we have been called, not just to give of ourselves, but to receive of you.


You are with us in good times and difficult times.

You bring us together, to join in worship and the work of serving others,

 We have made mistakes,

we have hurt ourselves and others,

we have not always listened to you.

But you are always ready to forgive and you help us start again in our service of your kingdom.

Because of your forgiveness we generously say thank you and give you praise for the chance of living in the light of Christ’s love,

and that through his new life, heaven’s future starts now.

Part of our calling is to work together for the transformation of the world,

that it might better reflect your love and generosity, as you always intended for it to do.

That we not only believe your values, but that we also reflect them in our lives.

That we create in our sphere of influence a world where everyone can live a full life,

free from poverty.

That we work for peace, and let your justice flow.

Not only justice for the wronged, but climate justice for the world.

That we empower communities to create places where all feel valued and safe, where children can grow and adults can find dignity and equality.

These things we ask in Jesus name, and in his name we say the words he taught us to say


Our Father,

Which 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, for ever.





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