Sunday Service 20th August - Doing what we can
Doing what we can
Call to worship
Hymn 295(JP): Your ways are higher than mine
Time for all
Hymn 250(JP): The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
Reading: Exodus 1: 8-2: 10 Amanda
Hymn 710: I have a dream
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 544: When I needed a neighbour
Welcome to our reflection for 20th August.
At this time of year most ministers and church leaders see this as the start of a new session. The main summer holiday is done. The schools are back and the church organisations start to begin a new session.
It is a time of trying to get peoples enthusiasm up, especially as most folk feel that this new session is invariably going to be more difficult than the last one.
So what should we do?
Well we will look at that after Amanda leads us in our reading and prayer 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
So we are beginning a new session.
The schools are back, the holidays are done, and the various organisations have either started or are preparing to start.
The ministers or the leaders of organisations are desperate to get volunteers to do the work that needs to be done.
And I’ll be honest; every session seems to be harder than the one before.
Sometimes it feels like a struggle to get the enthusiasm going.
It may just be me, but sometimes the environment that we work in seems to get harder every year.
So what do we do, what does God expect from us?
Well today’s reading is a good help in working this out.
In today’s reading the situation just seems to go from awful to terrible to disastrous.
It starts off with a fear.
The Jews had been doing well in Egypt, very well.
But the Pharaoh is now worried that they are getting numerous, maybe too numerous, and if there was a war near the border of Egypt, the very border where the Israelites are, well what would happen if the Israelites joined their enemies?
Here’s the thing. Historically, Egypt often felt threatened by its northern border; we had the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, all these empires attacked Egypt from the north.
It was legitimate for Egypt to feel threatened by the north.
Unfortunately this fear meant that the Egyptians took the completely wrong attitude to the Israelites.
Let me give you a modern example...
When is it the hardest to get a church to change?
Let’s say, we wanted to completely redo worship, bring in a jazz band, or a rock band, not have a sermon at all but a wee homily of a couple of minutes,
get rid of the pews and have a dance floor instead...when would the very hardest time to do that be?
When the church is doing well.
Recently I had helped two churches create a linkage between them.
You know what made that easy, both churches were in crisis, both churches felt that if they didn’t do something radical then maybe both churches may cease to exist.
When things are going well people don’t want change, they want the status quo to go on and on.
So if the Israelites were doing so well, the smart thing to do would be to lean into that.
Remind them that they were doing so well, and that might not continue under a different leadership.
If a foreign power was to invade Egypt then the first people to suffer would be the Israelites,
the first people in the line of fire would have been the Israelites living in that border area, so maybe it would have been smart for the Egyptians to suggest to the Israelites creating an army unit protecting the border, maybe an army unit made up of Israelites because they would care most about protecting the people there.
Now that would be the smart thing to do.
But Pharaoh wasn’t smart.
And because Pharaoh feared then his actions were never good.
First to try to enslave the Israelites, why did he think that would improve the way the Israelites looked upon the Egyptians?
The pharaoh was now giving the Israelites an incentive to join a foreign army if they invaded, and very quickly Pharaoh realised that.
So now what to do, because he had made the situation worse?
Well why not make things worse by compounding one bad decision with another bad decision.
Let’s kill all the baby boys.
Now first of all that’s a really stupid decision.
If you are going to be evil, then at least be smart evil. If you kill off the girls then the population will be wiped out in a couple of generations as there will be no more children.
Seeing the threat as only boys so killing them off doesn’t make any difference as the girls are still producing children.
So things are going from bad to worse.
So if you are an Israelite in that situation then what do you do?
Well you do what you can.
The midwives fed into the ignorance and the racism of the Pharaoh.
‘We would love to kill off the baby boys Pharaoh, but these Hebrew women are not like us, they are like animals; they give birth to children in the fields while we are not there. Before we even get there they have their children and hide them.’
It is not much, but they do what they can to help.
Moses mother can’t do much either.
She hides her son as best she can.
Then when the baby starts to get a bit noisier she hides him by the waterside where the noise to the waves on the Nile can cover any noise the baby makes.
Moses sister does what she can.
She watches the basket from a distance so as not to draw attention to it to the soldiers.
When Pharaoh’s daughter grabs the basket she suggests a way for Moses mother still to be involved in his life.
Here’s the thing.
Pharaoh had all the power.
In his eyes none of the women, including his daughter, are of any importance.
And yet they thwart all his plans by simply doing what they can in simple ways.
No matter how difficult the situation is that they live in, they do what they can and that allows God’s work to be done.
It is like the pharaoh is this great oak that seems to dominate the landscape.
And each of these women is a simple insect burrowing into the wood.
Each of the insects is ignored by the tree because it is inconsequential, but together the insects do so much damage that eventually the tree falls.
I feel much the way you feel.
I look around at the world and I know it is in a bad way.
I look around at the environment that the church is going through and I know it is tough.
Presbytery is going to go through a round of church closures and church linkages that are going to hurt the church badly.
And I am no Moses that is going to change the whole situation so that we all head off to the Promised Land.
But I can do what I can; you can do what you can.
I look at the church cafe, it’s not a world leader of church cafes, but it can support and encourage those that go along to it, give them a laugh and a smile and help them through the week.
I look at our food larder, it isn’t even the biggest food bank in the area, and yet over this winter, and I believe that this winter will be harder than previous winters, it will help individuals and families get through some of their toughest times.
I look at our online services, we don’t have a great online membership, we don’t have thousands of people from around the world gracing our website every week.
But I know there’s a wee granny in Ullapool, someone struggling with cancer in New Zealand, an occasional worship leader in Canada, and they have a wee laugh at our children’s addresses and it helps them through the week.
Here’s the bit that I wonder at, the bit I don’t know, the God bit;
I have no idea about the influence that those people have on others.
You see what those women did in themselves wasn’t that big,
but what Moses did, because of what those women did...was phenomenal, and it would never have happened without those women.
I don’t know the people that granny in Ullapool helps because she is in a good mood after watching a children’s address. I don’t know who she encourages because she feels upbeat and then that person helps someone else.
That guy in Canada, I don’t know who he inspires because he is challenged by something that is said in one of the sermons.
And I’ll never know.
But it doesn’t matter, because of what Gavin and Hannah and the worship team, each doing their wee bit,
they have created something God can use for his purposes, and it makes a difference.
I know it is the start of a new session.
I know that sometimes we feel unsure why we bother doing anything, because often we don’t see the consequences of our actions and sometimes it feels like we are running to move backwards.
But don’t worry.
God isn’t asking us to change the world; He is just asking us to do our wee bit.
For if we do our wee bit...then God can do the rest.
Let us pray
A small act of faith and hope, and maybe even desperation.
They placed the tiny cargo into the makeshift basket,
pushed it out past the reeds hoping that everything would be all right for another wee while.
We give thanks that they didn’t give up.
We give thanks that they weren’t overcome by fear or despair.
That what they let dominate in their hearts were different emotions.
It was mercy that moved the midwives,
It was never about making a name for themselves, or keeping themselves safe.
It was love that moved the parents of Moses,
It was never about survival or keeping themselves safe.
It was concern that moved Moses’ sister,
it was never about dominance and looking after her own best interest.
In this time of uncertainty, in this time of increased tension and struggles, help us not to let fear and self interest be the dominant feelings in our hearts.
May we instead have enough faith in your care of us, that love, and mercy, and care be the inspiration that we follow.