Weekly thought provided by Rev Ian Elston, former Minister of Torbain Church

1 John 3: 11

‘For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.’  

One of the reasons the Christian Church attracted so many people in the years following the resurrection was that that the followers of the man from Galilee were different. They acted differently to the people and world around them. When illness or a plague struck a city you, if you could, got out. When you saw a group of ill or sick people you avoided them. People feared catching ill themselves and so you just hoped that you would say healthy and never be abandoned and left, as the sick so often were. .

 

But the followers of Jesus would bring food and water and minister to the very sick, the bereft and the dying. They would go where others feared and in doing so bring comfort to men and women and children who would otherwise have suffered alone.  People noticed. This new faith was love in action.

 

Today, how do we show our love to one another in a way that makes other people sit up? How does our love for others challenge people? How does our church live out love for each other?  

Added 22 November 2019

Thoughts added in October 2018

Thoughts added in November 2018

Thoughts added in December 2018

It must have been bewildering to the first followers of Jesus to see their leader teach and preach and heal and become well known and popular then see him betrayed and die on the cross. Even more bewildering was his rising from the dead. Who was this man? What had he done? What did it all mean?

At this time of Lent it is worth stepping back from familiarity with the Easter story and think on the wonder of what happened: Jesus was the Son of God who died for us. He rose for us. For you and for me. He did so out of love.

He showed us love that we might love. That is our calling at Easter time – to point to the cross and the empty tomb and remember these ultimate acts of love were done for us. And to reach out and share that message 

Added 3 April 2019

Amos 5:14-15

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. (NIV)

By the middle of January most New Year resolutions are usually being bent if not broken. We try, (how we try”) to – eat more vegetables, eat less chocolate, exercise more, lose weight, be a better person, ….and already we begin to see the seams of our resolutions frayed as we angrily grab a Toblerone in frustration at our inability to make our resolutions last a fortnight.

‘Seek good, not evil’, is not a New Year’s Resolution (though I cannot think of many better) but it is a wonderful, deceptively simple way of living for not just the coming year, but for all of life. For it sounds straightforward (who wants to seek evil?) but is far from easy. Seek good when folk are grumpy and life is hard and the weather is terrible and? No, seeking good is too hard. 

Yet to seek good is what we have been called to do and fortunately not alone! In this passage from Amos we are told that when we seek good God will be with us. God – the comforter and encourage and guide, will help us to seek good – to see the person in need and how we can help, to notice the lonely neighbour and give us the right thing to say, to hold our tongue when a quick and hurtful comment is on our lips.

Seek good ….with God by your side. Not a resolution but a challenge for each one of us for this and every year.   

Added 9 January 2019

John 8: 31-32

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

Jesus never makes it easy does he? His teachings of forgiveness and overflowing love and being welcome to everyone has never been easy. Wouldn’t it have been easier –and far more simple – if we had a faith where we would just say a few words, tick a box and that was you a Christian and you could go back to living your life?  Instead Jesus demands of us our whole lives. Every day we are called to seek justice, to love others, to follow God. Following Jesus is not about obeying rules but a way of life. A way of life which will lead us from this world to the next. 

Added 20 January 2019

Galatians 6:1

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (NIV)

One verse that contains great advice that all of us struggle with. We are wonderful at spotting a sin.in someone else (that can be everything from selfishness, hogging conversations, or boastfulness to adultery and stealing),

but anyone who points out any such sin in us is likely to get an earful.

Similarly, the call to ‘restore that person gently’ is one that the church (and us) have all too easily forgotten over the years. This verse is about helping one another but never falling into the trap of becoming self-righteous or judgemental or succumbing to the very sin we are warning against.

We all make mistakes, all sin. Our task is to help each other in a way that restores not judges, to help each other in the way we would want to be helped.

Added 27 January 2019

1 John 3: 11

‘For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.’  

One of the reasons the Christian Church attracted so many people in the years following the resurrection was that that the followers of the man from Galilee were different. They acted differently to the people and world around them. When illness or a plague struck a city you, if you could, got out. When you saw a group of ill or sick people you avoided them. People feared catching ill themselves and so you just hoped that you would say healthy and never be abandoned and left, as the sick so often were. .

 

But the followers of Jesus would bring food and water and minister to the very sick, the bereft and the dying. They would go where others feared and in doing so bring comfort to men and women and children who would otherwise have suffered alone.  People noticed. This new faith was love in action.

 

Today, how do we show our love to one another in a way that makes other people sit up? How does our love for others challenge people? How does our church live out love for each other?  

Added 20 February 2019

The key word here is trust. Joy and peace come when we completely trust in God. Easy to say, but so difficult to do. How can we trust when we have health or financial or family problems? How can we trust when the future seems bleak? Yet God calls on us to put all our trust in Him. To remember that He is in control and no matter how bad things seem now, God is with us and will see us through the darkness if we trust in Him. We sometimes forget that this  life is merely a glimpse of the one to come, we trust in a God of this life and on to the next too.  

Added 20 March 2019

It must have been bewildering to the first followers of Jesus to see their leader teach and preach and heal and become well known and popular then see him betrayed and die on the cross. Even more bewildering was his rising from the dead. Who was this man? What had he done? What did it all mean?

At this time of Lent it is worth stepping back from familiarity with the Easter story and think on the wonder of what happened: Jesus was the Son of God who died for us. He rose for us. For you and for me. He did so out of love.

He showed us love that we might love. That is our calling at Easter time – to point to the cross and the empty tomb and remember these ultimate acts of love were done for us. And to reach out and share that message 

Added 3 April 2019

1 John 4:9

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (NIV)

As our Government lurches from one Brexit crisis to another it increasingly reminds me of a boat which is not sure where it wants to go, does not have a clue how to get there and has a captain and crew who all want to go in different directions. While we are all enduring more incompetence and stupidity and arrogance that many of us thought possible from the men and women we elected, I do think that the whole Brexit saga is a great metaphor for life. We often make a mess of things, make bad decisions, annoy and hurt friends, we sometimes know where we want to go but life and circumstances mean we either head off in a different direction or never leave in the first place.

We might not want to 'leave' anywhere or 'remain' for that matter, but we know – with absolute certainty, that wherever life leads, whatever mistakes we make, God is with us. Loving and forgiving and accompanying us on our journey.

Let us continue to pray for all our Members of Parliament and let us never forget the presence of God by our side , 

Added 13 April 2019

1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (NIV)

On the road to Emmaus Jesus met with two followers who did not, at first, recognise him. Jesus asks why they are so sad and they tell him of their friend and leader Jesus, being executed on a cross. Jesus then explains how the whole Bible (the Old Testament at this point) from beginning to that day pointed towards a suffering King who loved us so much he would die for us. When the two suddenly recognise who Jesus is they are overjoyed and suddenly the story becomes clear.

 

We too are part of the same story. A story that begins thousands of years ago. A story of a God who loved his people. A story of a God who loves his people. It is a story that involves Abraham and Moses and David and Isaiah and Mary and Peter and Paul; a story that centres on God's son entering this world that we may know his love and walk with Him along the way. Everyone who follows Jesus is a part of the story.

And as we celebrate 50 years it is a particular milestone for our place in the story.

We have been witnesses to our community for half a century. Showing through word and deed, through Christmas Fayre and Watch night service; through Lego club and the Bairns, brew and a blether group; through worshiping together and supporting one another; through being welcoming to all;, showing through all these things and more Gods' love for this community and for each and every one of us.

Easter is a time of new life, new hope and celebration.. We are privileged indeed to celebrate our 50th anniversary at this time of year. May God bless our church here in Torbain as we look forward wondering where the story will go next but knowing that God is with us as we walk forward together.

Added 24 April 2019

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you

Years ago, when you were charged for crossing the Forth Bridge, a friend of mine used to – sometimes, giving the toll keeper double the money required and say 'I am paying for the car behind too.' They would then watch in thier rear view mirror as they saw a confused driver being told that someone had paid for them. They took great delight in doing this especially if the driver behind had spent the last five minutes flashing their lights and beeping their horn and gesturing at them.

When we are horrible or bad tempered or suffer mild road rage we cannot expect or blame other people for treating us the same way. When we are compassionate and kind and forgiving we will not always find people are compassionate and and kind and forgiving to us but we will find hat we are walking in the footsteps of Christ. A loving world, a compassionate world, a forgiving World starts with us. 

Added 14 May 2019

Revelation 21: 2-4

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (NIV)

The passage above is one that gives us hope whatever our situation. No matter how difficult life is, no matter the impossible situations we face, no matter the hidden and not so hidden pain we endure, God is and will be with us and there is a time comimg where our tears will be wiped from our eyes and there will be no death or mourning or crying or pain. A time of peace and love awaits. God is with us now but there is a time of greater glory to come.. Hope- a sure and certain hope in the God of yesterday ad today and tomorrow. 

Added 9 June 2019

Psalm 121:7-8

The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (NIV)

What a wonderful message of hope. We know that life can be tough. We know we will be hurt in many ways but this verse reminds us God willl keep us from harm. God will stand beside us as we endure money problems and ill health and bereavement and falling out with friends and losing a job and all the many slings and arrows that life throws at us. God knows we will cry out and suffer, it is a part of life, but in these verses from Psalm 121 God promises that whatever we endure we will be kept from harm, that God will watch over us throughout life. This means that whatever happens to us, whatever has happened to us, whatever will happen, God is watching over us as a good shepherd watches their sheep, as a good teacher watches their class, as a good nurse watches their patient and as a good parent watches their children- with care and compassion and kindness. But more than this God never stops watching over us – watching us with love and hope and grace and tenderness and guidance and an arm to steady us and comfort us. He is with us always.

 

So wherever we are, whatever we have been doing and whatever we will do, take comfort from knowing the God who made the Universe and who made the earth is watching over you – and will do so through this life and beyond.

Added 7 July 2019

Philippians 4:12b – 13

‘I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’

Paul wrote this letter while in prison awaiting death. He had little in the way of physical comforts. He could not travel and tell the World about Christ; he was in a bleak and miserable situation and yet writes ‘I am content. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.’ There was a lot Paul could NOT do but he focussed on what he could do: pray, talk to his visitors and write letters, letters which we still read today and which would probably not have been written were Paul not in prison.  When life is hard we can mump and moan about how life is unfair and feel peeved at ‘our’ situation compared to ‘theirs’ but God says ‘be content.’ Whatever the circumstances God is with us and can use us – if we are willing to follow and trust in Him.

Added 13 August 2019

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NIV) 

It is strangely refreshing that even 3000 years ago, our looks, our physical beauty or strength, was seen as important.  The prophet Samuel had been told by God to anoint a King who was to come from the family of Jesse.  He visits the family and all the older brothers were paraded in front of Samuel like a Mr/Miss World contest; God says no to each one.  Then came the youngest and most physically unimpressive and it was him that God called Samuel to anoint.  He was a boy called David who, of course, went on to become slayer of Goliath and King and all round hero and writer of many of the psalms. 

3000 years later 'looks' seem to be  more important than ever.  We have Love Island and racks of magazines covers giving us slimmimg/beauty/fitness advice; we have rows of beauty products in supermarkets and shops and we have gyms all over the country.  All to help us look good.  And here God is saying, it is what is inside, what is in your heart that matters. 

There is nothing wrong with looking good, but we should all spend time working on the heart/soul which is what really makes us 'us'.  After all, it is what God sees within us that ultimately is really important in this life - and the next.     

Added 20 August 2019

2 Corinthians 13:14 (NIV)

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Museums throughout the World contain artefacts of the past.  Coins from Roman times, Egyptian gold masks from thousands of years ago, daggers and swords from battles fought 3 centuries ago. pottery and kitchen implements from mankind's earliest days.  All tell and teach us something of the past; of how people used to live and the way they bought and sold goods and what and how they ate.  All tell us something of the past.  

'May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all,' are words from long, long ago.  Museum piece words.  Two thousands years since Paul wrote them.  They are historical words.  Words from the dim and distant past.  But, unlike ancient jewellery or coins, these words do not remain in the past.  They are living words.  Words not to be stared at and admired but words to be lived out.  Words as relevant today as they were so long ago.  The blessing Paul gives in 2 Corinthians 13 is still used today, usually at the end of a service.  They are words that we hear (and say) so often that we often forget what we are hearing and saying; the grace of Christ, the love of God, the fellowship of the Spirit, be with me?  You and me?  Her and him?  All of us receiving the gifts of love and fellowship and grace from God Himself ? Yes, yes, yes. 

God's Word is both ancient and living.  Ancient words brought alive through Christ in us.  We, and millions before us, have found and find peace and encouragement and hope through these ancient, and still contemporary, words 

Next time you hear this blessing remember how old the words are and yet how much they still mean today and know the blessing and love of God for yourself. 

Added 3 October 2019