Names of God: Yahweh Nissi

Seven Redemptive names: 7. Yahweh Nissi (יהוה נּסּי) The LORD Our Banner

In battles of old, the leader’s flag would be carried onto the battlefield and planted in a visible spot. This helped give the troops their identity, for they were on the side of that banner. It also signified that the leader was there (‘the LORD is there’ as we read earlier) with them and, in the days before military radio communications, it showed the troops where the rallying place was. Whenever they had to regroup (before relaunching an attack, consolidating their defence, seeking instructions, wanting to join the leader for victory celebrations) they could look for the banner and rally there.

The LORD is our leader. We seek Him for protection and we can rally around where HE is; at His feet. Yahweh Nissi means ‘the LORD our Banner’ and we find it first in Exodus, after God has defeated the Amalekites. This was the occasion when Moses raised his hands, holding the staff as the Lord had commanded him. Moses raised his hands, and the Israelite army was winning; his hands dropped, and they fell back. Aaron and Hur, who were with him on top of a hill, in view of the troops, sat him on a rock and held his arms up for him, and the Israelites won. Moses then built an altar to the Lord.

Moses built an altar and called it Yahweh Nissi. (Exodus 17:15)

This gives us strength in our faith; it renews our belief. It reminds us of God’s power – He does not hide away, worried what people might think of Him, concerned lest He is not sufficient. He is the Lord, and not only are we on His side but looked at from the other side of that statement: He is our leader; we are looked after and protected by the Almighty One. God has won the victory, and He has included us on His side, in His family. No matter the adversity or the adversary, for:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

But we must always remember that God is love, not swords; this is not a pitched battle but is spiritual warfare. God fights in love and with love, as we rally to Him. That love is our banner; the Lord is our banner:

Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
    and let his banner over me be love. (Song of Songs 2:4)

We can look to God, and we can see where He is for He is always with us, looking out for us and looking after us. This references a shepherd looking after his flock. The shepherd does not lose touch with his flock. The shepherd is always ready to intervene to help his flock – he uses his rod and staff to protect the sheep from attack by predators and to recover the sheep from ditches and holes into which they have fallen. So, the sheep do not see the rod and staff as a disciplining weapon, ready to be used against them, but as a beacon of security. From a distance, they can see the staff / rod / shepherd’s crook planted high, even above undulating ground and long grass, and they are reassured that the shepherd is there. If the sheep do feel surrounded and threatened, they can see the rod and staff as a banner, rally where the shepherd is and know that the shepherd continues to look after them.

And it is this reassurance of seeing where the banner is, where the rallying point is, that inspires Psalm 23:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4) Yahweh Nissi

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Amending Our COVID Regulations at SSCB

We have seen the easing of regulations nationwide as more and more people have been vaccinated and the level of infection is at a more manageable level.

Our Kirk Session discussed what this means for our church life. We follow the rules of the Scottish Government and the guidelines of the Church of Scotland which are based on them. Our priority in this matter is the safety of our church family and everyone who joins us for worship, prayer or any other event.

After prayerful consideration and based on the Church of Scotland guidelines the Kirk Session has decided that we can, safely, ease our COVID regulations at church.

This means that on and from Sunday, 17th October:

  • Some things will change:
    • There will no longer be a maximum capacity on numbers attending a service or event at church.
    • There will not be any mandatory distancing at church. We strongly encourage households to keep a safe distance from other households. Be kind to others: you may feel comfortable being close to others, but they may not be so confident about it!
    • There will not be a one-way system in the church.
  • Some things will remain the same:
    • We continue to uphold the high standards of cleanliness in the building, despite the dust produced by the building works. Our thanks go to Moira for her conscientious hard work.
    • Hand sanitising remains available at entry and exit points from the building. We strongly encourage you to make use of this facility.
    • We will continue to ‘check-in’ on arrival, recording name and contact details (and maintaining data protection privacy).
    • Wearing face coverings is still mandatory in the building for everyone over 12 years old, except where there is a medical exemption from wearing them.
    • Face coverings must be worn even when singing (unless medically exempt).

Please continue to be safe, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, respect others and follow the rules and guidelines.

The Church of Scotland Guidelines are available on their website.

[on behalf of the Kirk Session, George Vidits and Timothy Pitt]

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Reflections on National Giving Day – Part 3

The Generosity Muscle

You will be aware that the lead up to Sunday 31 October has been designated as a time of National Giving by the Church of Scotland, and that all one-off donations made in this period will be available for our work at SSCB, and will not be included in our payments to the Central Church – good news for us all. This makes this a great season for us to prayerfully consider what we do with the resources that God has entrusted to us.  This is the third in a 4 part series I have written on Giving.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about giving, observing it in action – why we give, how we give and what we give to. I’ve concluded that generosity is a muscle, hidden within each person. We need to exercise it, to flex it, in order for it to grow. If this exercise makes us sweat a bit, challenges us, then it helps our giving muscles to grow. Inevitably, some people exercise more than others, but crucially, the more we exercise it the better we become at giving. 

My giving mindset was challenged and shaped by a fundraising project I did for St. Paul’s and St. George’s Church, when Pete and I attended there. The leadership team undertook an enormously expensive building project – we’re talking millions of pounds. Whilst not everyone initially agreed that this was the best use of money, it became abundantly clear that God was in charge of this project – we could either get involved with His vision, or not. In honesty, there wasn’t really a ‘not’ option.   

We planned a giving day, encouraged prayerful participation and planning. We needed all the congregation to think about what they could do over several years in order to make the project happen. It challenged us to plan our giving in a way that we hadn’t done before. We started to think sacrificially for the first time, actually giving material things up. People decided that they didn’t need a new kitchen after all and donated the funds to the project. Some gave up family holidays. Some didn’t replace their car. Some stopped eating out, or making their own lunch instead of buying out. Some stopped buying their usual take-out coffees. Some had more time than money and raised money through events, making music, running, making jam. It was a very mixed church so everyone gave what they could, proportional to their own resources.  

The planning, praying, and pledging aspect taught us so many lessons. The main lesson I learned was that we had no idea that we could make such a difference. We were not particularly well paid, we did not have any savings to give, however when we really planned and thought about it, we realised that we could give away significantly more than we had ever considered doing before. A regular monthly amount over several years, plus some fundraising, really added up. Secondly, the penny dropped that God really does care about what we do with our resources. He has plans to prosper and protect his people, to care for the vulnerable, to raise up his church – none of this will happen if we don’t step up and play a leading role. Thirdly, we learnt that digging deep, whilst challenging at first, became a habit. We honestly didn’t miss the things we gave up; I can’t even remember what they were now, I only remember what was achieved and how awesome it was to be a small part of Gods enormous plan.  

Once the project was complete, we were able to think about what God wanted us to do next – that bit was super exciting! Please don’t take this as bragging, I’m trying to encourage you to get involved in God’s awesome plan for the resources that he has entrusted to you. Perhaps you already know how super exciting it is, in which case, bless you for blessing others.  31st October is the Church of Scotland national pledge day, as it seeks to recover from the significant financial impact of Covid restrictions. This could be your time to find God’s purpose for those resources. 

I encourage you to start getting fit. There is never a bad time to start exercising your giving muscle. Start one surprisingly generous gift at a time – one that you really need to think about. I pray it brings you great joy, after all how can following God’s plan do anything else?     

National Giving Day – 31st October 

Start praying and planning now. There’s no better time.

Account name: St Stephen’s Comely Bank Church
Sort Code 80-11-05
Account Number 00294121

[from Cat Rawlinson-Watkins]

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Holy Spirit in the Balance – Workshop with Adam Stadtmiller

Adam is the pastor of La Jolla Christian Fellowship, near San Diego, California, and as you know we have been sharing with them prayer time during the Pandemic. Adam and his fellow pastors, Sean Buckland are vising the UK in the near future and they will share with us in worship, church garden cleaning and plan to run a Holy Spirit Workshop at 14:00 on Saturday 30 October in the church.

The workshop is very promising and exciting as we just finished not that long ago our sermon series about the Holy Spirit. Adam will focus on understanding and balancing the wisdom and the power of the Holy Spirit in our Christian discipleship.

Adam will share with us teaching and wisdom from Scripture, exploring how we can apply the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit in a balanced way to our practical life as we live out our faith. The session will be concluded with 30 minutes of listening to the Holy Spirit, to His wisdom, power and guidance to us.

It will be a unique and blessed opportunity to share with our brothers form across the pond, and to grow together in the love and grace of our Lord Jesus, as we listen to the Holy Spirit.

Adam sent a video message to us, which you can check out below.

We are looking forward to seeing you there on Saturday, 30 October. For more information, please contact our church office by email: office@comelybankchurch.com

The Holy Spirit Workshop will be one of two occasions when we will focus a bit more on the Holy Spirit to be well rooted and grounded in God’s Spirit as He guides us. The other session is called Spirit Soaking and it will be led by Paulin Dalrymple on 5 November.

Holy Spirit Workshop Intro and Greetings from Pastor Adam Stadtmiller

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Reflections on National Giving Day – Part 2

You will be aware that the lead up to Sunday 31 October has been designated as a time of National Giving by the Church of Scotland, and that all one-off donations made in this period will be available for our work at SSCB, and will not be included in our payments to the Central Church – good news for us all.  This makes this a great season for us to prayerfully consider what we do with the resources that God has entrusted to us.   This is the second in a 4 part series I have written on Giving.

Prior to studying for ministry, I worked for charities, normally fundraising. I have baked scones, opened gardens, abseiled castles, done bike rides, run half marathons, organised flowers festivals, shook collecting tins, dressed up, written letters, and attended dinner dances. There is very little fundraising that I haven’t participated in over the years! And the truth is that I loved it all.

The joy of fundraising is two-fold. Firstly, I got to see people giving their own time and money away, and thoroughly loving it. It may seem counter intuitive, our society places emphasis on receiving, saving and keeping our resources for ourselves. But giving things away- money, time, serious effort and energy, brings a whole lot of joy to those who give. The smiles are amazing. There must be a physical side to this that I’m not aware of, a rush of endorphins perhaps. When people give things away meaningfully, with effort, with a degree of self-sacrifice, they feel and receive a reward. It’s as if we’re given Godly assurance that this is a good thing to do.

The second brilliant side of fundraising is seeing what the giving achieves. Having worked for smaller charities I have seen the smile on the face of the administrator as they open the mail. I’ve seen fundraisers dance with joy when someone replied to their letters. I’ve personally danced with joy when gifts have been given because I know the impact it is going to have. Each and every gift makes a difference. We know that God wants us to care for others, that injustice is not part of His plan for mankind. Every gift helps to right a wrong, straighten an injustice, bring Gods Kingdom a little closer to someone’s life.

Our church income has taken a battering during lockdown due to lack of income from everything from hall rental to cash collections during services.  So this is my own Song of Praise for Giving Days, for gift giving, for fundraising, for generous hearts. Over the next 2 weeks, I encourage you to think about your giving – to the church, to charity, to their community – and I encourage you, whatever you are doing, to do more. I do this because I know that generous giving will make you happy, generous giving fulfils Gods purposes and generous giving helps to make the lives of others better.     

National Giving Day – 31st October 

Start praying and planning now. There’s no better time.

Account name: St Stephen’s Comely Bank Church
Sort Code 80-11-05
Account Number 00294121

[from Cat Rawlinson-Watkins]

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Christian Response to Climate Emergency

I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

Gus Speth, climate scientist, advisor to US Government

We know that God declared his creation good, and that mankind was given responsibility for caring for it (Genesis 1). Yet it is now clear that human activity has caused the climate emergency (IPCC Report 2021). Everything we do has an impact on the environment, creates greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to the heating up of our planet.  

If even a climate scientist can see that science has not got all the answers, what should be the Christian response to climate change? Do we simply accept that we live in a fallen world that is motivated by greed and self-interest or do we act on the command of Jesus to “love your neighbour as yourself”? 

Climate change is already affecting most parts of the world and will undoubtedly affect us all even more if we continue to allow the planet to heat up. This is a matter of justice, as it is often the poorest people that are impacted the most, as well as a matter of our stewardship of the world that God created.

As Christians, we carry a message of hope for the future of all, even in this fallen world. Every single person has worth because they are made in the image of God and no matter what they have done, who they are or where they live, they can receive the gift of life. Jesus came so that they may have life to the full (John 10:10), he died so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have may eternal life (John 3:16), and they can take heart as he has overcome the world (John 16:33).

We know that when Jesus returns there will be a new earth and it will be perfect but until then we have been charged by God to look after his creation – the earth, it’s resources and it’s people. So our response is to repent of our collective greed and lust of consumption that has led to the human-induced climate emergency and to act to better care for God’s world and the people on it.

(Written by Elspeth Pitt)

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The Spirit of the Wild Geese – in memory of Jim Allen

(I have written this article more than a week ago. I delayed its publishing for later. Now I know why I had to do that.)

I heard repeated honking this morning as we made our way up to Rest and Be Thankful on Corstorphine Hill during our walk. No, it wasn’t the traffic on the road. It was the traffic in the sky! A flock of wild geese made their way in their usual V formation towards the Kingdom of Fife.

It is a magnificent view watching them flying together in formation. Apparently, there are two reasons they fly this way.

First, it conserves their energy. Each one flies slightly above the one in front of them, where the wind resistance is smaller. They take turns leading the group, falling back when getting tired and someone else takes their place leading from the front. A study of pelicans (true, they are not wild geese) showed that the ones flying alone flap their wings more often and have a higher heart rate than those who fly in formation!

Second, in V formation they can easily keep track of each other in the group. It assists them with communicating and coordinating their flight path. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason.

And then there is the honking, I want to add! It has multiple purposes. It is for communication, and encouragement, for guiding and leading, correcting the flight path, and encouraging, supporting each other.

Perhaps it was a couple of years ago when Jim Allen drew Emma’s and my attention to the honking of the wild geese. What Jim said to us remained with us ever since and when we hear wild geese honking, we always remember Jim. I can’t quote his words, but Jim said basically this:

“The geese at the back are honking, encouraging the ones at the front. Once they were at the front, but got tired, or weaker, or older. They are unable to lead from the front, but they are able to honk and encourage from the back the young ones who are leading at the front. That’s how I feel. I can’t be at the front any more, but I can honk and encourage you and the ones leading us in this church family. Keep going! Be faithful!”

Thank you, Jim, for honking! For encouraging us all at SSCB! Thank you for the spirit of the wild geese in you. By the way, did you know that the wild goose is the symbol of the Holy Spirit in Celtic Christianity?!

Jim has been a faithful member of our church family for many decades. He died early Monday morning (4 October), aged 97. If you listen carefully, you can still hear him honking for us! 

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Ps. Please remember Sadie, Jim’s faithful wife, best friend, and partner for over 73 years (!), and their family and loved ones in your prayers!

[from GV]

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Names of God: Yahweh Shammah

Seven Redemptive Names: 6. Yahweh Shammah (יהוה שׁמּה) The LORD is There

As we seek to draw closer to God through investigating the different names which have been ascribed to Him, we can be comforted that He is not distant. He is with us (even when we choose to ignore Him!). We need Him, we turn to look for Him and we find that He, The LORD, is right there with us. And that is the meaning of the name Yahweh Shammah: the LORD is there.

In Ezekiel 8, we read of how there were abominations being committed in the temple and Ezekiel is shown how the elders of Israel did not think the LORD was there; that He did not see them and had forsaken them. So they committed detestable things, each at the shrine of his own idol. In Ezekiel 44, the priesthood is restored and by Ezekiel 48, the glory of the Lord has returned (or become apparent once more to the people). The LORD sets out the land that is to be allotted to the people and the land that is to be the New City of Jerusalem. The LORD sets this all out for Ezekiel and then provides the ultimate reassurance as He finishes describing the requirements for the New Jerusalem:

The city will measure about 31,500 feet all the way around. From then on the city’s name will be: Yahweh Shammah. (Ezekiel 48:35)

God has set out what the City and its temple will be like, and God has confirmed that He is there and He will be there.

And today? Through Jesus’ sacrifice and our redemption, this has been fulfilled and implemented in and through us, for the Holy Spirit dwells in us – we are the temple, and we are not alone. Truly: Yahweh Shammah – The LORD is there. We can chase this down through Paul’s writings in Scripture:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives among you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

And he follows it up with:

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)

So, Yahweh Shammah – the LORD is there – is unusual because it is a name for God and is actually the name of a city. But it is a name of reassurance, for it confirms that we are not alone; we are reassured; we need not be afraid because the Lord is there. And this takes us straight back into Psalm 23:

I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalm 23:4)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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WALK FOR FREEDOM

In the Bible we find the vivid account of the People of God’s Walk To Freedom from Egypt, the house of slavery (Exodus 20:2). Thankfully for most of us slavery is something we know only from history, books, or films, but we never actually experienced it.

Yet even today there are millions who know the harsh reality of slavery. Through our connection to Broughton High School we were invited to participate and become the physical starting point of a WALK FOR FREEDOM later in October. This is a walk in solidarity with those enslaved, trafficked, and abused. Kirsty Thomson, one of the teachers at Broughton High School explains what this is all about.

On the 16th of October, abolitionists all over the world will come together to shine a spotlight on human trafficking for A21’s 7th annual Walk For Freedom.
This event is a collective effort led by A21, a global anti-human trafficking organisation dedicated to abolishing slavery everywhere, forever. The Walk For Freedom is A21’s global response to human trafficking, rallying tens of thousands of people in cities around the world to fundraise and walk for the millions enslaved today.

A21 combats modern-day slavery through a multi-dimensional approach: Reach, Rescue, and Restore.

Walk For Freedom is an integral part of A21’s efforts to reach the vulnerable and prevent human trafficking from ever happening in the first place, as well as reaching people with the information to recognise and report human trafficking. Each step matters. Every step makes a difference.

There are millions who have yet to be freed—and we will continue to walk, to show up, and to raise awareness for the victims in our cities and around the globe still trapped in slavery. This year our local actions will multiply into a greater global impact than ever before.

A21’s hosts are rallying their communities and taking action. The event is not a protest, but a silent, single-file walk on behalf of the millions of men, women, and children who are trapped in slavery today.

The Walk for Freedom takes place in Edinburgh at 2pm on Saturday October 16th. Meeting at St Stephen’s Comely Bank. Please join us for this hour as we walk in silence and solidarity, eventually coming back to SSCB for a cup of hot refreshment.

Please join the Facebook event
https://fb.me/e/N9908aOn

And register for free –
https://www.a21.org//register.php?eventId=3073

Thank you.

[from Kirsty Thomson and GV]

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living more sustainably

It sometimes feels that everything we do has a bad impact on the environment and climate. It’s important to focus on what we can do and don’t give up simply because we can’t afford an electric car or because we love drinking tea and coffee that have high food miles! Don’t beat yourself up if you forget your re-useable mug or if you have to drive instead of taking the bus or walking – think about what you CAN do, when you can and fitting that into your lifestyle – that way intentions become habits.

Almost everything we do has a carbon footprint (i.e. generates carbon emissions that contribute to global warming) or creates waste, but we can all take steps to reduce our impact on the world that God has blessed us with. 

One of the biggest steps to living more sustainably is consuming less and buying only that which we really need. This is not a new principle, but one that we in the 21st century with our disposable incomes and “instantaneous gratification” culture need to re-learn. Kudos to our Grandparents – they had it right – they only ever bought what was needed, reused as much as possible and never wasted unnecessarily. My Gran used to re-use her cling film! It seemed daft at the time but now we know the damage caused by our overuse of single use plastic – she had a point – and it saved her money! 

Living simply can be seen as a spiritual discipline and in many ways, it is consistent not only with how Jesus and the apostles led their lives but also how we can lead a more sustainable lifestyle. So, consider borrowing or buying second hand instead of new, repairing items instead of throwing them out, and eat seasonably using local produce where possible (not only fewer food miles but supports local businesses too). 

Zero waste shops are a great way to cut down on packaging and are another way to support local businesses, reduce food miles and eat seasonably. These shops stock fruit, vegetables, dried cupboard goods, fresh farm produce, toiletries, cleaning, household, and beauty products, and even luxury items like sweets, chocolates, and gifts. 

Supermarkets are reducing single use plastic and require you to use your own bags for fruit and veg and some allow you to bring in your own tubs for fresh fish and meat. Walking to the shops or using a delivery service also helps reduce some greenhouse gas emissions as they save us driving to the shops. 

Bob the builder had his priorities right, reduce, then reuse, then recycle.

Perhaps you are doing some of this already! If so, keep up the good work – every bit matters in reducing our carbon emissions and so limiting climate change.

(Written by Elspeth Pitt)

Check out our Eco tips in next week’s Epistle for some practical ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle. 

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