SSCB News Blogs

Should I Stay or Should I Go

“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

Today (Thursday, 21 May 2020) is a special day in the Christian church’s calendar. It is called Ascension Day. Jesus Christ was on earth for forty days after His resurrection, meeting His disciples continuing to prepare them for their ministry. On the fortieth day, at the Mount of Olives, outside of Jerusalem, He was taken up to heaven before their very eyes (Acts 1:9). Here on earth no-one will see Him in person until He returns to judge the living and the dead.

Jesus returned to heaven from where He came. But He promised His disciples that He will certainly be with them always till the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Since then Jesus is not with us in a physical bodily form, but spiritually, invisibly, yet very much in reality. His disciples experienced this within ten days at Pentecost, and so did so many ever since.

Why did He return to heaven? Why did Jesus say it is better for those who believe in Him that he goes away rather than stay? Because He has finished His work on earth (John 17:4). Because He went to prepare a place in the Father’s house for those who believe in Him that they may be with Him forever (John 14:1-3). Because He is interceding for us without ceasing in the Father’s presence (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Because He is in authority over all in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). 

Yet, Jesus did not leave His beloved as orphans, He has sent His Holy Spirit, who comforts, encourages, guides, and counsels us, and is with us and in us forever (John 16). Live by the Spirit to know His life and peace in full.

Personal Experiences of Church: 4. Bible-based Church

From the sublime to the ridiculous: this church doesn’t even exist.

Well, it does: true to Lockdown, this is a virtual church, an online community. This is the world of the Daily Audio Bible, with its tagline of “You don’t have to be alone.”

It began in 2006 as a somewhat self-conscious podcast in the USA when Brian Hardin was prompted to read the Bible aloud over the course of a year. He anticipated about 20 listeners and that he would then quietly put away his Bible. But God spoke through the Bible, people listened and a community emerged. DAB podcasts have now been downloaded over 90 million times, read fresh every day.

I stumbled across it in the simplest of ways. I was concerned that my faith journey was a bit mechanical and although I had done the “big challenge” of reading the entire Bible some years before, my knowledge was limited and my attention span even less. I desperately wanted to hear God’s Word regularly. I remember, in early 2010, my internet search: “Let’s see … I want to know God’s word, so that’s ‘Bible.’ I want to listen, so that’s ‘audio.’ And I want it every day, so that’s ‘daily.’” I typed in Daily Audio Bible and found this was the actual name of a website, a podcast, a community. It’s about 20 minutes per episode with a different translation each week. I downloaded and started listening – and I haven’t stopped since.

The DAB website says that “You’re likely to meet people from all over the world here but everyone has a common interest in the Bible. This website is your portal to communicating with others. You’ll find your place and a context for community here.” And that common interest factor is vital – we need the Bible. It’s not just something that people read from on a Sunday; it’s a route map to God’s love for us. As God so clearly said to Brian, “Read the Bible!

DAB does Bible reading. DAB also does quality coffee, raising funds for mission work. I am a coffee snob, and happily so is Brian. I buy DAB Coffee (yes, that is what we serve in SSCB). Elspeth and I have become friends with Brian and his family and with his executive assistant, SarahJane, and her husband (who is the coffee roaster).

DAB is many things to many people: some live too far from a church; others want community but don’t want to be seen. Others like me, happily settled in church, just need that extra something every day. DAB provides God’s Word and points to a relationship with Jesus. There is a much-used prayer phone-in. A few months ago someone called in with almost a challenge – he was an atheist, training for a marathon. Bored with music as he ran, he had found DAB and called in to say he had decided to listen (although didn’t think his message would be played). So many DAB-ers then phoned in praying for him and welcoming him. We don’t know his back story, but a few weeks ago he called in again … to declare that he had given his life to Jesus! Sometimes there is praise music and there is a short Bible exposition as we read through the story of God’s love for us.

And as for our current Lockdown, the DAB website has long stated: “There are three things we can’t do without in our Christian life here on Earth. The Bible, a conversational intimacy with Jesus and COMMUNITY. Isolation is a killer … Virtual community is a relatively new development in the world. This has never been possible before. We’re not here attempting to replace physical community in a localised area but … we feel a sense of awe at the way God can bring people from all over the world together every day.

What is church? It is the people. Daily, as I experience my audio read-through of the Bible, I am part of community, I am with Jesus, I am not alone.

https://dailyaudiobible.com or find the podcasts in iTunes or Google Play.

[from Timothy Pitt]

Thy Kingdom Come

Thy Kingdom Come – Prayer Campaign 21-31 May 2020

Do you want God’s Kingdom to come, and come soon in full grace, power and glory? I hope you do! Are you willing to do something about it?

Here is something you can do about it, even in lockdown! Now there is not much we can do in lockdown, but we always can PRAY! Prayer is fundamental to us at SSCB! Or so it should be! So, let’s seize the opportunity to pray for God’s Kingdom to Come!

‘Thy Kingdom Come!’ is a global prayer movement. It wasn’t global to start out with in 2016, but now it is. It is an initiative inviting Christians to pray for God’s Kingdom to break through into our world. It is organised yearly from Ascension Day to Pentecost (for most of us  this year that is 21st to 31st May). Last year Christians from 172 countries took part in it! This year you can be part of it too! I think that is pretty amazing!

Do not be afraid, or feel stressed about this. There are different ways to pray, and they are all good. Last year we suggested (on the basis of the prayer pattern of the Bishop of York) choose five people you want to pray for and pray the Lord’s Prayer for them! Here is John Sentamu’s encouragement: Lord’s Prayer for Five. Pray for them all year around, and wait for God to act.

There are really helpful and encouraging resources available at the Thy Kingdom Come website: www.thykingdomcome.global. There are exciting resources from prayers you can use to family resources (really great fun!), and prayer journals. You may prefer to read written prayers or to pray what you feel the Lord has laid on your heart. You will know what works best for you. Prayer resources are available at www.thykingdomcome.global/prayer-resources

We encourage you to take part in this prayer movement. It will bless you too!

We are joining our brothers and sisters in North-West Edinburgh as we pray for Thy Kingdom Come. Churches from Cramond, Drylaw, Old Kirk & Muirhouse, Granton and St. Columba’s Blackhall are part of it and they are inviting us too! We desperately need Jesus’ presence and help, individually and as His people!

Martin Bethell, our Prayer Co-ordinator is co-ordinating this. Our ‘prayer slot’ is the afternoon of Friday, 29th May, from 12:00 to 23:00. Martin divided it up to 30 minutes periods. Some periods are taken already, and as this is changing all the time, we can’t offer an accurate schedule. It is never a problem if more people pray at a certain time anyway! You can sign up for one slot, two slots together or more than one slot at different times. You can pray as individuals, Family Groups, Social Groups. Obviously, this will be in the privacy of your own homes due to the current lockdown.

If you would like to join in, please email Martin at pray@comelybankchurch.com letting him know you want to be part of this and also your preferred time period of 30 minutes. He will acknowledge your message and will advise you as well.

Sowing in Lockdown

Sowing the Seed in Lockdown

If you’ve got a bit of a garden or a glasshouse you were able to do some gardening, planting new plants during this lockdown period. It is exciting to wait for the plants and their fruit to come forth.

Maybe you were ‘sowing’ some spiritual seeds too, sowing them into your own heart or maybe into the hearts of others. This is a good season to sow the spiritual seed! A lot of the ground (the hearts of people) is ready for it! Some churches in Edinburgh are about to run Alpha courses and apparently their courses are overbooked. They will see a great harvest, and church growth, because they are doing the sowing! Good for them! May God bless their efforts richly!

The Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:5-15) is a powerful allegory of sharing the Word of God with others. In His explanation Jesus says that “the seed is the word of God” (v.11).

In the context of the story this means that our lives without the Word of God remain barren wastelands! Our human nature depraved by sin can bring forth only thorns and weeds at most. Only the Word of God that was fully taken in will bear new life and the fruit of the Spirit of God!

God’s Word, the good news of Jesus Christ stirs up faith and brings salvation. These are crop the devil does not like and wants to take out of your heart, and choke in your life! He is constantly on the attack, waiting for an opportune time as he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Precisely because the devil is so active (three of four soils in the parable are affected by him!) we must be active, and persevere sowing the Word of God! Many hearts have been prepared for it by the Lord during these trying times. Sow the seed God has given you in His Word! Sow it into your own heart, and into the hearts of others! The Lord of the harvest is sending you into his harvest field!

May the Fourth be with you…

Last Monday was May 4th – for many, just another day, but for fans of the movies, it was Star Wars Day.  And why have they picked this day?  A clever pun on ‘May the Fourth be with you’.  So, to celebrate, Peter and I have been watching all of the Star Wars movies in order – a movie a day.  For those not familiar with the franchise, that is 11 movies and Peter has been a stickler for including all the side story movies (Solo, Rogue One) in their correct chronological order too.  It’s been quite a journey for us, and ends tomorrow when we will watch the final film, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’.

Star Wars, like so many films before it, concerns the battle between good and evil (or ‘the dark side’ in Star Wars-speak).  And much has been written about how the movie mirrors the Christian story of the creation, fall and ultimate redemption through Jesus Christ.  I have thought a lot about this over the last 10 days (and counting) of watching these movies.  I’m not going to replay all of the parallels (and there are many!), but the one thing that has really struck me in watching them this time is that, unlike many other movies, there are not goodies and baddies, with no shades of grey.  There are people who start off well, but are ‘drawn to the dark side’ and there are those who start on the dark side, but are drawn to the good.  The biggest character in the whole story – Anakin Skywalker AKA Darth Vadar – starts well, then after many tortured scenes, turns to the dark side, then is finally redeemed at the end when he sacrifices himself to save the life of his son.  I think this description of the human condition is a more realistic depiction of what people are really like:  generally speaking, we are not good people or bad people, but people who every minute of every day make choices about what to do or to say or how to be – and some of those will be good and some of those will be bad and some will be somewhere in-between.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn famously wrote: The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.’ 

God has given us the free will to make whatever choices we want.  So my prayer for today, and during all of this lockdown, is that we all make good choices, helped to find those by studying the amazing wisdom in the Bible, through being led by the counselling of the Holy Spirit who lives within each and every one of us who confess Jesus as our Saviour, and by praying that the fruits of the Holy Spirit colour all that we do.  In the wise words of Proverbs 3:5-6 ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways to submit to him and he will make your paths straight.’  And the best news is that there is a way back from the bad choices too – where we ask for forgiveness, dust ourselves down and get back on to the straight path again.

May the force Lord be with you!

[from Alison Franks]

Personal Experiences of Church: 3. A Partnering Church

Now this is a strange one, as I have never even visited this church.

La Jolla Christian Fellowship is in San Diego, USA and its senior pastor is Adam Stadtmiller, a friend of mine. He and his family have been over a couple of times, including to SSCB. Coincidentally, San Diego is twinned with Edinburgh and whilst we have “Greyfriar’s Bobby,” they have “Bum” the loyal dog from the 1890s (there’s a statue of him in Princes Street Gardens).

LJCF has a lot in common with us: the building is about 100 years old, they came through a church split about 10 years ago and are challenged to be relevant to a diverse range, from senior citizen lunches to “Surf Church” (paddle boarding and Jesus: what’s not to love?) – although our closest would probably be the time I fell in Inverleith Duck Pond. 

For some time I have listened to Adam’s sermons via podcast, telling him my regular pew was a virtual seat near the back of his church. With Lockdown they began to broadcast services with daily devotionals and short “meet the congregation” videos. All very engaging, and I felt I was in a more central pew up near the front. Then Adam asked if I would do a devotional video for them, and suddenly it seems like the whole congregation is with me. Not as a special case; just looking to walk together. It’s a big old world out there, but Jesus makes it local. LJCF is interested in SSCB and looking to partner with us as and how the Lord calls. As Adam says, it is not because they have the answers but because they have both questions and a love for family through Jesus. 

Lockdown for LJCF may mean that the building is closed, but the people remain active; isolated physically but not in outlook. They have developed Four Cs: Community (their immediate church family … and their neighbours 5,198 miles away), Care (they care for each other; they don’t stop at the church door but reach out to us and to others), Contributions (asking what the church can do for its people, and whether the people can give financially to support the church) and Calendar (a certainty of events and a programme of support).

What is church? It is the people. I share a connection, a relationship, with them. It’s not of Adam; it’s not of the people; it’s Jesus.

I have just found their “mission statement” which I think they are living out: “LJCF is a local micro-church, purposed to bring deep community transformation and far-reaching global impact in the name of Jesus Christ.”

[from Timothy Pitt]

Call to Prayer

Let’s keep hope and the light of Christ alive by our prayers, and join together again at 19:00 on Sunday, 10th May 2020 and pray for God’s grace to heal our land, being His salvation, and restore us!

“Today, in these times, we pray that we may sense Christ’s guiding presence:

Come, Jesus Christ, come my way;
showing me your way, through these disorientating days,
and opening my eyes to your accompanying presence.

Come, Jesus Christ, come my way;
teaching me your truth, through these confounding days
and opening my mind to your living Word.

Come Jesus Christ, come my way;
revealing to me your life, through these bewildering days,
and opening my heart to the fulness of your being. Amen.

VE Day – What are we doing with the Victory?

Today, 8th May 2020, is the 75th anniversary of VE Day, when officially WW2 ended in Europe. It is right and important to pause and remember with gratitude all the sacrifice that made the victory possible. I am not glorifying war or violence, I just give thanks and tribute for the opportunity that was given to me, and us all, to live our life to the full in peace.

I was just thinking that Captain Tom, of whose recent and amazing activities we heard so much, was just 25 years old, and our own Captain Jim Allen, was a mere lad of 21 years of age when Churchill announced the end of the war 75 years ago! We are grateful to them, and all their comrades in the army, navy, and airforce, and to all their contemporaries who served sacrificially, and gave their lives, in uniform or not, till peace was won. Seventeen of our congregation gave their lives in WW2 for our peace! We will remember them!

When I hear this acronym, VE Day, strangely enough (I am rather inclined that way), a name comes to my mind: Victor Emmanuel. No, not the name of Italy’s king (1900 – 1946), but Jesus Christ.

In Jesus God came to us to be with us, as the prophet Isaiah foretold: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14). Immanuel, or Emmanuel, means “God is with us.” He is with us in our circumstances, sorrows, pains, wars, pandemics, and every life experience! Jesus Christ was Victor, our Champion, conquering our enemies: evil, sin, and death! He defeated evil and sin on the cross with his death, and overcame death when he was raised from the dead. He is our Victor Emmanuel! He brought us peace for ever, peace with one another, with creation and with God. Easter is our VE Day, for almost 2,000 years now!

The big question that dawned on Captain Tom, and our Captain Jim, and all who were blessed to live through VE Day 75 years ago, was ‘What are we going to do with this gift of victory?’ ‘What are we going to do with this peace?’ ‘What kind of new life are we going to build for ourselves?’

The same questions need to be answered when someone gains peace and new life through Jesus Christ? ‘What now?’ ‘What to do with this New Life, this opportunity?’ God guides us through His Word and by His Spirit in our new life in Christ! Ask Him in prayer to guide you and rest on Jesus Christ in faith as you follow Him!

And these are the questions we all need to answer when the siege of COVID-19 will be over! ‘What shall we do now?’ ‘What new life are we going to make for ourselves?’ I firmly believe we need to be grateful for the opportunity of a New Life we are given after COVID-19 lockdown, and show that thankfulness with a new way of life! We have experienced a growing scale of respect and care for each other, a deep hunger for hope, a revival of our environment and creation as the poisoning of the planet was so radically scaled down, a slower and more liveable pace of life, valued family time together. Keep and treasure all that you gained, the care, the freshly found hope; continue protecting creation, live the new life you were given to the full, build a new life! HONOUR THE VICTORY THAT WILL BE WON FOR YOU!

Come People of the Risen King

We sing ‘Come people of the Risen King’ but are we? In the last week some have watched the film Risen, imagining the reactions of a hardened roman soldier ordered to find the body of Jesus. There must have been those in Jerusalem who, like the Tribune in the film, came to realise that the only answer that fitted the facts was ‘He is risen’. The disciples met the risen Jesus, and they knew it was true. They were changed.

As we look to the future – next week, next month, next year – are we looking back like the disciples on that weekend, to a crucified teacher, or are we looking forward to telling the world about a Risen King and his kingdom? Who do we think we are – individuals saved through the death of Jesus or people of the Risen King, with a job to do and a Kingdom to proclaim? 

Sue and I have recently been pointed towards a book with the title ‘The day the revolution began’ (author: Tom Wright), an in-depth look at the full impact of the death and resurrection of Jesus. For many of us this is not the picture we have of ‘church’ or the Christian life, but it is what started when the group of frightened disciples moved out from their hiding place and told the world what had really happened. Those who watched the film saw that change portrayed as they moved from Jerusalem to Galilee.

We need to think ahead – is our desire to go back to ‘normal’ or to rekindle that revolution as the certainties of the enlightenment have been shaken by COVID-19? Leaders are powerless and science hasn’t delivered. In a race to be seen to be doing something the world economy has been shattered. But we believe the people of God are ‘the people of the risen king’.  We must change our thinking and proclaim a new, eternal, kingdom in the days to come.

Come, young and old from every land
Men and women of the faith
Come, those with full or empty hands
Find the riches of His grace
Over all the world, His people sing
Shore to shore we hear them call
The Truth that cries through every age:
“Our God is all in all”!

‘COME PEOPLE OF THE RISEN KING’ Keith and Kirstyn Getty & Stuart Townend © 2007 THANKYOU MUSIC (PRS) ADM WORLDWIDE AT CAPITOLCMGPUBLISHING.COM EXCLUDING EUROPE WHICH IS ADM BY INTEGRITYMUSIC.COM

[by John Baggaley]

Personal Experiences of Church: 2. A Caring Church

Katoomba Uniting Church (Australia)

I only went to this church once. Elspeth and I were on holiday in Australia in 2001 and were in the Blue Mountains, north of Sydney. It was Sunday morning and we went looking for a church service. We saw one was about to start at the Katoomba Uniting Church, and wandered in.

Almost immediately, we were stuck: it would be rude to walk out again. Here was a small congregation with whom I had nothing in common. I don’t think anyone was aged under 75 (I was about 33 at the time). I was about to be taught a lesson.

It started with a cringe, as we were asked to sign a visitors’ book and the minister welcomed the “special visitors from Scotland.” But the praise was heart-felt and the message rang true. After the service, we moved with the flow of people and found ourselves in a large common room where we all sat on cheap plastic chairs while tea, coffee and biscuits were produced. There was a quiet buzz of conversation. People were genuinely interested in us and our travels, but we also heard snatches of conversation – and responses – from around the room. Fresh flowers for Sally who was ill, home baking for Henry who had had a fall, plus a works party to fix his path. There was lots of chat about how people were getting on – really getting on, not just the superficial news. Conversation would break regularly and naturally into prayer, just a short and informal thanksgiving or intercession for whatever they happened to be talking about, and then move on again. You could almost see Jesus move amongst them, a hand on this shoulder, an affectionate touch of that arm, as He heard and agreed with prayer, offered healing, shared His love.

When I walked into this church, I had thought I couldn’t relate to them as they were too out of touch. I found that they were properly in touch. They really knew and loved each other; they were genuinely interested in each other and us, and they looked to commit everything to God in prayer. In the end, we had to tear ourselves away so we could catch our train. But that whole congregation travelled with me in my heart, and all from that one service and time of fellowship. Because they cared.

What was church? It was the people. I still think of them, caring and sharing with each other. And loving God together.

[from Timothy Pitt]

Previously in this series: 1. A Mentoring Church

Call to Prayer

Let us not grow tired and complacent about praying in this difficult time. Join thousands of Christians in prayer at 19:00 on Sunday night, the 3rd of May.

“In these challenging days: Is there anyone watching over us who really understands who we are and what we are experiencing at this time?

“The imagery of the Lord as Shepherd and of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd is woven into the heart of Scripture.

“The resonance of the ancient, yet immediately present, words of the Psalmist can be sensed, such that even now we can hear those words in the very depths of our being:

“‘The Lord is my Shepherd…Even though I walk through the darkest valley…Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me’. (Psalm 23)

“The imagery is taken up in the Gospel of John where the Good Shepherd watches over us and calls us by our name.

“He does so because he knows us and knows what we are experiencing at this time. (John 10) Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd’ and so we pray:

Good Shepherd, watch over us today
In all we face and experience.
Never leave us or forsake us
And journey with us always.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know us
As no-one else knows us.
Guard us and keep us,
As you guard and keep those whom we love.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, we pray for the sick and the lonely;
For the anxious and the bereaved;
For those whose pain is beyond our comprehension.
We stand with them and commend them to your care.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, we pray for the carers in hospitals and in homes
And for all who serve the needs of others.
May the example of living compassion
Inspire us in our care for others.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know the depths of our heart
And the fears which are ours.
Speak into the depths of our heart
And calm our fears.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know us by our name
And our identity is not hidden from you.
Gather us to yourself as a Shepherd gathers the sheep,
That we might know your Name.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer. Amen

Real Life Parable: The Lost Sheep

Lost and Found – Happy Reunion

Parables are not just nice Bible stories, they can be powerful real life experiences too! Donald and Ann Bruce emailed us their story. Read it and rejoice!

“We have just lived one of Jesus’ parables. Amid all the bad news and the pervasive oppressive atmosphere of fear, isolation, badmouthing, surveillance and all, we have experienced a story of redemption which we would like to share for your encouragement.

“A few days ago, Ann successfully delivered a lamb that was coming out backwards and was stuck. He and the ewe would otherwise have died. The lamb was premature but gradually growing. Early this morning on his rounds of the flock up on the hill, the shepherd found the lamb’s mum wandering around bleating, searching for her lamb which she had clearly lost on the hill. The shepherd and Ann searched for the lamb and it was nowhere to be seen. The conclusion was that a fox or an eagle had taken what was still quite a weak lamb. It happens. Very depressing for a lamb we had ourselves saved. But the shepherd said, you might walk up the hill, following the burn that runs steeply down, on the off chance that the lamb had fallen in and got stuck and was still alive.

“We all knew the likelihood of that was almost nil. But Ann and I left the 38 sheep and 10 lambs and went in search of one lost lamb, praying for God’s grace. As we scrambled our way up the little gorge where the tiny burn comes down, we looked into the burn channel, just in case. The burn is only a foot or so wide, and at many points the water flows out of sight under grass or heather, so we kept calling “Maaa” because the shepherd said a stuck lamb might respond by bleating. It felt very odd for two adult humans to be ascending the burn channel calling Maaa every few seconds, wherever the burn was covered over, and going up and up, with no response.

“I turned a bend and said a half-hearted Maaa and to my amazement, there was a tiny weak bleat of a lamb. But where did it come from? There was only grass, heather, earth and the burn. We Maaa’d again and waited. Silence. Again and waited. Another bleat, somewhere behind where I was standing. I knelt down and put my head into the burn channel as it emerged from a tunnel under the grassy earth, and caught a glimpse of a white lamb’s face. There in a tiny cave under the bank just above the water lay the lamb, completely stuck, trapped behind a rock, unable to go forward or back. I pulled away an enormous clump of heather enough for Ann to reach down, roll the rock aside a few inches and pull out the lamb, cold but alive. This was God’s pure grace. The lamb would soon have died alone and trapped, with no one even knowing he was there.

“Great was our rejoicing as Ann carried the lamb back down the hill to pastures near the house where the flock was currently feeding. And there was his Mum, instant recognition and reunion, with a good suckle for a cold and very hungry lamb. We cannot describe the joy we felt.

“Jesus said, Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, Does he not leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep till he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.(Luke 15:3-4)

“So we are calling our friends and neighbours not only to rejoice with us for we have found our lost lamb (Luke 15:5), but to rejoice with us over the extraordinary lengths that God has gone, and still goes, to redeem his lost human race of sinners, helplessly stuck in holes of own making, unable to get out without the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ coming, searching for us and dying in our place and rising to new life.

“We are in a spiritual battle, which God has won. Here is a parable of that.”

Donald and Ann Bruce (from Skye)

Personal Experiences of Church – 1. A Mentoring Church

Jakarta International Christian Fellowship -A Church That Mentors

We all have different experiences of church. Some are good, some are less so. Here we are sharing some personal experiences (five, to be precise) of one of our elder’s, Timothy Pitt. We hope you will find them inspiring and encouraging. Here is his first experience: The Church That Mentors

When Elspeth and I lived in Indonesia we attended the Jakarta International Christian Fellowship. At the time we both thought we were just having a bit of a life adventure – certainly I was looking forward to life as an international oil and gas lawyer. Looking back on it, we both agree that God was at work in many other ways – He had our careers safely in His hands, but He wanted to work on other aspects of our lives and characters, especially our calling to church leadership. And JICF was pretty central to this.

It was an English language church, but of mixed nationalities. And the church services were held in a business centre – we even took an escalator up to the auditorium level.

The people were so welcoming and we were soon invited to join a Home Group.  After a while, we stopped and wondered: we were just into our 30s, but our fellow Home Group members were all elders at JICF: an oil and gas company president; an oil and gas company vice president; the leader of the Indonesian Wycliffe Bible Translation mission; a senior executive in the World Bank; and the owner / administrator of a hospital (no NHS there), and all their wives were some of the wisest and kindest leaders I have met.

We really enjoyed our time at JICF. We learned so much – about Jesus and representing Jesus to others – as we hosted small dinners and joined impromptu fellowship dinners (food featured highly!) and really got to know our church family. We were part of, and led, Bible studies and we helped with charities including emergency medical aid on one of the islands (OK, that was Elspeth – I stayed safe in my office and sent emails).

That was 20 years ago, but even within the last couple of years we have met five folk from JICF including from our Home Group and keep in touch with others by email.

What was church? It was the people. I still look back in gratitude to them, to that time, to what I learned. And, especially, to what God did for me (and for Elspeth) through them all.

[from Timothy Pitt]

Pastoral Care During Lockdown

We are already in the sixth week of Coronavirus Lockdown. While the lockdown is absolutely essential for our safety it can be stressful. Especially if someone is elderly and alone, or has certain health issues.

From the first week our Pastoral Team was concerned for the elderly, the lonely, the vulnerable, and those who are perhaps more isolated than others, that is have no internet connection. So they formed a list of those of the church family who could need help, support, and care in these difficult times.

Using this list we have a team involved with contacting those people firstly to ascertain if they have family nearby helping them or perhaps just for a chat or to ascertain if they need any help or shopping.

For those without internet access we deliver the Church Newsletter each week in printed format either by hand or by post to those who live further away.

A team member is reading to those with failing sight whilst another is sharing daily readings with locked in folks.

Some of our ‘locked in’ members have told us how they are passing the time. One lady is knitting hats for premature babies and has now branched out into sewing bags to carry ‘drainage tube collectors’ for the hospital.

Please share your stories of how you pass your time, how did God speak to you, what activities you are doing, if you read a good book, or have seen good film. You can post or email these to newsletter@comelybankchurch.com .

We would like to encourage everyone to telephone those they know to maintain contact sharing their news and daily thoughts. 

For those that can go for walks you could have a conversation ‘at a distance’ if you pass a friend’s house. A lady who attended the Saturday Café has offered to do just this.

If you have any concerns about yourself or others or wish to offer help please telephone Joan Brown (Pastoral Care Co-ordinator) at 0131 343 2576, or email jandjgbrown@talktalk.net, or contact the church at office@comelybankchurch.com.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Loving Lord Jesus, who carried our burdens, we give you thanks for carers and cared-for-ones. We pray your blessing upon them all, keep them all safe! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

[from Joan Brown (Pastoral Care Co-ordinator)]

Call to Prayer

We have now reached the fifth week of joint calls by Scottish churches to pray at the same time in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, at 19:00 on Sundays. Thousands of people across Scotland have been answering the call to pray during this time of sacrifice, difficulty and bereavement. Please light a candle and place it in your window as a testimony to the light of the world shining through and giving light to our journey.

“As we continue to journey through this challenging time, we are conscious that the course of our journey will take us to different places. At some points, we will have greater clarity as to where that journey is taking us. At other points, we will be less sure. The two disciples who left Jerusalem to journey to Emmaus were definitely in the latter category (Luke 24: 13-35). As they journey, they try to make sense of all that they are currently experiencing and, in truth, they are finding it difficult. It is as if the source of their hope has gone. Unexpectedly, they then find themselves in the presence of someone whom they do not recognise. The unrecognised presence listens to their story and, having listened, begins to offer a new way of understanding that story. As they come towards the end of their journey, the unrecognised is revealed as the risen Lord: ‘The Lord has risen indeed’! The Lord is always with us on our journey and so we pray…”

Lord, we are those who journey
And who find that journey hard today.
We are those who journey
And long to find our hope renewed.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, whether in our own company or with companions beside us,
We journey on.
Whether sure, or unsure, as to our journey’s end,
Come beside us through the risen Lord.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for others;
For carers of the living and of the dying;
For the bereaved and for the anxious;
For those fearing loss of work and of business.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for scientists and researchers;
For those seeking to understand the challenge we face;
For those creating potential vaccines;
For those advising decision-makers.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for those who shape our common life:
In local Councils and in Scottish Government
And in the Government of the United Kingdom.
Grant to them wisdom, compassion and understanding.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for your Kingdom to come
And for your will to be done,
On earth
As it is in heaven.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer. Amen

The Stone that Did Not Roll Away!

At Easter time our joy is focused on the empty tomb! Christ has risen! He is risen indeed! We know this because the stone that locked the tomb was rolled away! But there is a stone in Scripture that does not roll away!

David wrote in his song of praise, Psalm 18, that “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

We can say that one of God’s nickname in the Old Testament is ‘Rock’ (cf Deuteronomy 32)! The Rock who does not roll away, no matter how many the enemies number, no matter the strength of the adversity, or the severity of the circumstances! He stands firm!

David is bursting out in praise in Psalm 18 for in the Lord he found refuge and safety time and again! He could return to God as to a safe rock that was not moved! From the time of his anointing as king (he was only a mere shepherd boy at the time) and the actual time of ascending to the throne David faced conflicts, persecution, and wars on every side (cf. 1 Samuel 18-31). David knew he was only inches away from being ambushed, killed, or destroyed in innumerable cases (“The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.” verse 4) if it were not for the Lord, his God who bent down and picked him up and stood him on his feet.

David is wholeheartedly giving the praise and honour and glory to the Lord for who He is and how He revealed Himself to David, as his Saviour and Redeemer. The Lord is his Rock, his fortress, his shield, and stronghold.

David repeatedly experienced that he always can trust in God! God will not let him down! He will not roll away!

How comforting and soul strengthening it is to know that David’s Lord is our Lord Jesus Christ who saved us from all our adversaries! He is faithful and true. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Entangled? Outnumbered? Or terrified? Turn to the Saviour, Jesus Christ! He is your Rock and stronghold who will never roll away!

At the Doorstep

Luke 24:13-35; verse 29; cf. Revelation 3:20

The journey of the two disciples to Emmaus on the Day of the Resurrection is surprisingly and profoundly relevant to Coronavirus lockdown!

“As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.” (Luke 24:28-29)

The two disciples arrived to their destination. The amazing Bible study with Jesus, explaining the prophecies about Himself, came to an end. Now they stand at the entrance of the house, and Jesus is ‘preparing to go further.’ At that moment they began to urge Him to stay, inviting Him in to stay with them!

This is the moment that is missing from so many people’s attitude who got acquainted with Jesus! A good number of people don’t mind listening to one or two sermons about Jesus, or reading a book about Him, or have a good chinwag about Jesus, but then the whole thing, and Jesus too, are gone, it was just a phase, Jesus was just another person they met on their journey and now they parted ways, they never invited Him in to stay with them.

The words of Jesus stirred up the feelings and memories of the disciples, their hearts were burning within them. That stirring became a decision in their minds and they invited Jesus to stay with them! They didn’t even know who their travelling companion really was. They just knew that what He is offering them is missing in their lives. They need that! They need Him! Come, stay with us! They recognised Jesus for who He truly was only as He stayed with them, and he completely transformed their lives.

Jesus went along with them as far as their destination. But then comes a point when Jesus will only stay with us if we ask Him to do so! He is not forcing Himself upon us. He comes alongside us on our journey of downheartedness, in our isolation, and tells us a lot about Himself, but it is we who need to ask Him to stay with us! That’s the only way to be together with Him for ever.

It appears that during this COVID-19 lockdown a good number of people are seeking and connecting with Jesus through online services. They find it helpful and encouraging. Maybe you find His words helpful and encouraging too! That is great! What will happen when the lockdown is over? Will you ask Him to stay with you? Or will it just be a passing phase?

In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in, and eat with them and they with me.”

The two disciples did not know exactly who they invited to stay with them. But we do know, you know it is the risen Saviour, Jesus Christ – and being with Him now on earth means being with Him for all eternity!

(based on a meditation by Rev Kálmán Cseri, Hungarian Pastor )

Is the Bible Relevant to Coronavirus Lockdown?

Recently somebody said that he is not interested in the Bible, as it is an ancient book full of outdated, irrelevant stuff. It is useless in our 21st Century, especially in this present Coronavirus pandemic.

So I had a brief look at my Bible to see if indeed is it useless for us as we are combatting this deadly virus?

This is what I found, and this is not comprehensive by any means.

In Leviticus 11:39-40 God commands that people who touch or eat the carcass of an animal must wash their clothes and be in isolation for a period of time. Similarly people who got in contact or even got close to the body of a dead (murdered) person need to wash their hands. Furthermore people are forbidden to eat from the carcass of an animal found dead (Exodus 22:31). While some of these laws can be interpreted as spiritual laws, they seem to protect the health and well-being of people. They are protecting them from bacteria, viruses and infections, that are easily spread by decomposing carcasses. This was written thousands of years before science identified bacteria and viruses and the ways how infections work.

In Leviticus 13, 14 God gives regulations about how to act when someone has an infectious disease. God commands thorough washing and isolation for people with infections (Leviticus 13:45-46; 14:8-9). This sounds very similar that is advised to us today, many thousands of years later!

In Leviticus 15 God commands full body washing, and washing of clothes, and isolation if someone has an illness with the consequence of bodily discharge (whatever that might have been), and for anyone that might come into contact with that person or anything that person might have touched or was in contact with (bed, chair, etc.). What is more they had to wash in running water (verse 13), not in a bowl of water that could retain the bacteria! I think that is pretty advanced for an ancient book, like the Bible.

Just a wee comment here. We, of Hungarian origin are extremely proud of Dr Ignaz Semmelweis, the “saviour of mothers”. He worked in a hospital in Vienna in 1845 and noticed that about 30% of women that gave birth there died because of infection. He noticed that the doctors who conducted autopsy in the morgue then went over to the maternity ward and examined the pregnant mothers without washing their hands. He had to fight for it, but finally achieved that the doctors had to wash their hands before each examination. The death rate dropped to 2%! A doctor had ‘to fight’ that his colleagues should wash their hands when dealing with autopsy and examining people with pregnancy some 3,500-3,850 years after God already commanded that in His Word!

So much about the relevance of the Bible today in the midst of Coronavirus pandemic. And how much more the Bible has to say about washing and cleansing ourselves from sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to be saved for eternal life?

Call to Prayer

Sunday marks four consecutive weeks of joint calls by Scottish churches to pray at the same time in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Thousands of people across Scotland have been answering the call to join in prayer during this time of sacrifice, difficulty and bereavement. Praying at the same time (19:00) and placing a lit candle in the window together with others in their homes, help to create a sense of community when we are isolated in the lockdown! Join your brothers and sisters and let’s pray together as we reflect on John 20:19-23!

Prayer for Sunday, 19 April

Living God, speak into the depths of our experience,
Speak the word that stills our fears
And calms our anxieties:
‘Peace be with you.’
Speak your word to the lonely and to the broken,
To the bereaved and to those whose world has crumbled:
‘Peace be with you.’

Faithful God, speak to us behind locked doors
As we remember others, who risk their own safety,
In order to serve others:
Peace be with them.
Carers and nurses, doctors and ambulance drivers,
Delivery drivers and shop assistants:
Peace be with them.

God who inspires Hope, speak to us in the present
And speak to us of the future,
For though the doors are locked, in time they shall be open:
Peace shall be renewed.
For those who lead the life of our Nation: Our Queen Elizabeth,
First Minister and Prime Minister, and all who shape our common life,
For us all: Peace shall be renewed.

God whose name is love and whose gift is love,
Open our hearts to know you and to love you,
To love you and to love our neighbour
And as we do, to hear again: ‘Peace be with you.’
May we find our strength in you,
And hear again:
‘Peace be with you.’ Amen

We Live in the Hope and Power of Easter

The Way Forward After Coronavirus

Easter might be gone according to the calendar, but we still live in the power and the hope of Easter. Jesus was raised from the dead and He is alive and was given all authority over heaven and earth. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever! He continues to be alive and rules in the power of Easter. And all who follow Him, believe in Him, are living in the power and hope of Easter. We are the people of the risen King, we are the People of Easter.

God showed us His love and care by entering our circumstances, a sinful, and broken world that knows far too much sorrow and suffering, sickness and death. Jesus went through all that in His earthly ministry and in particular during His arrest, trial and death on the cross. As God, He could have kept a safe distance from us, but He became like one of us, yet without sin. He was not immune to our sins, sorrows, pain, tears, and suffering. He took them upon Himself and carried them to the cross where He died because of them. He took all of them away from us so we can become free! The empty tomb and the risen Christ gloriously confirm this! We can live in the power and redemption of Easter for ever as followers of Christ, trusting in Him.

The Coronavirus crisis brought a lot of fear and suffering to the whole world! We know this too well. But it also triggered so much care, love and kindness, from the smallest gestures to grandiose efforts. A 99 years old veteran raised already over £16 million for the NHS. Children draw rainbows and put them in the window. People do shopping for neighbours, help the vulnerable. Sweets and thank you notes are left out for the binmen. Many thousands volunteered to hep where the need is greatest. We can’t even give a good and proper appreciation of the much goodness that was brought forth.

After the Coronavirus crisis I pray and hope, and encourage you to pray too, that we will not go back to ‘normal’ as we knew it before COVID-19! That ‘normal’ was not good normal! Was not right normal! Wasn’t NORMAL at all. We, humanity, normalised greed, anger, injustice, discrimination, isolation (strange isn’t it?), violence, aggression, disrespect, poverty, selfishness, rage, hoarding, hate, and that’s not all of it. We should not long after them! Or for a world like that! When you got to know the light and freedom of Easter, you do not want to go back to the hopelessness, the pain, and the darkness of pre-Good Friday! When Jesus took off you the burdens of sin, evil and death, why would you want to take them up again?!

No, we must not go back to that ‘normal’! We received a new way of life! We received a new, bright, garment form Christ, we must take off our old self (pre COVID-19 self) with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:9). Apostle Paul goes on and encourages us: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

This must be the way forward after COVID-19! Living and acting in the hope and the power of Easter! What an opportunity we have! The opportunity of life in fullness! Live it and share it! For we are the people of Easter!

Love Your Neighbour

Let me share with you my favourite Easter story of this year. On Easter Sunday, after our online Zoom service I delivered some Easter Bags for our children of the Sunday Club and the youngsters of Inspire.

As I crossed the city I saw many windows displayed the sign of the rainbow drawn and coloured by children as a sign in support of the key workers who daily face danger on our behalf! It was encouraging to see the support for them around the city. It was good to see the gratitude for their service!

When I got to my last address delivering the Easter Bag, at the end of a small cul-de-sac, I noticed that all the houses had a rainbow drawing. How nice, I thought. I arrived to my destination. Right there before me, next to the door there was another drawing of the rainbow. As I pressed the bell and waited at a sufficient distance for it to open I noticed a drawing in the window of the next door neighbour too. The two drawings looked very similar! It looks like somebody made a drawing for the neighbour too, I thought to myself.

My assumption proved to be correct. It was Ewan Preen, from our Sunday Club who made them both. Actually he drew 25 rainbows and gave one to every household in their street. It was his drawing that I saw at every house! That was not all! Ewan also worked out a signal system for the street to ask for help. He also gave a red card to every household, so if they are in need of something they just have to place the red card in the window. Ewan very dedicatedly checks every day if there is a red card signalling that someone is in distress. Up until Easter nobody needed to reach for the red card, although there was a near call for brown sauce at one of the homes, but the person reconsidered her need that perhaps it wasn’t so desperate after all.

Well done Ewan for thinking of your neighbours and showing kindness and care in a very simple and practical way. Jesus said that there are two commandments that are the most important to govern our daily lives. The first is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and the second is very similar: to love our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Ewan you showed us and to your whole neighbourhood how to do that. Thank you.

Easter Bags

On Easter Sunday, after our Zoom service we delivered 22 Easter Bags to the children of our Sunday Club and the young people of Inspire. In spite of the lockdown we were able to communicate in this simple way that they are not isolated! The bags contained an Easter Egg with the Easter story as part of it, and some fluffy toys of chickens and bunnies, and some Easter puzzles. The young people of Inspire received an Easter Egg, and publications about Easter and a leaflet helping to find important passages in the Bible. We hope we were able to add to the joy of Easter for them all.

Easter Gallery

Here we share some of the artwork created by our church family for Easter. We are really blessed with so many gifts in our church family. “The lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts,” writes Francis Schaeffer. “A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God.” Our human creativity and desire to create, shape, form new things and things of beauty reflect our being created in the image of God, who is a creator God! So it is our privilege that we can enjoy and share these creations with you.

We wanted to celebrate the resurrection of Christ with these artistic gifts and talents. Enjoy the colours and shapes and forms and the hope and new life they communicate. Many thanks to the contributors!

Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!

The artists and their pieces are:

Alex Scarbrough: Easter Rooster [I painted this rooster as part of my art class, and then on reflection it reminds me of the cock that crowed three times and how Peter reacted.  It reminds me of the need to stay steadfast in the faith in the face of challenging times.]

Alex Scarbrough: Easter Rooster

Alia Pietsch: Easter Warmth (Watercolour) [It’s just a quick little watercolour that symbolises how Easter makes me feel. When I lived in Australia we had a sunrise service every Easter Sunday. A sense of warmth during a cold sunrise and the reassurance of hope. For me God is in that sunrise and Jesus with his flock flies up to join the heavens.]

Easter Warmth (Alia Pietsch; Watercolour)

Diana Porterfield: This poppy opened up in Diana’s garden on Easter Sunday (12 April 2020), wonderful masterpiece of our creator God!

Easter Poppy (photo; Diana Porterfield; 2020)

Emma Szilágyi: Songs of Spring (Catkins) (oil); Songs of Spring (Catkins Study; Charcoal); Apple Tree in Bloom (Oil) [Plants in Bloom traditionally associated with new life, have long been motif in art. I draw and paint directly from nature and then intensify the colours to create the mood. This oil painting of an apple tree in blossom is intended to be a celebration of light and colour, reflecting the joy, new life and hope of Easter morning.]

Song of Spring (oil, Emma Szilágyi; 2020)
Song of Spring (Study, charcoal, Emma Szilágyi, 2020)
Apple Tree in Blossom (oil; Emma Szilágyi)

Fraser Wood: This is a painting from my files of the work the guys painted last Easter in the Bethany Mens Drop-In morning that we have in Leith. I drew lightly on the roll of wallpaper and the real “artists” (with real faith life stories) painted with vigour.

Christ is Risen (Bethany Men’s Drop In Group, Easter 2019)

Joan Brown: These flowers are just picked and laid on a piece of paper. They won’t last; they have been cut away from their sustenance. Jesus was taken from the Cross but he sustains us, we are never cut off from him.

Easter Arrangement (live flowers, Joan Brown, 2020)

Mairi Marlborough: Just sharing some of our Easter Decorations – usually dotted round our house and very glad to share them as it will just be Norman and me this year for our Easter Family Gathering. Such a hopeful time – new life and a promise that all will be well. 
Happy Easter to everyone

Easter Card 2020 (Mairi Marlborough)

Moira McLaren:

Daffodil/narcissus (It symbolises renewal of life/rebirth and celebrates Easter as a festival of new hope.

Green Hill Far Away (The hymn was and is a favourite of mine, the words in the hymn say it all!

Myra Ball: Easter Greetings

Easter Greetings (Myra Ball, 2020)

Pam Hamilton:

Beauty from Broken-ness

The embroidery is created from leftovers, discarded threads, scraps, none of which would be any good on their own.

2 Corinthians 12 v 9 “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Vibrant New Life

Landscape in Acrylic

John 10 v 10 “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

Tony Peckham:

Call to Prayer

“Sunday at 19:00 has become increasingly a valued time for Christians as they pause to pray, conscious that many others will be sharing the same prayer at the same time. It helps create a sense of community when we are isolated through lockdown.” – says our Moderator, Rt Rev Colin Sinclair

Churches Together in England will also be praying each Sunday at 19:00 and will be using the hashtag #prayersofhope to share the message on social media.

So we also call upon you to pray on this Easter Sunday at 19:00. Pray for the nation, for key workers, for healing, for the bereaved, asking the lord of the Resurrection to have compassion and mercy on us all!

A prayer for Easter Sunday

Lord, it feels as if we’ve been walking in the Good Friday shadow of the cross;

feeling disorientated, concerned and filled with heartache;

praying for healing for those poorly, 
whether government leader or more personally known; 
and comfort for those bereaved;

expressing thanks for the selfless dedication of NHS staff, 
those delivering social care, 
and everyone ensuring that essential services and supplies are maintained, 
in company with those who volunteer.

Lord, as we journey on, 
help us now to embrace the dawning Easter joy of the cross;

encountering, 
like the first disciples, 
the transforming wonder of Christ’s resurrection;

accepting, 
like the first disciples, 
that it may take time to comprehend the reality of Easter;

reflecting new life through words and deeds. 
Hear us, and journey with us, 
in the name of the risen Christ. 
Amen.

Worshipping Together Online

Since we began worshipping online more people started to visit our website, check out our Facebook page, and Twitter. We feel blessed that you are engaging with SSCB through these means, and thus engaging with God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We know these online means can not replace, and they do not intend to replace to collective worship together we enjoy so much, but it adds a new dimension to us being a church family, and inspires us in our faith!

There are fresh ways and expressions of fellowship, support and encouragement as we continue to be the family of God. Thank you for that, and we are delighted that you are taking initiative in all this.

We continue with our services and fellowship via Zoom. You will receive an invitation by email to join in and you just need to click on the link in blue that will take you through. Sometimes this might take a while. Therefore we suggest to try logging in about 10, 15 minutes before the service would start.

We appreciate that not everybody is able to join the services on Zoom. However you can join the live service by phone! You won’t be able to see others, but you will be able to hear all that is going on, and also participate, for others will be able to hear you when you speak. Our e-newsletter E-pistle contains the details about this facility, or you can email office@comelybankchurch.com to request this information.

Alternatively we do record the services and they can be watched on our YouTube channel: SSCB Online Messages (also embedded on our Online Messages and Worship page), or listened to in audio format at our Audio Sermons page on the website.

We pray that your time of worshipping together as a family will be fruitful and a blessing to you for your growth in the faith and for your personal walk with Christ.

Easter Cross Family Craft

Jesus is Alive! He is Risen! Hallelujah!

We want to invite you to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with the words above and by making and decorating a cross at home. It is a great family craft with your children. Let’s join together by making this cross in our homes as we celebrate and give thanks for the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a great witness to our neighbours too!

You can place a palm cross in your window. If you haven’t got one, you can make one out of paper or even a ribbon, and  it can be decorated if you wish. You can find the instructions for it here.

Here is a bit more elaborate cross made out of sticks you can gather in your garden, or maybe on your walk in a park. See the attached instructions at the bottom on how to make it. When it is decorated display it in your garden, balcony, in front of your house, or in your window. This way your neighbours and passers-by can enjoy seeing the sign of Christian hope around them. We all need the encouragement of hope and life especially these days. Offer that hope to people in your neighbourhood. We got this idea from St Andrew’s Leckie Parish Church.

We would love you to share a picture of your Easter Cross with us, so we can share it with the church family and the wider world through our e-newsletter and website. Please email your pictures to newsletter@comelybankchurch.com

Christ is Risen! Jesus is Alive!

Tales from the Socially Isolated

While there are lots of things about being stuck at home with your family ALL the time which are not good, sometimes you find new ways of doing things which are just a bit special.  In the Franks’ house, we have each had our own way of finding a quiet time in the day to pray or read the Bible.  Peter and I used to do it together when he was younger, but as he has got older, he has been doing it himself each morning before school. 

But now we’re all here, all day, and we have started to do it as a family after lunch.  We take turns to lead, and read from a lovely book that Peter has been using called ‘Soul Food’ which is by Bear Grylls – adventurer extraordinaire.  Once we have read the reflection for the day, we talk about it for a little while, then we pray together.  It only takes about 10 minutes, but is now a really special part of our day.  And it stops us arguing for a brief interlude which is always a blessing!! 😉

From the Franks family

How do you do your family devotion? Have you tried it? This is a perfect time to try out. Don’t be afraid, it is not as daunting as it might sound. The way the Franks family are doing it is an excellent option. Feel free to copy them, they will not mind.

As a possible alternative here is a sample order for family worship based on the one in Terry L. Johnson’s book: The Family Worship Book, an excellent guide for families!

It’s What We Do!

We are privileged in our church family to have a number of health professionals! While we always had huge respect for them, particularly now we are not only respecting them, but want to support them in whatever way we can. So clap your hands and pots on Thursday nights! And pray fervently for them all every morning, noon, and night, for they are serving us often without a break morning, noon, and night. Lord, may your abundant blessing be upon them! Protect them, empower them, anoint them, for your glory, Lord Jesus, our heavenly healer. Amen.

We approached Dr. Elspeth Pitt who is in the front line at A&E in the battle with Coronavirus to tell us her experiences, so we can pray for her and her colleagues in a more informed way. Here is her brief account.

Working at the frontline of the health service at the moment is exhausting, heartbreaking, confusing, overwhelming, scary and at times joyous.

We have known for a couple of months that this crisis was approaching – we have planned, trained and tried to prepare ourselves, our hospitals and clinics, totally changing the way we organise & deliver healthcare yet we still feel ill prepared as none of us has ever experienced anything like this before.

As Healthcare professionals we know its a huge privilege to be able to care for people when they are ill, frightened, fearful and vulnerable. We are in a position to contribute to the nation’s response to this crisis, we get to leave (and return to) our homes, interact with folk other than our own household members, we have job security and a guaranteed salary – we have much to be grateful for – yet it takes its toll. The distress of caring for very sick people, isolated from their loved ones; the difficulties created by wearing protective equipment; the torment of seeing some patients deteriorate very rapidly; and the real fear that we might catch the virus, or worse, bring it into our own homes contributes to a constant sense of anxiety and dread in all of us.

As uncertainty rules the world, the certainty we have, as followers of Jesus, is that he has overcome the world (John 16:32). We know that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31) and that his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). So at this time of global darkness, it’s important to remember that our loving Saviour Jesus, who cares for the lonely, the sick and the lost, calls us to let our light shine for him.

Yours in Christ, Dr. Elspeth Pitt

Easter in Isolation

Many have said already these days that we are living in extraordinary times. Preparing for Easter in a church or Christian context in these circumstances make it even more unusual: “This will be a very strange Easter.”

Of course people are thinking of our enforced and necessary isolation. We will not experience the usual Easter eggs, early morning worship in Inverleith Park, the fun of egg rolling, the pleasant fellowship at bacon and roll breakfast in church and the celebration of worship in church, or the company of our families. No we will not have the usual experience of Easter as we know it. However we will experience more the first Easter, which the disciples experienced. Please read John 20:19-23!

It might be surprising to us but the disciples were in self isolation on the first Easter evening! They did not feel like celebrating either! They self isolated themselves in a secure lockdown (please note that “the doors”, in plural[!] were locked), probably in the Upper Room. They were fearful, lost, and confused. What will happen next? What can they do? What is safe? When will this be over? Questions you and I have right now in our own context!

What is amazing is that the reality of Easter breaks through all their fear and confusion! Often fear and confusion can keep us in stronger lockdown than walls or doors! Jesus simply came and stood among them in the middle and offered them His peace! “Peace be with you!” He gives His peace not as the world gives, so do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.

While the disciples and we have to deal with the unwelcome reality of fear, confusion and lockdown, God is active! He steps into the lockdown and breaks it up! Jesus cannot be locked down or locked away! He is alive!

Our God, our Jesus (our Saviour) breaks down the doors! On the cross Jesus broke down the power of evil, sin and death. They were utterly defeated. At Easter morning the risen Lord Jesus broke out of the tomb! No death, no grave clothes, no rock, nothing at all could keep him locked away! He is risen! In the evening of the same day He broke in into the isolation, fear, and confusion of the disciples’ locked down upper room. “Peace be with you!”

He still breaks down, sin, death and fear! He still breaks out of places where they want to lock Him away (like church buildings), He breaks in into our fearful isolation and brings in His light and peace! He wants to give you His peace this Easter too!

He is risen! He is alive! And He is breaking in into your isolation! He is not leaving you in isolation! Rejoice and give Him the praise: Hallelujah! You are not alone! He is with you! He brings His peace to you! Happy Easter!

Call to Prayer

Call to Prayer at 19:00 on Sunday, 5th April

For the last two weeks, thousands of people across Scotland have answered the call to pray at the same time in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Together with thirteen Christian churches and organisations across the land we also join in praying at this time of such need. Pray for our land and world! Be the light!

We are in this together, we need to pray for one another. Join in with your prayers on Sundays at 19:00. You are invited therefore to join in with prayer and lighting a candle in your window at 19:00 on Palm Sunday, 5th April. Here is a prayer for this time:

Living God, for the precious gift of life that you have given to us,

We give you thanks.

For the enduring presence of your love in this world,

We give you thanks.

For the knowledge that you are with us at the close of the day,

We give you thanks.

On this day, we hear the Gospel words that speak of hope,

We hear the cry: Hosanna!

We hear the Gospel words that speak of promise,

We hear the cry: Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!

On this day, we journey in hope as we trust in your promise.

Lord, as we journey into the Holy Week to come,

We are conscious that we share in the life of the world.

We are conscious of the presence of those who are near to us,

And of those from whom we are apart.

Whether near, or far, embrace us all in your love.

Lord, we are conscious of others,

Whose life and work is woven into the fabric of our society,

And upon whom we now depend.

We pray for them:

For delivery drivers and posties,

For refuse collectors and cleaners,

For police officers and care workers,

Protect them and keep them safe.

For nurses and doctors,

For scientists and surgeons,

For midwives and ambulance drivers,

Protect them and watch over them.

For those who govern on our behalf,

For those who make decisions that impact upon us all,

For all who shape our common life,

Protect them and increase their wisdom and understanding.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

And grant us faith to journey into the week to come,

Assured of the presence of the crucified and risen Lord,

Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Have a Palm Cross in Your Window this Holy Week

As we continue to be in lockdown and Holy Week and Easter are coming you might have wondered how to celebrate Easter and proclaim the victory of Christ over suffering, death and sin. Here is an idea. You might still have at home a Palm Cross, one you received a while ago at church on a Palm Sunday. Go and find it and put it in your window on Palm Sunday (5th April) until Easter Sunday (12th April) to proclaim in its simple way the Good News of Easter, Jesus’ victory over sin and death. On the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem people lined up the streets and were waiving palm branches as in a victory march (John 12:12-13). In the Book of Revelation (Revelation 7:9) we are told that the great multitude worshipping the Lamb were holding palm branches in their hands. It is interesting how this pandemic has changed our lives, church life as well, and our worship. We used to hold and maybe wave, if we were charismatic enough, the palm crosses in the church where nobody except ourselves could see it. Now we can actually put them in our windows for the whole world to see it (well at least those few that still might pass by).

If you haven’t got a Palm Cross at home, or you just can’t find it, here is a guide for you to make one. Perhaps you can make one together with your children.

Pray Continually

The leaders of the national churches in the UK asked us to pray for the nation last Sunday. As today the PM and the Health Secretary have tested positive for Coronavirus, and England’s Chief Medical Officer has symptoms of the virus it is more urgent that we as Christians engage in prayer! Church groups across Scotland are asking Christians to join in prayer at 7pm on Sunday evenings. This is in continuing with the prayer campaign we began last Sunday when thousands of Christians across Scotland prayed and gave evidence of this by placing a candle inter windows!

Let’s continue in solidarity with our brothers and sisters and everyone in the rest of the UK facing the threat of COVID-19 virus. Praying that Christ Overcomes Viruses, Infections, and Diseases (COVID)! Our Moderator, Rt Rev Colin Sinclair encourages us to keep on praying, when so much is not normal right now, let us do what is normal for Christians: PRAY!

Make a special effort to pray every Sunday at 7:00pm that God in His compassion and grace will overcome this frightful virus. Place a candle in your window to show that “the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it!”

Here is thE joint prayer from Christians in Scotland to assist you in your prayers on Sunday:

We turn to you, our Father, for we need your help.
Lord Jesus, as you have promised, be with us, whatever lies ahead,
Strengthen us, Holy Spirit, as we face this together.

We pray for our world and our country,
as coronavirus threatens our lives and our livelihood, leaving many in lockdown,
while key workers continue, despite the risk.

We pray for government leaders at Westminster and Holyrood,
responding to medical and scientific advice,
making tough decisions for the wellbeing of all.

We pray for all who serve on the frontline in the NHS and in social care;
facing increasing numbers, overstretched resources
and distressing human need.

Bless those who are ill, those who are alone and afraid,
those exhausted looking after their family, those worried for the vulnerable,
those fearful for their finances, those shut in to their fears.

Thank you for those who have returned from retirement to help,
or joined the volunteer army.
Thank you for those working:
to manufacture needed resources,
to find a vaccine,
to keep in contact with the isolated,
to encourage others at this time.

Have mercy on us, O Lord.
Give us faith, hope and love and hear our prayers,
in Jesus’ name. Amen.

May the Lord bless you! Keep safe! Be wise! And be close to the LORD!

THANK YOU NHS

Loving God, from whom life and healing comes to all,

we thank you for the lives, dedication, commitment,

and sacrificial service of the NHS in our land.

We thank you for all who committed themselves to bring help,

wholeness and healing to the sick and the troubled.

We thank you for doctors and nurses, surgeons, and medical staff,

psychiatrists, counsellors, chaplains and therapists.

In the present Coronavirus pandemic, Lord Jesus, we pray

be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals,

all the staff of NHS who seek to heal and help those affected by the virus

and who put themselves at risk in the process.

May they know your protection and peace.

Grant them the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit, Lord,

let your care, compassion, and strength be theirs.

Equip them in all they do, and bring wholeness, healing, restoration through them.

Merciful Lord, hear our prayer, Amen.

Praying for the Nation in Time of Crisis

Blessings of the National Day of Prayer

The leaders of the national churches called us to pray for the nation last Sunday! Those of us who prayed and placed a lit candle in our windows at 19:00 last Sunday found it a moving experience. It bound us together throughout the land.

The church could be still open for prayer and we were open, and put our candles in the windows of the church, testifying to the world that we have hope! We are holding onto Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, and we are holding Him up to be the Light for everyone that find themselves in darkness and fear right now.

The National Day of Prayer and Action is over, but time for prayer for each other, for the nation, for health care professionals and staff, for those serving us during our shutdown is not over, for the time of trouble is not over either! We all still need the light of Christ! So continue to be the light as you pray for your family, community, our world. Let the light shine and drive out darkness.

Home Alone – The Coronavirus Sequel

I imagine many of you have seen or remember the comedy Home Alone, telling the adventures of the eight year old Kevin who accidentally was left home alone.

Because of the Coronavirus pandemic our whole country finds itself home alone. Our circumstances are not comical at all, though. It is not a laughing matter, it is extremely serious. While most of the country must stay at home, some, nurses, doctors, health workers, pharmacists, the staff of emergency services, and many more in vital roles keeping the country going are on the front line. We who have to say at home and can’t even imagine what you go through for us just want to thank you for your service, and offer our prayers for you in this present struggle.

The big question in everybody’s mind is how are we going to cope with this compulsory isolation for who knows how long? When and from where will help and release come?

This morning I was reading Psalm 46. The Psalmist describes a scenario of disaster and utter destruction – a turmoil situation, something we find ourselves now. In the midst of the disaster he writes the calm command like declaration of God: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (verse 10) That alone transforms the situation.

This shutdown is a time for us to be still and to recon again with God, how great, majestic, gracious, holy, and mighty He is, and ask Him to transform our circumstances.

So as a first step be still. Stay put! Just stay at home, be still, be at peace, be assured God is still in control. Nothing can happen without his knowledge and permission. All that happens are part of His purpose, even if we can’t see it now or can’t understand it. So stay.

Secondly, pray. Pray to God for His love, care and protection. Pray for His wisdom to guide you through the present critical time. Pray for His love to overcome your fear. Pray for others, those who are maintaining the vital services for us. So pray.

Thirdly, share. Share the good gifts God has given you. Do not panic-buy or stockpile! Think of others with the generosity God is providing for you. Share, think of your neighbour who might need your help, a bit of shopping, picking up medication, or just a phone call to keep them company.

Be still and know that God is God, and not even Coronavirus can change that. Therefore: stay, pray, and share.

The God Who Ignores Social Distancing

In the midst of the covid-19 pandemic more and more emphatically we are advised to respect and practice social distancing! Stay at home as much as you can and if you are out and about keep two metres (6.562 ft) apart form others.

In this hard period of increasing isolation, when even family members need to respect this advice it is wonderful to know that our God ignores social distancing!

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14

What a wonderful God he is! If someone should and could avoid social closeness to us humans, He is the one to do that. To a holy and absolutely pure God sinfulness, wickedness, evil are absolutely abhorrent.

Yet He did not keep His social distancing from us! He came down from heaven and moved into our neighbourhood, and settled down in our vicinity. And as our neighbour and friend, Jesus brought us God’s love, forgiveness and saving grace! He came close to all, to the socially, economically, morally marginalised, to all who were avoided by others and kept in an arm’s length. Jesus came to the prostitutes, sinners, lepers, cheats, and thieves. Among them He came to you and me also!

While you are very strongly advised to keep your social distancing form others in these days, do not distance yourself from Jesus! Call on Him! Come close to Him each and every day! He is here for you! Jesus said: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Let him in, don’t be afraid of Him. He brings with Him His love, His grace, His healing, His peace. For He is the God who ignores social distancing! Thanks and honour, and glory to Him for this too!

National Day of Prayer and Action, 22nd March 2020

candle in the dark

As the COVID-19 virus spread and seemingly overcame the whole globe we have become aware in a new way of our own frailty and insecurity. We need to renew our dependence on God. The leaders of the national churches in the UK are calling people to come humbly and honestly in prayer before God, sharing openly our emotions, questions, and concerns in the shadow of COVID-19.

Knowing and trusting that prayer works, we encourage you to join in this National Day of Prayer and Action on Sunday 22nd March.

At 19:00 on Sunday stop and pause for prayer, wherever you are, and come sincerely before God. Please light a candle and place it in your window as a visible sign that we are people of the light of the world, darkness and fear will not overcome us, for our light is Jesus Christ Himself. Let your light shine and bring hope!

We will also light candles and place them in the windows of the church at 19:00. The church will be open till 19:30 for prayer to anyone. Here is a prayer you might want to use:

Dear Lord, and Father of Mankind,
For all that is good in life, thank you,
For the love of family and friends, thank you,
For the kindness of good neighbour and Samaritan stranger, thank you.

May those who are vulnerable, hungry or homeless, experience support,
May those who are sick, know healing,
May those who are anxious or bereaved, sense comfort.

Bless and guide political leaders and decision-makers, with wisdom,
Bless and guide health workers and key workers, with strength and well-being,
Bless and guide each one of us, as we adapt to a new way of living.

And may the light shining from our windows,
across road and wynd, glen and ben, kyle and isle,
be reflected in our hearts and hands and hopes.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

We are moving our services online

All of us have been affected by the outbreak of the Coronavirus infection, some in more than one way! In these troubling and uncertain times we want to update you about where we are as a church, what is happening, and what we are doing in the given circumstances.

We want to help you steer safely through this period of our lives. Steer through in faith. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, “We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:39) We are men and women of faith, followers of Christ. So be close to the Lord, hold on to Him and His promises. Jesus said if you live by his words, if you put them into practice in your life, you are building on a firm rock and not even the strongest storms of life can overcome it! He promised to keep those that belong to him safe for ever. So trust in Him!

The church takes these present times very seriously and responsibly. In our actions we closely follow the advice from the UK and Scottish Governments and the Church of Scotland. Please be wise too, and follow the government guidance. Do not take risks and do not panic.

As a church, in response to the received advice, we are implementing the following changes for the foreseeable future:

  1. We are suspending our gatherings of worship, fellowship, Holiday Club, Lunch Club, and Home Groups. However this does not mean we stop being church. We take this opportunity God is presenting us to demonstrate that indeed the church is not the building but the people! We continue to be the church in a new way.
    1. We are moving our services online. Bible-based messages will be video recorded and uploaded onto our website, Facebook page, and perhaps other online platforms, where you will be able to watch them and participate in them in your own home. Our website is: www.comelybankchurch.com  Facebook: sscbedinburgh
    2. The church will be open for prayer and quiet time on set days for a couple of hours. Currently we plan to have it open on Mondays, and Wednesdays at 14:00-16:00; Fridays and Saturdays 10:00-12:00; Sundays 11:00-13:00 (please note not for worship, only for private prayer!)
    3. A Pastoral Team will be in contact with vulnerable members, and those that are isolated. They will regularly contact them by phone, text messages, and other means; offering support, virtual company and practical help if required.
    4. The best way to contact the church is by email (office@comelybankchurch.com), as the office telephone will not be attended, though messages will be checked and responded to.
    5. The church building, halls included, will be closed for activities from Monday 23rd March.
    6. Information about all that’s happening, or any changes will be communicated to members by emailing you, and also available on the website, Facebook page, and Twitter.
  2. Worship opportunities for you:
    1. St Stephen’s Comely Bank – 11:00, Sunday 22nd March – ‘Christian Identity’ Sermon Series: 3. Safety (Matthew 5;13-16; verse 14), online on church website.
    2. National Day of Prayer and Action – 19:00, Sunday 22nd March -The national church leaders of the land are calling us all for a National Day of Prayer and Action this Sunday (22nd). You are encouraged to come honestly in prayer before God, sharing openly your emotions, questions, and concerns in the light of COVID-19. We have become aware in a new way of our own frailty and insecurity; we need to renew our dependance on God. So, on Sunday at 19:00, stop and pause for prayer, wherever you are, and come sincerely before God. You are asked to light a candle and place it in your window as a visible sign that we are people of the light of the world; darkness and fear will not overcome us, for our light is Jesus Christ Himself. We encourage you to join in this time of prayer. We will also place candles in the windows of the church, and the building will be open for 19:00 to 19:30 for prayer if you happen to be there.
    3. BBC Radio 4 – 8:10, Sunday 22nd March – Sunday Worship
    4. BBC Radio Scotland – 6:30, Sunday 22nd March – Sunday Worship
    5. Premier Christian Radio (DAB, FM, or online), every day of the week with worship, praise, discussions, Christian news, etc.
    6. Daily Audio Bible (www.dailyaudiobible.com) – daily readings of the Bible to listen to.

In the passage we explore at our worship (Matthew 5:13-16) Jesus says to his disciples, to us in fact, that we are the SALT of the earth, and the LIGHT of the world. God is giving us an opportunity now to demonstrate to the world that indeed we are SALT and LIGHT in this world. We will not shrink back, but stand firm in faith and bring light into our world!

Keep safe! Be wise! And be close to the Lord!

SSCB & Coronavirus (covid-19) Information

Our church leadership takes it very seriously and responsibly the present situation we all find ourselves with the epidemic of the coronavirus. After considerable time of prayer and discussion the decision was taken that the church will remain open to serve and support the congregation and the community.

It is a rapidly changing and still escalating situation and we take responsibly all the advice from the government and health agencies, and the Church of Scotland. While there are formal moves to limit large gatherings (e.g. sports and entertainment events), at present the indications are that church gatherings will be not affected by this, as they do not require the same level of resource from the emergency services. We are fully aware that the situation is dynamic and changing, therefore we will follow the developments and react accordingly.

We have already made steps to keep everyone safe as much as possible. We are cleaning the door handles with frequent regularity, as we clean all surfaces, and preparing food and refreshments according to high hygiene and safety standards (by a limited number of people wearing protective gloves).

At the same time we ask you, members and visitors, to keep a high standard of your own hygiene, thoroughly washing your hands, and refraining from physical contact (handshakes, and hugs, or kisses) to others at church. Please use tissues if you need to cough or sneeze. Tissues are available at the back of the church for your use. After use please deposit the used tissues in a bin! If you feel cold or flu type symptoms, please take the recommended action and self isolate yourself. A lot depends on you, so please play your part responsibly!

SSCB wants to be a Sanctuary to all. The church will be open during the week at certain times on various days for prayer and contemplation. When the doors are open, please feel free to come in, somebody will be here to speak to you, pray with you, pray for you and your loved ones.

We want to offer support to the vulnerable and those who have to self isolate themselves. Through phone calls, texts, emails, Skype we want to be by their side, and offer practical help if needed, like doing shopping for them.

We plan to carry on with our services. The Communion service at the end of the month is to go ahead too. We took the following measures regarding the Communion Service: only one person will prepare the elements, wearing protective gloves. The communion will be at the start of the service, and it will not be served in the pews, but it will be on a table at the front, and worshipper are to come forward and take the elements themselves.

Meantime we are keeping everybody in our prayers, praying for God’s healing grace to be upon you and upon His whole creation, protecting us from hurt and harm, and restoring all suffering people to full and complete health and strength. We continue to pray for all health professionals, for their safety, strength, and wisdom as they care for all of us. We pray for the government and all in responsible position to be wise and compassionate in their decision making.

on behalf of the Kirk Session,

George Vidits (minister)

Follow Me

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland begins next week on Saturday 18th May and will conclude on Friday the 24th May. Throughout the week commissioners to the General Assembly examine its work, life and laws and make decisions that affect the future of the church. The General assembly is the highest court of the church, and as such it is its sovereign governing body. It usually meets once a year. And a minister (teaching elder) or an elder of a Kirk Session (ruling elder) is usually commissioned to participate in its proceedings about every three years.

This year the so called Blue Book (containing the Assembly Reports, and referred to it by its colour) has the title: Jesus Said: Follow Me.

In our postmodern world it is so easy for individuals, congregations and the national church to follow the swinging moods of the world. Often the pressure is immense, and the arguments appear to be reasonable. Please pray that the General Assembly, the commissioners, and the whole of the church will know who to follow! We all will indeed follow the Risen Lord in discussion, decision making, service and conduct of life. After all He is the Way, the Truth and The Life. For no-one can offer us a way that leads to the truth and eternal life only Jesus Christ. Let us walk in His footsteps, living by and proclaiming His truth, and conducting a life filled with His obedience to God, our Father. Regardless what the world says.

The Cross that Conquers

The Cross that Conquers

I assume you were just as much shocked as the rest of the world was when the news about the devastating fire at Notre Dame church in Paris reached you. We just don’t expect such things to happen. We are not ready for news about the gunning down of a US president as JFK, or the fatal accident of Princess Diana, or the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers. Somehow we just can’t imagine that such things even could happen. But they do. Bad things happen. Evil things happen. They happen to us too. Is there any protection, insurance against them?

There is! Thanks be to God that there is. He is the protection. He offered salvation to all who seek Him and call on His name: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) Jesus Christ who died on the cross and rose from the dead is our salvation, and safety.

I found the images about the burnt down Notre Dame very moving. One image in particular was inspiring, even encouraging – strange it might sound at first. But it was encouraging. It is the image of the cross of the church. All around it there is darkness, burnt out walls covered with soot. Rubble everywhere, beams that turned into charcoal, pieces of the collapsed roof, scorched pews. It was all dark and grim. It was devastating and hopeless. But in the background there was the cross that was shining! The cross of Christ that brought light and hope into the darkness. It is just emerging powerfully, irresistibly out of the soot, rubble, ruins, and hopelessness. In its simplicity proclaiming life, hope, light, and glory! What an Easter symbol in a very real life situation! His cross conquers your sorrows, sins, and fears too!

I hope that anyone who has seen that image were grasped by the power of the cross. We celebrate the power of the cross in particular at Easter time! The cross of Christ is our hope for it conquered evil and sin, it was victorious over death. It was meant to devastate, to destroy, to annihilate, and it became the sign of hope and new life. For Christ was raised form the dead! Glory to Him, to the risen Saviour.

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! … He is risen indeed!