SSCB News Blogs

Personnel Changes: Thank You & Welcome

Timothy Pitt served us faithfully as Session Clerk for the last three years (the period agreed by Kirk Session). It was a demanding time as the period of COVID restrictions and adjustments were part of it. Tim led with example, godly wisdom, and prayerful dedication for which we are grateful. We were very much blessed by your versatile skills, administration, organisation, preaching, and good sense of humour. Thank You Tim!

* * *

Tim’s role now has been taken over by Alison Franks, who brings similar qualities to the role. Alison with much prudence, expertise, a lot of prayer, and calm spirit was overseeing our finances for a number of years. During this time we had some big expenses like the refurbishment project, and the financing of our ministry and mission. Thank you Alison that we did not have sleepless nights over the finances, the Kirk Session’s life and service will be in good hands with you. Welcome to the role of Session Clerk.

* * *

As Alison stepped down from overseeing our finances, Matthew Grouios stepped up to be the new Treasurer. No doubt the role has its challenges, but with Matt’s background in finances and his committed faith we have the right combination for the task. Matt, we welcome you on board and wish you God’s blessing and inspiration in your new ministry at SSCB.

* * *

Our staff team has also grown with the new Family Outreach Worker in the person of Pamela McPhee. Pamela has been serving among our children and young people for a while now. Pamela has passion, caring love, and the deep desire to share Jesus’ saving grace with children and families. We felt the need that we as a church family need to do more in sharing God’s love with families around us and to offer them God’s care. After the interview process Pamela has been appointed as the new Family Outreach Worker. Welcome Pamela, we wish you God’s grace and love as you serve among the families.

* * *

We commend them all, those stepping down and those stepping up, into your regular prayers. Tim, Alison, Matt, and Pamela serve the Lord in our midst and serve us and our neighbours. They need the encouragement and the prayer support of the whole church family. So please pray for them regularly.

Inspire’s Shetland Ministry Trip 2023

I wonder what, years from today, our Inspire teens will remember from their journey and work in Shetland?

They’ll probably recall the multiple running jokes during the week, the loud dance parties with the Bluetooth speaker they weren’t allowed to bring, and a number of antics they’d prefer I not share but suffice to say that there was a lot of laughter. New friendships were made while older ones became more tightly bonded, already evidenced this week.

No doubt they’ll recall their exhaustion of it all, too, and the challenges of helping 30 unknown children hear about God’s love for them. They’ll surely never forget the very rough seas and seemingly endless delays due to Storm Babet, alongside fond memories of Bertha the minibus winding along single-track roads.

My prayer is that next time they sing the lyrics of My Lighthouse, “I will trust the promise, You will carry me safe to shore” it’ll be hard not to think of that very experience in the North Sea and God’s daily ongoing faithfulness to them. I pray that they’ll remember those new friendships are because of a common love for Jesus, a network that exists worldwide wherever they are. And I pray that they remember their church family who prayed and donated generously to make it possible, and to cherish that intergenerational treasure we have through Christ. Those many testimonies they heard of how God can surprise and delight when we are listening to his guidance – I pray those sit with them too.

Perhaps we have some unforeseen blessings yet to come, like seeds planted in fertile ground. That’s often how it works with faith formation – all these memories are like a trail of breadcrumbs reminding us how much joy is in following Jesus together.

It is a tremendous privilege to be journeying alongside them.


Inspire’s reflection on Psalm 100 – created at Shetland during the ministry trip

Hymns We Love

One aspect of church family and church life is the singing of hymns we love. Very often we evaluate a church, and worship experience, based on the hymns that were chosen. If we like the hymns, we liked the worship – even if we are unable to remember what the sermon was about or what the Scripture passage was.

‘Hymns We Love’ is a resource, published by Good Book Company, based on favourite traditional hymns. We want to invite you to share in enjoying fellowship together (of course eating will be involved – we are SSCB after all! – coffee and cakes too!) and to hear about the hymns we love, the background, the authors, and about how they can strengthen and encourage us in our faith. Naturally, we will sing the hymns as well!

So, if you enjoy singing the hymns you love, and like company, food, coffee, and cakes, please come along on the third Fridays of the next few months, at 12:30, at SSCB for Hymns We Love. Martin, who will lead us, will be delighted to welcome you.

Our first meeting will be at 12:30, on Friday, 22nd September. Don’t forget to put it into your diary!

The hymn is: How Great Thou Art

from GV & MB

Inspire on Tour 2023 – SHETLAND

  • WHAT? – Ministry Trip
  • WHO? – Inspire Youth Fellowship
  • WHEN? – 14-21 October 2023
  • WHERE? – Shetland, Burra Baptist Church
  • WHY? – Helping with Mid-term Holiday Club

In the New Testament we see all sorts of proclamations of the Gospel, both near and far. For example, Paul wrote to and visited Christ’s churches of all kinds and writes often of how others abroad encourage his own faith in Christ.

Your Youth Pastor is always looking for a journey or an experience to support the faith formation already growing in our teenagers. He has an auld friend by the name of Ken Naquin who also migrated to Scotland and is now the Pastor at Burra Baptist Church. In 2012 Ken brought a group of teenagers from central Texas to Dalkeith in order to assist an outreach week which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. The impact was astonishing, impacting both congregations which are still being felt today. Today, BBC runs a stunningly successful outreach over the summer, but how to follow this up? The answer may lie in an experience Paul had in Acts 16 where he was called: “Come Over and Help Us”. Our SSCB teens have a wealth of experience with holiday clubs for children, so we aim to enable our Shetland friends to keep their evangelistic momentum. With Jesus directing our paths, we will have loads of fun making him known as we journey north and return with a celebration of his goodness.

We covet your prayers, both while we prepare to go, and while we are there working alongside new friends. If you’re able, you can sponsor Inspire at our next fundraising event on 23rd September: we will be walking 14 miles along the length of the Water of Leith whilst litter picking. Signups will be available at the September church lunch. Only the Lord could piece together such adventures – he is responsible for this initiative, and we are grateful to be a part of his plans. Jesus didn’t promise a dull and drab life following him, did he? Rather, he promised that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Fundraising Events:

  • Sunday 3rd September – lunchtime:
    • “The Bridge” launch (A Monthly Event for Those Aged 11-17; First Sunday evening of the month @ Palmerston Place Church, EH12 5AA 5pm-6:45pm -in partnership with the Parish Grouping)
  • Sunday 17th September at 8am:
    • Church Family Lunch
  • Saturday 23rd September at 10am
    • “Water of Life” litter-pick walk of the Water of Leith


Bread for the Journey

New Sermon Series starting on Sunday 8 January 2023

Have you ever wondered why do so many, actually most, New Year’s Resolutions fail? I believe they fail because they are primarily based on our own endeavours and strength. Most of us start out in the New Year with great plans to turn things around but not enough energy. Most people haven’t got enough strength to turn around in bed on the 1st of January!

We finish the year being pretty exhausted. From early November onwards we get busy preparing for Christmas. We want to do it right, giving our best shot. So, we are writing Christmas cards/emails, or yearly account, do our shopping, cleaning the house, the car, decorating our homes inside and outside, we travel visiting loved ones and friends, get into partying, and Christmas concerts, and on the way we pick up an illness, a virus or two. You get the picture. Then as Christmas is over, we get ready for the New Year celebrations. Getting home, clearing up after Christmas, and get into fresh visits and parties.

When the clock hits midnight turning into the 2nd of January, we feel absolutely exhausted and are supposed to begin a new year with fresh energy and enthusiasm. Most people are not in the mood to have a fresh start.

We need something that will boost our energy, clear our vision, and get us ready for the journey ahead.

Bread has been the basic most important diet for cultures, societies throughout millennia. A meal is not complete without it. That’s why one is/was called the Bread Earner of the Family if he/she is earning a wage to support their families.

Bread is crucial, central. Jesus himself calls himself the Bread of Life (John 8:35). Bread is central in salvation history in Scripture. We do wisely if we consider taking bread with our daily meals, both physically and spiritually. Hence, I invite you to consider fixing your daily diet this year before you embark on big changes in your life, so you will have the strength and energy to see those transformations through and you will be able to finish the journey! The angel said to Elijah when he ran out of steam: “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” (1 Kings 19:7)

We often feel the journey is too much for us, we feel so not just at the end or the beginning of a year, but often at any particular time of the year! We need the BREAD God is offering us in Jesus Christ. Find out the richest food God is offering you.

So, join our services in person or via the internet and take and eat all that God is offering you. Come, and taste and see that the LORD is good! Bread, and food tastes so much batter in company, doesn’t it? Take your fill!

[from GV]

Have You Seen the Planets?

Have you seen all the planets God has created?

An amazing astronomical event, and this is not an exaggeration, was visible to us (unless you were obstructed by the thick clouds) on Wednesday. Every planet of the solar system was visible simultaneously! Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars could all be seen in that order in the northern hemisphere with the naked eye, starting from the south-western horizon and moving east. Uranus, located between Mars and Jupiter, and Neptune, which is between Saturn and Jupiter, can be seen with binoculars or a telescope until the end of the year. What an amazing Creation we live in!

All eight planets appeared on Wednesday night and were set to reach conjunction on Thursday night. (the Guardian reported)

When the star of Christ appeared on the night sky on the east many missed it! Only the wise took note of it. Have you seen the planets? Or did you miss them by any chance? Maybe because of the clouds, timing, or you were not interested in them. That’s OK, people are not the same after all.

It was amazing to see the planets all together but imagine how amazing it is to see and know God making His home in our midst! (c.f. John 1:14) How amazing it is to see and be with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the creator of all the stars and planets, and forever! That is also possible to all, whether it is cloudy, or sunny, day or night, because whoever sees the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life! For the Son will raise them all to eternal life on the Last Day! This is the will of God Almighty! (c.f. John 6:39-40)

God came to make his dwelling in our neighbourhood at Christmas! Stars and planets, heaven and earth praise Him! How amazing is our God who created those amazing planets!? All glory, honour and praise are due to Him for ever!

May His grace and love shine over you and your path in the coming New Year!

[from GV]


Luke 2:8-12

The first Christmas pilgrims, the shepherds, did not find the secret scrolls of a new religion in a rock stable, nor a mistic light, or an aged, bearded guru. Rather they found a baby wrapped in cloths among the hay, in the midst of animals. For God chose to come into the world in human flesh that way (John 1:14)!

God loved us so much that he came in human form to be with those whom He created so all can get to know Him truly, fully! He poured His divine being into the fragile earthen vessel of a human being (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7), so that anyone may drink forgiveness, hope, love, and eternal life from it! He became that life giving drink to all, tax collectors, fallen women and men, sick and sorrowing, Roman soldiers, Gentiles, Pharisees, all who thirst for righteousness, who thirst for the love of God! Out of His abundance, from His grace and mercy we drink today too.

God gave His one and only Son – not just as a cute little baby in the manger, but in exchange for everyone, as ransom – God gave His Son for sacrifice, suffering, for the cross, to death in exchange for us all. God’s love was so amazing that He came to suffer and die for you and me. Can anyone explain why God let His one and only Son die for our sins? We can’t even explain the mystery of human love, how could we explain God’s love for us who do not deserve it? We can only receive it and accept it. And when we begin to accept His love in Jesus Christ we can bear our worldly trials, and suffering, even death. We can cope even with life itself! And we can have joy. For this is what it means that all who believe in Jesus will not perish … they will not perish in trials, suffering, sorrow, death, or life – for the light of Christ that shined up at Christmas outshines all the darkness! And the darkness cannot overcome Him! Ever!

May you experience and be filled with the light and love of Jesus Christ this Christmas and always!

With every blessing for Christmas and the New Year,

George, your minister

“Streams in the Desert” – Spirit Soaking

Sometimes all we want to do is sit with Father God and let Him tell us how much He loves us…
Pauline will be leading another Spirit Soaking event on Saturday 11th June, from 10-12, in the sanctuary.

SPIRIT SOAKING ~ 10:00-12:00, Saturday 11 June 2022, SSCB

Again, this will be a time where we meet together to let Holy Spirit encourage and refresh us. The session will begin with a short, guided reflection to help us focus on God. We’ll then spend time both in small groups and alone, listening to what Holy Spirit may be saying to us and praying for each other. Numbers will be small so that the morning is as relaxed as possible, and there will be a break for beverages and cake.
As always, if you’re thinking you have to be “super-spiritual” to take part, this is not the case! You can sign up via the SSCB website or speak to Pauline or to Jacqueline Young.
Looking forward to welcoming you on 11th June!

[from Pauline Dalrymple]

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Summer Day of Prayer for Revival

Days of Prayer have been refreshing blessings in our church family for many years, now. We give thanks to God that after the pandemic now we can be back in person in the church for a Day of Prayer. Our Summer Day of Prayer is from 10:00 to 22:00 on Saturday 28 May in the New Prayer Room!

Summer Day of Prayer 10:00 – 22:00, Saturday 28 May 2022

Our New Prayer Room is compact and cosy, welcoming and ready for prayer warriors to fill it and decorate if with their prayers! It is what was known as the Vestry! Now it is the home base and powerhouse of Prayer at SSCB!

We are inviting you to make good use of this space and opportunity to come into the presence of God Almighty, our Heavenly Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ with your prayers, devotion, and love.

Specifically, we invite you to pray for revival! Make this day, 28 May a day of prayer and fasting for revival. Pray and fast as the Lord and His Spirit leads you. Make it the beginning of your committed prayers and fasting for Revival!

Why should you pray for revival?

Revival is an in-breaking of God’s kingdom into our broken and suffering world with the grace, mercy and love of God and reorders our lives, reorders our church, and transforms the world so it will be never the same again! Revival humbles many and saves many! That’s why you should pray for revival! Here are some suggestions how to pray and what to pray for. These are only a few, add your owns as the Spirit leads you.

  • Pray for revival, pray for God’s power to be manifest around us and in us, making us faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8)! We, humans have got power and ability to do great things, achieve amazing feats, but our power and abilities have been corrupted by sinfulness and we can never achieve and do what God can do in the world! Pray for Holy Spirit to be poured out in greater measure into your life, into our church family!
  • Pray for revival, pray for a great awakening (Acts 3:19-20). We have become so sleepy towards God, not just towards sermons! Pray to be awakened, refreshed to the full majesty and glory of God, as Isaiah did (Isaiah 6:1-8)!
  • Pray for revival, pray for the salvation of people around you, in your home, workplace, in our schools, hospitals, police stations, shops, neighbourhood, and not forgetting the church! A revived church is noticed by others, and they will ask the questions: What does this mean? What shall we do? (Acts 2:12; 2:37), which brings them to faith in Jesus! Pray that Jesus will be lifted up in our lives as a church family, He will be honoured, and people will be drawn to him!
  • Pray for revival with expectancy! Trust and expect God hearing you and acting in immeasurable might in response to your prayer (Ephesians 3:20)! Don’t pray for God to help us in our work but pray that He will pour out his Holy Spirit immeasurably greater than we can imagine, to do His work in us!
  • Plead with the Lord in your prayers, persist, don’t give up but pray for revival consistently (Luke 11:5-13). Ask God to do once more what you read about in Scripture! Pray and ask Him to be faithful to His great Name! Ask the Lord: Will you do this again? Glorify your name among us, in our city once more! Do it for the sake of Christ!
  • Wait for the Lord! Don’t just ask Him but wait and listen. Wait for His timing, and action, and when He moves, you must move also! Listen, obey, and act as He moves you by His Spirit (Acts 2:1-12)!
  • Pray for revival because God is still God! He is our God, and he alone is our hope! The world around us seems to fall apart, sin is powerful, evil seems to be winning. But our hope and trust are in God Almighty! He is still God! And nothing can move Him! Jesus is alive and He is on the throne in heaven and has authority over heaven and earth, and He will not be moved from there! He is your hope, our hope! Pray with hope for revival!
  • Pray for revival with humble, repentant heart! Ask God, what is hindering Him and His purposes in your own life? What hinders Him moving in power in our church family? What hinders Him to move in might and grace in the church in Scotland? What hinders Him to move in saving grace in our land and nation? Ask Him what do we need to change, cleanse, purify in our lives, in our church family life, in your own life?  And when He answers, respond to Him in repentance and let Him move the hindrances, obstacles away! ‘Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.’ (Acts 3:19-20).

So, make time and come and pray and fast! Book a time period on the sign-up sheet below and: Pray with passion! Pray with humility! Pray with urgency! Pray with expectancy! Pray without ceasing! Come and pray for Revival! For the only way to blot out evil, sin, and darkness in your own heart, in the church, and the world is letting the glory of God shining forth in power! Come Lord Jesus!

[from GV, inspired by and based on David McLemore: Why Your Church Should Pray for Revival]

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What is Faith?

At Lunch Club this month, I spoke about what faith is.

I had been wondering where Jeremiah found his resilience to keep going back to the people of Judah to tell them that they had turned their back on God – again – and bad things were going to happen – again – unless they turned back to Him – again!

And it brought me to thinking about FAITH.  It can only have been the strongest, the most resilient, the most trusting faith that carried Jeremiah through.

But what is faith?

As many of you know, I wasn’t a Christian for many years of my life.  In fact, I still have more years behind me as a non-Christian than years as a Christian.  But going on an Alpha Course changed everything for me.  And one of the things that is brilliant about Alpha is that they tell amazing stories to make complex ideas more simple.  I wonder where they got that idea from?

One of the sessions was called ‘How can I have faith’ – and I am going to shamelessly plagiarise a story here that they use to illustrate faith.

The story is about a man called Charles Blondin.

He was a famous American tightrope walker and acrobat in the nineteenth century.  He drew large crowds to watch him, particularly when he started crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  His act began with a relatively simple crossing using a balancing pole – but his crossings became more and more complex and theatrical – and drew ever bigger crowds.

There is the story of an occasion when our royal family were in the US and went to watch him perform. He started with his simple crossing with the balancing pole.  Then he crossed the tightrope on stilts, then blindfolded; next he stopped halfway to cook and eat an omelette. He then wheeled a wheelbarrow from one side to the other as the crowd cheered. He put a sack of potatoes into the wheelbarrow and wheeled that across. The crowd cheered louder.

Then he approached the royal party and asked the Duke of Newcastle, ‘Do you believe that I could take a man across the tightrope in this wheelbarrow?’

‘Yes, I do,’ said the Duke. ‘Hop in!’ replied Blondin. The crowd fell silent.  The Duke of Newcastle would not accept his challenge.

It was then that Blondin posed the question of the crowd – “Who will get in the wheelbarrow?”

No one was willing to volunteer.

Eventually, an old woman stepped out of the crowd and climbed into the wheelbarrow. Blondin wheeled her all the way across and all the way back. The old woman was Blondin’s mum, the only person willing to put her life in his hands.

The story of Charles Blondin paints a real-life picture of what faith actually is. The crowd had watched his daring feats. They said they believed, but their actions proved they still thought it was all too risky.

Faith is trusting in God.

When I first heard this, it took my breath away – could I get in the wheelbarrow?  What were the risks of getting in?  And more importantly, what were the risks of not getting in?

Then and now, I chose the wheelbarrow and have literally never regretted that decision in the years since, though it changed my life in all sorts of ways I would not have imagined then.

What have you chosen?  And what do you choose today?

[from Alison Franks]

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Written Word: 7. Samuel and Kings

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. (2 Samuel 11:14)

Through one piece of writing, David ensured the death of one of his most trusted officers. David (already married to seven women, from Michal to Eglah) wanted Bathsheba (already married to Uriah). He arranged Uriah’s death and married her. It may be appropriate to remember Deuteronomy 17:17’s command to kings from a couple of articles ago: “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.” Be careful of the power of writing. It can seal someone’s fate, for worse and for better.

In both 1 Kings and 2 Kings, there are various stories of, appropriately enough, kings. The focus is on those specific stories, but we are not to lose sight of the fact that the kings did many other things besides – these acts did not define them entirely. We are told in each instance that the rest of the acts of [insert name of king] are written in [insert name of book]. The invitation is there – go and research this person and his deeds; see what is recorded and note the evidence. In the same way, we can cross-refer when tracing evidence. We have already seen how Erastus is named in Acts as being an Aedile in Corinth, and how cross-referencing evidence was found engraved on paving slabs unearthed in Corinth in 1929. 

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” (1 Kings 21:8-10)

Ahab wants Naboth’s vineyard but Naboth refuses to exchange or sell. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, says she will get the vineyard for him. She writes letters in Ahab’s name that culminates in Naboth’s death with Ahab grabbing the vineyard. There is little that Naboth could have done about this: the letters were in the king’s name and sealed with his seal – how would Naboth know that they had been written without Ahab’s knowledge. But Ahab was quick enough to take advantage and claim the vineyard. The Lord sent Elijah to call him out. Despite behaving in the ‘vilest manner’ Ahab knew when he had been found out and humbled himself in remorse, as a result of which the hand of punishment was stayed. There is a lesson there that the spoken word of God trumps even the written command of a king.

The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” (2 Kings 23:21)

Josiah was unlike Ahab. As he honoured God, so he found himself led to honour God further. And this led to Josiah being blessed. After reading the Lord’s command and then celebrating the Passover (which had not happened for many years) he was emboldened enough to rid his kingdom of mediums, spiritists, idols, gods and other ‘detestable things’ until eventually we are told “neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did” and (crucially) that he did so “with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength” (v25). Remember with all your ‘muchness’? What a compliment to be remembered for that! Write that on your heart.

[from Timothy Pitt]

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A Visit to La Jolla Christian Fellowship

Our Session Clerk, Tim, recently visited our brothers and sisters at La Jolla Christian Fellowship, San Diego. Here is His account of his adventures over the pond.

What went before: Many of you know Adam Stadtmiller already. He is the Senior Pastor at La Jolla Christian Fellowship (LJCF) in San Diego, USA. He has worshiped with us in Edinburgh a few times. Last October, he and Pastor Sean ran a Holy Spirit Workshop with us and sat in on a Kirk Session meeting.

Setting the Journey: I had a week of annual leave to use or lose. I had a standing invitation from LJCF (we all do!) and my lovely wife’s blessing for me to enjoy a week’s holiday in the sunshine. So off I went to San Diego.

First Impressions: The building is similar to ours: old wooden panelling and pews (light brown, not our dark stain), the rear ones replaced by a foyer and glass wall. And the LJCF church family themselves? They are us! I had a strong sense of not just a warm welcome, but of being amongst family. It wasn’t a smothering welcome, but a familiar one of genuine affection; as if we had always known each other even though some of us had only just met. It was lovely to meet people who have been praying for us and our church.

The First Sunday: I positively revelled in praising and adoring our Saviour, Jesus, surrounded by this family, drinking in new yet familiar surroundings. I have watched their services on-line for some years, choosing a pew at the back of their church and gradually being encouraged to move forward as I became more involved (on-line Scripture readings and devotionals for them). Now I was in that seat near the front, joining them in person as we praised God. Life is good! I delivered our gift – a communion cloth in Church tartan with a verse that was supposed just to represent our thrill at the link with LJCF, but which spoke a deeper note to them as it was the very verse they had chosen this year as part of a ‘unity response’ to civil unrest in the USA last year. The verse is at the end of this article. That alignment was an astonishing moment of blessing.

Through the Week: I sat in on a staff training day. Bathed in prayer and worship (the praise band leader was part of the training, so of course we had some praise songs!), we focussed on effective and efficient working – what must happen each week, what ideally happens and what (even though it has just ‘always been done’) is actually a bonus extra and should not be a priority. We had a Holy Spirit Workshop, similar to the one we held at SSCB. It was an amazing evening – the praise music not just an outpouring of worship but helping to set the tone. People came forward for prayer, connected with Holy Spirit, receiving healing, comfort and encouragement. Not a dry eye (of joy!) in the house.

The Second Sunday: Adam invited me to preach as it (a) allowed a different insight into the Word of God and (b) further introduced SSCB to LJCF. Despite the preaching, there was an amazing response of fellowship and simple interest in us. Prayer works, and I saw that to Pray Across the Pond yielded so many positive results beyond our own immediate requests of God.

The Follow-up: LJCF want to come and visit, and a group is looking at coming over, perhaps at the start of Advent. Are you interested? Can you help welcome them? They really are interested in us. They support us. They pray for us. They love us. Let’s return that through our own support, prayer and love. In unity, loving Jesus.

“How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
[from Timothy Pitt]
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Written Word: 6. Joshua

Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me. (Joshua 18:4)

Joshua had led the Israelites into the Promised Land. They had conquered the land and most of it had been divided and claimed by the tribes of Israel. But some land had still not been taken; seven tribes had not yet claimed their allotted land and received their inheritance. In truth, they had become accustomed to resting where they were and did not push on to complete God’s mission for them. Joshua assembled all the Israelites and spoke out. He asked how long they would just wait, not even beginning to take possession of the land the Lord had given them.

Perhaps this is an instruction to us today that the Word of God to us is not necessarily “This is what I want for you … and here it is on a plate.” Perhaps, rather, “This is what I want for you … now are you prepared for your actions to show your faith in my plan for you? Are you prepared to act; to claim what I have made ready for you?”

Joshua was perhaps alert to the likely response of a people who had grown accustomed to inactivity: the active response may not be whole-hearted. Have you ever been tempted to short-cut? To take a guess, even an educated one, and then present it as if it is your personal experience? Joshua wanted them to claim ownership of the land and to claim ownership of its Godly provenance. So he instructed them to appoint representatives who would walk the boundaries and survey it, writing it all down so that there would be no doubt or argument. No person or tribe could guess at their land boundary and claim, even innocently, what they were not entitled.

The people would, through their writing, provide evidence that they had carried out the task and actually seen the land in order to claim it; seen and claimed their own land and not another tribe’s.

And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. (Joshua 24:26)

After the land was allotted, Joshua summarised the Israelites’ history, showing God was always there with them. He asked them to decide if they followed the gods of the Egyptians they had left behind, the gods of the Amorites whose land they had taken over, or God, who was – and is – with them. He made that famous statement: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”(Joshua 24:15). They reaffirmed their choice and promise to serve God, so Joshua made a covenant for them, reaffirming decrees and laws: you don’t just follow God in name only. God has given a way to live, and this is the way to be followed. We know that Jesus is the way (and the truth and the life). The Israelites chose the way of God. And it was important for them that, having made this choice, they would hold each other accountable to this choice. It really mattered to them that they had made this covenant, this promise renewed. So it was written down, and a stone memorial was set up as a witness to the promise. The law was written by Joshua and written in stone for us all. Salvation was won by Jesus and written in love of us all. Write that on your heart.

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Revival Challenge

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.
” Habakkuk 3:2

As we continued our sermon series ‘Shaping Our Story’ last Lord’s Day, we reflected, with the help of Isaiah 6:1-8, on how a revival starts. Isaiah saw and personally experienced the awesomeness, holiness, and glory of God.

In Scripture we find countless stories about the majesty and greatness of God, the power and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the sweeping, purging might of the Holy Spirit transforming lives and changing history. Habakkuk, living and prophesying about a century after Isaiah, longed to have the experience and vision of Isaiah in his own time. This was not a selfish desire, just for himself, but for the people of God.

When we read passages like Isaiah 6, we also kindle similar yearnings like Habakkuk to see God acting mightily in our lives as he did in the past when He stirred up people and His church to revival. When we hear of revivals of the past or at other parts of the world we long to be par to it, hungering for God’s presence, peace in our hearts and in our world, thirsting for His justice, and just having more of God in our lives.

We need more of God in our lives and in the church! But how can one start a revival? How can I be part of it, or experience it? It is not us who start a revival! It is the Lord God Almighty! He starts it and completes it! But He never forces it upon you or on His church! He moves when His people seek His face and ask for revival! In His time he responds to their prayer!

That’s how it began on the Isle of Lewis and that’s what we saw in Isaiah 6. At a time of crisis God’s people called out to Him. God revealed Himself in fullness and Isaiah met Him as He was, in His holiness, glory, and might. In the presence of holy God Isaiah met himself as he, Isaiah was, sinful and unclean, just like the people among whom he lived! In his brokenness and repentance, he met God full of mercy, his guilt was taken away and his sin was atoned for! Being revived Isaiah was ready and willing to go and meet God’s people with God’s message for revival, spreading it across the land.


When we long for revival the revival must start with us before it will spread across the land. The question is, are you willing to get it rolling? Do you want revival here at SSCB? Will you pray for revival? Will you ask God to revive you first, then His people here at SSCB, and across the city and beyond? Will you pray as Isaiah and Habakkuk did? Will you pray as the old, housebound sisters prayed at Barvas, Isle of Lewis! Will you pray for revival as the minister and the elders, challenged by those sisters, did?

I challenge you to pray and fast for revival. Pray that God will send His Holy Spirit to cleanse us, wash us clean, making us ready and strong for His service. Pray that Holy Spirit will revive our church family, visit us with His fire and power. Pray for more of God in your life, in our church, in our community and city!

If you heard of God’s fame and you stand in awe of His deeds of the past – will you pray that He will renew them in our day?

[from GV]

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Enviro-Lent Review

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. John 6:12

The Enviro Lent challenge is over – for this year!  What a blessing to try new things to care for God’s creation.  Now the challenges are over, here are what the participants thought.


Sholto attempted to take on all the challenges! “Most of the challenges are what I try to do anyway, but this stopped me getting complacent, it made me keep plugging away at making small changes. Except the meat-free, I’m an unashamed carnivore, so that was the hardest one for me, but for ethical and practical reasons I wanted to try it out. Individually we can’t make a huge difference, but collectively all our small changes make a huge difference. It’s like John Lennon said – imagine – well imagine all we can do to help our planet. It’s easy if you try.” 


“At first glance eating local seemed a fairly straightforward challenge and on the whole it was. Shopping locally and visiting local farm shops was interesting.  What we were finding is that we became aware of some of the other challenges facing us.  I think we are now more aware of where our food comes from, where we can buy loose fruit and vegetables, and how we can support local shops.”


“A small group decided that we would attempt to go through the whole of Lent without buying anything new. Food, medicines, and second-hand purchases were allowed. For me it was a fabulous conversation piece, I was able to tell people what I was doing and why.”


Emma attempted to reduce household energy use. “It was amazing to see how normal it became to use less energy and be more conscious of what we were using and why. I found it inspiring to remember even little changes could honour the Lord and his planet.”


Grant led the group attempting to ditch single use plastics. “Our group was very mixed from those who had already gone some way along this journey to those of us who were just taking our first baby steps. We now have the pleasure of – fresh milk delivered to our door; homemade yoghurt; taking tupperware to the supermarket for our fish and meat.  We now regularly visit the Refillery in Corstorphine which is excellent.  There were some nuts we failed to crack, but every little helps. We are thankful that we shared this experience and hopefully made some permanent changes.”


“Folk who joined the meat-free challenge had a varied time. Whilst some found that it was hard to make vegetables interesting, others found that simply cutting down meat meals or bulking up their standard dishes was more veg successful. A number agreed that it was an achievable lifestyle step in their contribution towards fighting the climate emergency.”


Father God, we give thanks for our church family who participated in Enviro-Lent.  Help us to remember this world is Your creation and we are trusted to care for it. Show us how You wish us to do this. In Jesus name. Amen.

Keep an eye on E-pistle for updates on All Things Eco and their progress. If you have any comments or queries please email

[from the Eco Group]

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Written Word: 5. Deuteronomy

You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:9)

Write them, show them in public, understand them and claim them as your own. But what are ‘they’? Verse 4 onwards reveals this is the Sh’ma, a prayer to be recited daily. It begins “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad or the LORD our (plural ‘us’) God (plural ‘God’) is one God, the LORD: our Lord is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; three in one. It says we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength (all our muchness!), to impress these commandments on our children, talk about them in daily conversation, and write them on our door-frames and gates. Never forget; never stop being reminded.

“Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.” (Deuteronomy 17:18)

Thrones and kingdoms? Some 400 years before Saul was crowned, it was recorded (in Deuteronomy 17:14) that the people would call for a king:When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,’ (Deuteronomy 17:14). The king was told expressly how to behave, how to reign. He must not take many wives, he must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. And when on his throne, he was to write out his copy of that law. Again: learn it, understand it; take ownership of it. Saul and all the other kings failed. But they can’t say they didn’t know. Either follow God or disobey Him – it is your responsibility to choose.

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, (Deuteronomy 24:1)

Everyone must take responsibility. In those days, only the man had the power to divorce, but he was commanded not to abuse that power. A man should not just evict her, ignoring that they were ever married. He would have to take responsibility for the act, providing the certificate, telling the story. Sadly, man abused the power, ducked the responsibility and failed to love woman as he was commanded.

So it shall be on the day when you cross the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God gives you, that you shall set up for yourself large stones and coat them with lime and write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over, so that you may enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you. (Deuteronomy 27:2-3)

Make an effort to remember the events of your life; of God being present with you. Make the effort of preparing stones and writing on them; a cairn memorial. Or do as Mary did many years later, and treasure them, pondering them in her heart. Remember, treasure and ponder all that God does for you. Write that on your heart.

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Last Lord’s Day we explored at our service what we see. Do we see things, people, the church as God sees them? We might see only scattered very dry bones without hope, and yet God sees there a Vast Army!

If you missed the service, I would love you to read prayerfully Ezekiel 37:1-10, and engage in the exercise here, please, befeor4 you would read on this post! Thank you. When you are done with the reading –perhaps you want to read it a few times, I often need to do that and find it helpful, myself– spend time to answer the following questions for your own personal benefit:

  • What do you see when you have an honest look at your church and community?
  • Do you need to be revived personally in order to have faith for the future?
  • Do you believe in God’s sovereignty and the power of His Word and Holy Spirit to revive a person, a church, a nation?
  • What ‘dry bones’ situations are in your life (church, community) where God’s life-giving Word needs to be prophesied into? Are you willing to do that?
  • Are you open to God’s calling and commissioning you to play your part in His Vast Army?

Thank you for engaging in the above exercise. Here is the reason I asked you to do this:

  • Did you find it easy to see things differently – to see things from God’s perspective?

Perhaps you did not. There is nothing wrong there. I doubt Ezekiel found it easy and natural to see a vast army instead of a valley of scattered dry bones!

This is the million-dollar question:What kind of ‘spectacles’ do I need to see things as God sees them?

Or to put it differently, what kind of vision do I need to have to see the world, people, the church as God sees them? The prescription for those special spectacles are to be found in the Bible.

In the story of ‘The Rising of Lazarus’ (John 11:1-44) Jesus makes a profound and encouraging statement: “‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’”

In this passage we find eight (!) examples for what it means to believe! The Bible does not give us an encyclopaedic definition of what BELIEVING means. Rather it reveals the dynamics of a believing life!

“To believe means that we do not expect anything from God that He did not promise us. But we are looking forward with great belief to everything He has promised us!” – Kálmán Cseri –

I love the description of Kálmán Cseri (a Hungarian pastor, who is in glory already): “To believe means that we do not expect anything from God that He did not promise us. But we are looking forward with great belief to everything He has promised us!” The Lord did not promise that we will not meet suffering in life, so I am not disappointed when it comes my way. But God has promised that the believer will remain in God’s presence even in the most adverse circumstances. He will not leave him/her or forsake him/her! (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5)

To believe means that whatever happens to me I turn to Jesus first.  When Lazarus got ill, his sisters sent for Jesus straight away: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:3). Mary and Martha did not appeal to their or to Lazarus’ merits, but to Jesus’ love and completely entrusted into His grace and love the timing and the method of help!

To believe means I take seriously and accept what Jesus said – even if I find it hard to comprehend it with my mind, or it is not supported by my personal experiences so far.

Believing is an attitude, it is the basis of the life I live, the foundation of the things I do, the structure of the things I say. The one who believes sees things differently to those who don’t believe. Many of the people who were with Mary and Martha criticised Jesus, saying: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37). But Martha and Mary do what Jesus told them to do, even moving the stone from the tomb. The request does not seem to make much sense, as Lazarus has been dead for days, the decomposition of the body has begun and the smell must have been pretty bad (John 11:39-41), but they did it, nevertheless. They perceived it only afterwards why Jesus asked them to move the stone!

Believing means I stick with Jesus (I follow Him, obey Him, confess Him) even if I get into trouble because of this. The raised Lazarus became a living and walking testimony of Jesus’ divine power and identity. Therefore, the chief priests wanted to kill not only Jesus but Lazarus too (John 12:9-11). Living faith, true belief is, I share with Jesus in everything – in suffering here in this life, and in glory in His Kingdom.

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)

To see things as God sees them you just need to believe in Him and the One He sent for your salvation: Jesus Christ, the living Lord!

[from GV]

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Written Word: 4. Numbers

The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. (Numbers 5:23)

Explaining this writing requires facts and context. A woman, suspected by her husband of adultery, would be taken to a priest who would recite explicit curses. If she had committed adultery, she would be cursed. He would write them down, wash the ink into bitter water and the woman would drink it. If she were guilty, she would become sick and would ‘become a curse.’ If nothing happened, she would be cleared of guilt. Pretty stark and pretty one-sided.

The context is complex. This was in a time when the Israelites needed order and discipline to survive in the wilderness. It referenced the close relationship of a husband and wife – to be open and transparent, not tainted by infidelity or suspicion and lies. It was in a time when a man could divorce his wife, but she could not divorce him. It was harsh on the wife, yet in that context, it limited the husband.

It was a deterrent: I have not found a single narrative of a wife actually being condemned in this manner. If she were to be a curse, she would be labelled as that; like the curse of calling someone a ‘Jezebel’ or ‘Lady Muck’ or being labelled a ‘Quisling’ as a collaborator. The punishment was the curse, not death. The husband would pause: she was his wife! Did he really want to cause her pain on the basis of a mere suspicion? If he continued, then guilty or innocent, he himself would suffer the shame (in a society where honour was everything) of this all being in public.

Why was there not an opportunity for a wife to do the same? In those days, a woman could not divorce a husband. But there is more to it. Hebrews 13:4 holds a man accountable directly to God and a woman accountable to her husband and thence to God. But remember: they were created equal. It was awful that a woman would face the judgement of this ritual. But her husband would face the judgement of God. In design and practice this was a deterrent against a husband accusing out of mere suspicion. Caught in the act, two would be stoned, but if only the woman, she should not be stoned. Jesus knew that. In John 8 we read that the woman had been caught in the act of adultery (and ‘caught in the act’ means they must also have seen the man), yet only she was to be killed, not the man. Not only was it unfair, it was against Jewish law to condemn the one to a punishment that was reserved for two. Jesus showed the crowd of men for who they were, but then he turned to the woman and said, “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)

Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. (Numbers 17:2-3)

This is much more straightforward! It confirms origins, recording the symbolism and relationship of leadership. It reminds us of who we are and the basis of our authority. We are God’s people through the authority of Jesus who loves us. In researching Numbers 5:23, I found a Scripture Union summary headed: ‘Relationships matter.’ Write that on your heart.

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Holiday Club 2022 & The Flying Eggs

Surely the greatest challenge of our recent Holiday Club is choosing a single highlight to expand upon. We welcomed 27 bright and wonderful children, enjoyed loads of lovely chats with grateful parents, and witnessed about 20 from our congregation serving the Lord for a full exhausting week. We delighted in Tim showing off his thespian talents, ate plenty of delectable homemade cakes, and endured sore cheeks from all the laughs each day. Amid Holy Week we shared the Good News with children and with each other, finishing each day with full and joyful hearts.

There were unforgettable individual moments, too. One P4, when asked what he prays for, proclaimed that he prayed for

  1. the homeless,
  2. endangered animals,
  3. thanks for the NHS,
  4. that people would sleep well.

One wee man who usually struggles to fully engage with us at a weekly Stockbridge SU Club vividly came to life, his demeanour full of smiles and laughter.

We witnessed the fruits of children clearly paying close attention to the message. One child told us how she was thankful that God gives us the Holy Spirit. After hearing of the Good Samaritan, one child told us he was very keen to be a good neighbour so he would share all his craft supplies. More than one child, after hearing about “fishing for people” would proclaim they were doing just that by inviting their siblings and parents to our outreach night.

If I had to choose one thing to expand upon, I must share how moved I was by three of our SSCB teenagers. They served every day of the club with eager and joyful attitudes, without hesitation and without showing signs of slowing down. They never complained about the myriad of tasks we gave them and never lost their patience with the children. They were truly inspirational.

There was one afternoon that stood out head and shoulders above a remarkable week of service. In a debriefing meeting, they spontaneously offered to assist a summer holiday club (4-6 July) run by one of our neighbouring churches – Bristo Baptist.

Their willingness to take the message that they have received from others and share it with younger ones reminded me of when Paul encouraged Timothy: “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” They were a key part of the work of training up the next generation of good-news sharers.

After most of the adults had left for the afternoon, those teenagers were still there finishing up one last task – hiding over 300 solid chocolate Easter eggs in the Church Sanctuary for the evening hunt. The Session Clerk and I popped in to witness them having more fun than is often had in a Sanctuary – they were certainly hiding some in a meticulous fashion, but some others were being hidden with a more… *aerial* method of placement.

It was an amusing moment. We all stopped and grinned to each other. But more importantly, they noticed that their methods weren’t criticised but rather their joyous service happily commended. I can’t think of a better way to encapsulate a Holiday Club – serving the Lord together, praising his name to all, and having a whole lot of fun in the process.

[from Kenny McCartney, Youth Pastor]

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Holiday Club 2022 – Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

Our time of prayers of thanksgiving and intercession is a time to consider just some of the many blessings we enjoy and to give thanks to God because He gives us good things. We can look around us and at ourselves and see that we need God. So often this is all from our own perspective – what WE are thankful for that affects US; where WE see an immediate need for godly intervention and help. These prayers represent gratitude in the hearts of 5 – 12 year olds; need as seen from the eyes of the young. They were written by the young people at Holiday Club. Hear them, align your spirit with them, and approach God through them. With that, let’s pray:

Father God,

  • There are many things we want to say thank you for. We have been shown that everything good starts with you and so if it‘s good, it comes from you – you made it, you allow it, you help it. So even for that, we say thank you.
  • We say thank you for food. We had cakes and biscuits and snacks at Holiday Club. Some people don’t have anything. Thank you, God, for food.
  • Thank you for grandparents and everyone in our families. We all get looked after, no matter how old we are, and it’s a lot of fun playing with different people. Our Leaders told us that Church is a family. So thank you, God, for family.
  • Thank you, God, for Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, that you died for us and that you did not stay dead. Thank you that you are alive and because you are alive, we can be alive. Thank you for us being alive – REALLY alive with you.
  • Thank you, God, for the Holy Spirit. Thank you that you want to be with us so much that you give your Holy Spirit to be in our hearts all the time, so we are never alone.
  • Thank you, God, for Holiday Club, for the fun and the games, the singing and the silly stuff, and our leaders and all our friends.
  • Thank you, God, for things around us which help keep us well and keep us safe – for the house we live in and for the NHS.
  • Thank you, God, for making us unique. Each one of us is different. You love each one of us. Thank you, especially, God, for always loving us.

Dear God,

  • Please help us to get on with our brothers and sisters and to be a helping family together, even when we want to go and play with our toys.
  • Please help us to stop fighting with each other – stop the bombing in Ukraine.
  • Please help us to get to the end of Covid, and to end all sickness and disease.
  • Help us all – everyone in the whole world – to have enough food and water, and please help the homeless people.
  • Dear God, please help our friends with what they need to be happy and to stay friends with us.
  • Please help us all to have a good Easter and to know what it means that you are here with us.
  • Please help us all to live a good life.
  • We pray for our own family, for families in Ukraine and for all our friends.
  • Please, God, help endangered animals all over the world.
  • We pray that everyone will know God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
  • And please, God, help everyone to have a good sleep.


[collected by Timothy Pitt]

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Written Word: 3. Exodus

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:14)

God tells Moses to write it down and to read out what he has written. This is a foretelling by God of what He is going to do, so He wants it to be clear. “Write this in a book.” It is going to be set down for all to see; no doubt as to what is there. “Recite it.” Make sure the word gets out; don’t just leave it forgotten in the book. Broadcast it. Everyone will know what is going to happen. And then I will make it happen. This asks for our faith. We cannot deny that the writing is there and we cannot deny what is written.

When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18)

Moses comes down from the mountain with two tablets of carved stone which the LORD has given to him – the covenant law. Meantime, the people have grumbled and Aaron has gathered their offerings to make a golden calf that they worshipped. Enraged at their rebellion against God, Moses smashes the tablets, but then intercedes for the people and seeks to atone for their sin.

The Ten Commandments were clearly God’s will for us; His instructions to us. The first tablets were a passive revelation: God gave Moses completed tablets, with the Commandments inscribed on them. He Himself had written them: ‘inscribed by the finger of God.’ The second set carried the same message, but it can argued from Exodus 34 that this was participatory revelation: God chose to work with Moses to produce them. This time, He told Moses to “chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones” and said, “I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.” We are told Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” The ‘he’ in this instance, can be strongly argued to be Moses. This has exercised scholars for hundreds of years. But if they are focussing on that question, are they missing the point? Two points, actually:

  • (1) Perhaps God was showing how He would work with all prophets in creating His divine revelation for us. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We tend to say that William the Conqueror built Winchester Cathedral. We might even say that in fact his appointee, Bishop Walkelin, built it. Or we could drill down a bit and point out that surely the stonemasons and ordinary labourers actually built it. All are correct. And more so the Bible: God-breathed; God-inspired; God-written.
  • (2) The message of the Commandments was so important for us that God ensured they were recreated and set as a permanent reminder; evidence to be seen and read of God’s standard for us all. A reminder, if we choose to consider ourselves, that we cannot meet that standard, no matter what we do. We cannot earn our way into God’s righteousness. It would take a miracle for us to be worthy of God. The miracle of Jesus. Write THAT on your heart.

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Happy Easter

When is Easter? This is a question that returns every year, ant it can be puzzling, for it is not happening on a set date.

Easter is a movable feast. It is linked to the Jewish festival of Passover, since Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified at the time of Passover. Passover, according to the Jewish calendar falls on the 14th of the Hebrew month Nisan (Leviticus 23:5). But the Jewish calendar is based on the movement of the moon, and dates are calculated according to its the movement.

For the Western Christian Churches, like the Roman Catholics and Protestants that use the Gregorian calendar Easter is on the first Sunday following full moon after the spring equinox (21st March). So, Easter can be on any date between the 22nd of March and the 25th of April.

However, for the Eastern Christian churches, like the Orthodox Churches, which use the Julian calendar, most of the time Easter falls on a different date, usually one-two weeks apart from Western Christianity. This year our Orthodox brothers and sisters will celebrate Easter on the 24th April.

In Transylvania, where ethnic Romanians (most of them Orthodox) and ethnic Hungarians and Germans (most of them Roman Catholics or Protestant) live together, two Easters are celebrated in most years!

Easter happens not necessarily when it is in the calendar but when someone meets the risen Lord!  

Trying to answer with precision the question ‘When is Easter?’ is not that simple. Easter can be at different dates. For the women that went to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week after the crucifixion Easter happened right there as they met the risen Lord.  For the disciples that fearfully gathered in the upper room in the evening of that same day, Easter happened as the risen Lord appeared to them and greeted them: ‘Peace to you!’ For Thomas, who missed that, it was a week later.  For the disciples travelling to Emmaus Easter happened on the road.  For Peter the meaningful Easter when he was liberated by the risen Lord’s forgiveness Easter happened on the beach of the Galilean Sea (John 21). Easter happens not necessarily when it is in the calendar but when someone meets the risen Lord!  The Apostle Paul had his Easter on the road to Damascus! You can meet the risen Lord anytime, anywhere!  He comes to you at the right time! That is the majestic joy of Easter!

Experiencing Easter is not tied to a location, or a date, or a set time!  An atheist architect met the risen Lord when he was sent to survey a listed church building. He arrived as a wedding was in progress, so he quietly took a seat at the back of the church. But the words that he heard being preached by the minister touched his life so profoundly that he experienced the wonder of Easter right there and then.  The love of God surrounded him, His forgiveness overwhelmed his soul, the majesty and the power of the risen Lord simply arrested his whole being.  The architect returned home as a changed man.  He had his first real Easter there.

I don’t know if you experienced Easter like that before. This year it is on the 17th of April (just in case if you didn’t know). May you have the Easter experience of Peter and the disciples, and that of the architect, whether on the 17th of April or not that doesn’t matter.  What really matters is that you have your own, personal encounter with the risen Lord!  That you have your own Easter!

May the blessing and the grace of the risen Lord Jesus Christ fill your heart and life with joy, strength, and peace!  Happy Easter!

[from GV]

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Written Word: 2. Genesis

This is the written account of Adam’s family line. When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. (Genesis 5:1)

The first reference in the Bible to writing is found in Genesis. The start of this book sets out what for some is scientific poetry; for others is poetic science. This article is not the place to debate the literal qualities, imagery and intent of Genesis. It is enough to be reminded that Genesis sets out the origins of the world and shows us that God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) always was, always is and always will be. It sets out that we are created in love and are created to love.

In Genesis, God has called us to remember our origins – both in the big picture of the beginning of life and also in the story of us: the human race. God is timeless, but we are bound by time, and so God wants to impress on us that this is important to Him and that it matters to us – we should not forget.

The whole of Genesis 5 connects that origin with our development. In linking the time of Adam with the time of Noah, it provides genealogical details: this is not just a narrative of history. It is our history; these are our ancestors. The fifth chapter of Genesis notes some interesting details – if they had not been written down, would they have been overlooked? As it is, are they set out so that we can aspire to them or so that we can simply note what it was like for humanity at that time? Human beings lived a long time and had many children. Surely the march of humanity was inexorable? But sin was among them, and they died as a result of that human sin. There is such a vital warning in there that we must see it; must respond; must return to God. And that warning is not just doom and gloom without the glory of being lifted from that fate. For it tells of what happened to Enoch – he walked with God, lived long and was taken away by God before his actual physical death (fun trivia time: because Enoch is not recorded as having died it means he, rather than Methuselah, can claim to be the oldest mortal human who ever lived. Methuselah was 969 years when he died. Enoch, having lived 365 years, did not die but was taken straight to heaven to live eternally in God’s presence and in His temple.)

Genesis 5, having set out the bridge from Adam to Noah, thus provides a record of not just what happened but who happened. And it prepares the story for God’s response to the sins committed by humanity.

It’s all about Jesus!

And the point here is that it is important. It is important to know where we have come from, because without that we may not know where we are headed. And we can know for sure that we come from God, created by God. We can know for sure that we are important to God; loved by God. We can know for sure that we need God; His love, mercy and forgiveness. And as we read on, we can know for sure that we are redeemed by God; paid for in Jesus. Do you accept Jesus, depend on the Holy Spirit, and – like Enoch – walk with God? It’s all about Jesus … but it’s all about Jesus precisely because from the very beginning, God has loved us so much. Write that on your heart.

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Shaping Our Story – Sermons for Revival

What is shaping our life, our story? Who do we allow to shape and form our daily life? Is it the circumstances? Chance? Other people? Family? Politics? The economy? Are you pleased with how any or all the above shape your story?

If you are a Christian, you know that above and beyond all the diverse influences upon our lives the most powerful influence that should shape your life is God’s Holy Spirit! Holy Spirit moulds us step by step into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit being in us gives us a unique power and potential to shape our lives and life around us and make us stand against the devil’s schemes (read Ephesians 6:10-18). By the Holy Spirit we can overcome evil, darkness, temptation, fear, even death itself!

What we need in the church is more of God!

Therefore, it is sad and disappointing to see Christians and the church, having the power of the living God Himself in them, being so helpless and powerless in the world today. Our church, the Church of Scotland, is shrinking, congregations are becoming smaller, less and less people enter the ministry, the funds are decreasing substantially, and in these circumstances the policy the Church adopted and wants to put into plan is to reduce ministry by 40%, possibly followed by a reduction of church buildings with about 30% or so as well.

It is a justified question to ask: Why? If we got the power to go forward, why are we retreating? Why are we not making use of it? If we have the power to change things, why are we standing by helplessly and allow to be changed and shaped by the world around us?

It is time for the church to wake up! It is time for us here at SSCB to wake up! Our next sermons series – starting on 24 April – are a wakeup call to all of us! We will explore what God tells us in His Word we, His people, could do and should do! He calls and encourages us to wake up and shape our story, instead of letting the world shape it for us. The living Lord has an amazing plan for us, but we need to wake up and play our part in His plan. We have God’s Word to guide us, the risen Saviour, Jesus Christ, to lead us, and the Holy Spirit to empower us!

Please start praying now! Pray earnestly, sincerely, and without ceasing to have more of God in your life, in our life in the church family, make space in our church and in our lives for MORE OF GOD!

‘Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.’
 (Ephesians 5:14)

[from GV]

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Day of Discernment Report

In early January, your Kirk Session had a time of prayer which we grandly called our ‘Day of Discernment’. This was a day when we came humbly before God and acknowledged that we did not know what direction we should take his Church and we needed His guidance. It brought with it a sense of expectation – we gathered to pray expecting the Lord would be with us and would speak to us. He was and He did.

At the time, the Building Works were not yet complete and we were anticipating an end to Covid-19 restrictions. The Presbytery Consultation was, and is, taking up time and effort and it is wearing. In prayer, we saw that we should look long and hard at what we did before Covid-19. We wondered what we could we put down in order to pick up another task.

We had obtained reports on our ministries prior to the day and realised they were grouped naturally into:

  • Framework Ministries (who we are as a worshipping church): Leadership, Sunday Worship, Prayer, Praise Band, Sunday Club, Homegroups, Pastoral Care.
  • Outreach Ministries (what we do as a church): All Things Eco, Children and Families, Holiday Club, Youthwork, Scripture Union, Lunch Club.

The first group – we are called to do these in the best way we can. The second group – we are called only to do those things in response to a call by the Lord. Through prayer, we gave to the Lord all our struggles – we are too busy, too old, too distracted, too weak etc. We heard back that it was not our job to perform the miracles; only to provide the loaves and fishes. To do what we can with what we have.

In a truly poignant and beautiful moment, we were led to light candles and pray for ministries that were important to us, and we found we needed more candles.

We call ourselves a ‘Church Family’ not a ‘Congregation’ – so we can work as a family: looking after our elderly, learning from their wisdom, feeding off the energy of the youth, teaching them grace by example. We won’t be perfect at anything but we’ll be good at what the Lord calls us to do. So we ask everyone to keep praying. Maybe you can’t run an SU Group on your own … but perhaps you can help to welcome people to church?

We do not have the answers, but we know a God – THE GOD – who does.

Your Session does not have the answers, but we know a God – THE GOD – who does. We are still working on what this looks like for us all, but we have so much more peace and encouragement about it. If God asks … then go and do it.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

[from Alison Franks]

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The Written Word – 1. Introduction

My wife often says to me: “If it’s not written down, it won’t get done.’ And the standard cyclist’s comment for the distance and data of a ride is: “If it’s not recorded on Strava, it never happened.”

Writing is important. It confirms the memory; it literally provides both evidence and a commentary on what happened; records what was planned to happen and what did happen.

Books are important. They bundle together various thoughts and records. Indeed, even the word ‘Bible’ comes from the Greek ‘biblia’ which means ‘books’ – and we have 66 books or separate writings which make up the Bible – 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.

Writing has been found that dates back to 1500 BC (letters written by Palestinian officials), 2350 BC (King Sargon I’s inscriptions) and even before 3000 BC (Egyptian hieroglyphics). Scripture – the Bible – may have begun as an oral tradition (it is astonishing to consider the lengthy passages memorised by people of olden times) but through writing, we do not have to commit knowledge to memory: it is there, written down for us. Nowadays we have both electronic screens and paper. In Celtic Christian times, they used vellum (calfskin). Many cultures wrote on wood, such as runes carved by the Old Norse. Papyrus (a reed-like plant) is synonymous with Ancient Egypt. The Assyrians wrote on clay tablets. And before all that, writing was carved in stone itself. Indeed, there’s a shout out right there not just to the stories inscribed on Celtic Christian Tall Crosses, but more importantly, to the Ten Commandments, inscribed on stone tablets in around 1500 BC. 

Writing is the means for recording permanently and for broadcasting the message. Erastus is a person mentioned in the Bible only three times. In Acts 9, Paul sends two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia. In Romans 16, Paul notes that Erastus “… who is the city’s director of public works [the ‘Aedile’], and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.” And in 2 Timothy, Paul records that “Erastus stayed in Corinth and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.” In 1929 archaeological investigations in Corinth uncovered some pavement slabs from the first century AD. Inscribed on them was “Erastus pro aedilitate sua pecunia stravit” which translates as “Erastus paid for these as his aedileship.” The writing in stone was permanent and it broadcast the message.

As George noted in our 100th edition, the aim of our own ePistle newsletter is “to bring you news, information, Scripture message, godly hope, and encouragement, sharing our faith and joy with each other.”

There are 426 references in Scripture (NIV translation) to writing / written / write / wrote. That would take quite a few articles, so we will not look at each one but will journey through the Bible and pause to investigate and acknowledge why it is so important to write things down.

Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll,
that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness. (Isaiah 30:8)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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People Around the Cross

– Holy Week Services 2022 –

Holy Week brings before us a number of characters who surrounded Jesus and the cross. This Holy Week we will look at some of them, who surrounded the cross. I personally find very helpful the large-scale painting of Golgotha by the Hungarian painter Mihály Munkácsy. I had the privilege to see this painting accompanied by two others that form his renowned Biblical Trilogy (Christ Before Pilate; Ecce Home; and Golgotha). Munkácsy was a very skilled genre painter and the characters he depicted come powerfully alive on the canvas.

We can find striking characters, specific faces, and faceless crowd around the cross. It seems that the whole of humanity – past, present, and future – ranging from the good, the bad to the ugly gathered around the cross of Jesus. Jesus died for all of them, all of us! His saving death can lift out each and every one of their sinfulness.

For some, meeting Jesus meant the beginning of a new life, for others it meant the fulfilment of their judgement, depending on who they saw in the Man dying on the cross. It wasn’t easy to recognise and accept that the suffering, tortured, dying Master was the Son of God who saves sinners by his sacrifice on the cross. It is not easy to recognise the Saviour in Him even today. Both then and now one needs faith to acknowledge him as their Redeemer.

As we look closer at the characters around the cross, we can get to know better not just them but ourselves and Jesus too. Join us at our Holy Week Services so that the words of John will come true in your life as well:

“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

Our Holy Week Services will be at 19:00 on Zoom (Monday -Thursday, and Saturday), and in person in church at 19:00 on Good Friday.

  • Monday, 11 April, 19:00 – Judas (Matthew 26:14-16; 47-50; 27:1-5) [preacher George Vidits] on Zoom
  • Tuesday, 12 April, 19:00 – Peter (Luke 22:54-62) [preacher George Vidits] on Zoom
  • Wednesday, 13 April, 19:00 – John (John 19:25-27) [preacher Martin Bethell] on Zoom
  • Maundy Thursday, 14 April, 19:00 – The Thief on the Cross (Luke 23:32-43) [preacher George Vidits] on Zoom
  • Good Friday, 15 April, 19:00 – The King on the Cross (Luke 23:39-43) [preacher George Vidits] in church
  • Saturday, 16 April, 19:00 – The Centurion (Matthew 27:27-54) [preacher George Vidits] on Zoom

[from GV]

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Enviro-Lent Devotional Thoughts

This year, I have been using the Tearfund Lent devotional emails as part of my prayer and quiet time with the Lord. These are designed to draw us closer to God over this period and I have found them inspiring and encouraging.

The theme of the devotionals is unity and togetherness, both with the Lord and with one another. Many of the devotionals have covered the topic of climate justice and these have encouraged me to think and pray further about why we are participating in Enviro Lent and how we can best give glory to God and care for our brothers and sisters. 

I’ve put together some verses I have found helpful over this Lent period and a prayer to read through (or add to as you wish) which I hope will encourage you whether you are participating in Enviro Lent or not.

God Bless,

Emma D 

Scripture Verses

John 6:12

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

Psalm 24:1

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Luke 10:27-37 (only verses 36 and 37 included here but do read the whole section)

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Micah 6: 8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.


Father God, I give thanks for the wonder of Your creation, the beautiful spring weather, the trees and birdsong. I give thanks that Your world reflects Your glory wherever I look. The earth is Yours Lord, everything in it and all who live in it.

I give thanks Father for those in our community who feel called to make a difference through trying Enviro Lent, joining a litter pick,  supporting Tearfund or other charities, praying or teaching others about the climate crisis currently facing Your world. 

I know Father that you call me to care for Your creation, every part of it- the world around me, animals, plants and trees and my neighbours. You command us Father to act with mercy to our fellow humans and to show justice to all.

Lead me Father on the right path to care for Your world. Help me Father to do what I can to show Your love in action and to act mercifully towards those who are faced with the reality of the climate crisis daily.

When faced with a climate crisis Father it is too easy to become downcast, to lose heart or to feel I am not enough. But I know You are a God for whom nothing is impossible or too late.

In the face of this climate crisis, I hold on to the hope found in You. Show me Lord how to act with mercy and humility as I consider what steps I might take to care for Your planet and people, in Edinburgh and beyond.

Above all Father, remind me to set my mind on things that are above and keep my hope focused in Jesus Christ, our Saviour. 


[from Emma D]

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Sometimes It Hurts

On 26 March SSCB was kind enough to fund CPD in Perth for yours truly. I chose a day-long seminar entitled “Sometimes It Hurts”. The course was delivered by both clinicians and therapists from NHS England who work on CAMS (Collaborative Assessment & Management of Suicidality) wards for teenagers in the Midlands. In short, it is a first-aid course to equip youth workers to spot early warning signs in the mental health of adolescents, particularly those with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).
ACES include a wide range of traumas; just one example is when a child is a victim of sustained domestic violence. The statistics for those young people who experience multiple sustained ACES are heart-breaking. Let me share a few.
A child who experiences multiple ACES can grow into adulthood with a significantly higher health risk and shorter lifespan. These children will be 191% more likely to contract an STD, 105% more likely to have heart disease, 67% more likely to become an alcoholic, and 50% more likely to contract cancer. It gets worse. A child who experiences multiple ACES is a staggering 3,900% more likely to use IV drugs, 207% more likely to have diagnosed mental health disorders, and 114% more likely to engage in sexually promiscuity – which, by definition, is over 50 partners. Women, in particular, are 800% more likely to be a victim of sexual assault and 380% more likely to experience sustained domestic abuse.
There is a physical science to why these numbers are so monstrously high. A child exposed to fight-or-flight levels of stress while their brain is developing in what is supposed to be a safe environment alter the neural pathways in the brain that prevent the ability to measure threats to health and safety.
Imagine these pathways being like a well-worn path trodden on the forest floor. Plants that should be growing tall and bright are instead continually trampled underfoot into the ground. Likewise, continuous trauma can weaken neural pathways in the processing part of the brain; healthy active growth is natural, but it cannot be sustained by constant trampling.
Without outside intervention, these pathways can remain damaged into adulthood. The cycle often persists, and adults who experienced trauma as a child repeat the same trauma on others, exhibit the same behaviours, and make the same damaging decisions.
There is, however, a statement of hope: “Just as a traumatic experience can alter a life in an instant, so too can a therapeutic encounter.” This quote isn’t from a Christian but rather neuroscientist Bruce Perry, however the professionals leading the seminar were Christians who reported seeing hope brought to the hopeless by an encounter with Jesus.
After all, Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10).” In the most troubling week of his own mortal life, Jesus reassures us: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).”
I am not a mental health professional, but I can look for warning signs, administer first aid, and call for help. Like the Good Samaritan, I can be a good neighbour, friend, and minister to those who are low and poorly.
As Jesus’ ambassadors of the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5) we have the privilege of bringing with us not only good deeds and kind words but the healing news of the Gospel. We can share with people that they are created, cherished, and loved beyond their wildest dreams. Maybe that’s why it is said “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation (Isaiah 52:7).”
The well-trodden path through the woods can grow back again just like it was designed, and the forest can erase the wounds of hurt to be completely whole again. This is the power of the good news of Jesus Christ – that he is redeeming all of creation, healing the land and bringing forth new life.
In humble obedience, we simply sow those seeds wherever we go.

[from Kenny McCartney – Youth Pastor]

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God Loves with a Mother’s Heart

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” (Isaiah 66:13)

Though we know in our heads that Our loving God has no gender, we virtually always address God in masculine terms – He, His, Father, Lord. We read Genesis 1:27 that God made humankind in the divine image, female and male.  Yet somehow, I automatically think of males being closer to His image. 

This makes it all the more surprising when we discover passages like Hosea 11:3-4, 13:8, Deuteronomy 32:11-12, 32:18, Isaiah 42:14, 49:15, 66:13 referring to God as like a mother. These passages make me stop and wonder. 

A parent’s love for their child, in particular a mother, is so life changing and all encompassing, so deep and so wide. To think of God as a mother, to think of God taking care of me as a mother, takes my breath away.

Hosea 11:3-4 talks of God teaching his children to walk, lifting them like infants to the cheek. What an amazing image. God’s love for us is the love of a caring parent, father, or mother! Even when we are well beyond our youth, our need for love, support, forgiveness, guidance, welcoming arms, is life-long.

To know that God loves us like a mother, whatever our own relationship with our own mums, families, or children, is a beautiful promise. 

The SSCB Baby and Toddler Group is full of mums and grandmothers who love their children. Despite the huge challenges that motherhood brings, their love is written on their faces. What a message of love, of joy, to be able to bring to them – God loves you as you love your own children.

May God bless you and keep you this Mothering Sunday, and every day. 


Thank you, God, that you love us more than our own parents, more than we love our own children. It seems hard for us to imagine. Thank you for making us creatures that can love and be loved. 

This Mothering Sunday we pray for those who are missing their mothers. Thank you for blessing them with a relationship in this life, hold them in their grief and sadness.  

We pray for mothers who are struggling and feeling overwhelmed. Grant them the strength, friendship and support they need. 

We pray for those who long to be parents. We bring before you those who are struggling with the death of their unborn children or struggling with fertility treatment. Give them your peace.

Thank you for the amazing women in our lives, who have cared for us and raised us. Amen.

Passages for Further Reflection 

[from Cat R-W]

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After-lunch Thought

Well to be completely honest, I’m writing this on Monday and the lunch I refer to was yesterday’s Church Family Lunch after the service; the first one in two years.

I left the hall, with very satisfied taste buds. The soups were so inviting I had to try a portion of both, so I could tell each cook how good it was. The home baking by Ann and other thoughtful individuals was simply delicious. The tables were set up and just right for their purpose. Joseph’s fancy napkin folds gave an air of festivity … not my own standard of kitchen towel (which is not exactly eco-friendly either).

All the above was just fab, but to be quite honest this is not what is prompting me to write. It is the people, the laughter, the interesting chats and the news from those I managed to spoke with that made my day yesterday. Some had been busy from early on, never taking a seat but smiling to the very end despite being tired. Thank you, Martin, thank you Ann, thank you Sheila, thank you May and thank you Joseph. 

And still, that is not why I am writing, believe it or not!  My thought after lunch as we drove to meet up with an 86-year-old friend in Morningside, our old head of department, just to touch base and give him a break from his rather solitary life, was: how good it is to connect, to keep in touch, to share and to experience things together: a meal, touching base, a walk, a day out or just a coffee. How good it is to talk, to spend a little time together and exchange thoughts! And this is precisely what Home Groups involve. We meet to study God’s Word for us, to pray together and to share, encourage, laugh and simply be together as God’s children. There is no need to be a Bible scholar, or to know in advance the answer to the questions that might be discussed. What is needed is a simple desire to be with others, willing to open God’s Word for us, the Bible, and to be ready to say in honesty: I don’t get that. I struggle with this. Oh, that’s new – I never knew that! Oh, in a practical way, what does this mean? Am I willing to give this a go despite having shied away from it for the last 50 years? Oh, is that it? I never thought it was that simple!  Oh, it is tough, but I feel better because I see I was not alone in thinking this way.

I hope this ‘after lunch thought’ encourages you to ask yourself: “Would I want to open my home to a few of my church friends and spend an hour or two having a coffee, a catch up and reading the Bible together? Then we could chat about it, share our thoughts and ask for clarification.” This is what it is all about: having a good time together, with a special focus on God to whom we owe absolutely everything.

If you think your home is not tidy enough then no worries: mine seldom is! I have a clear table and chairs but maybe one of the church halls could be your venue if that’s more suitable for your circumstances. Go for it: connect and have fun!

If you want to join one of the existing Home Groups (Tuesday, Wednesday nights, Friday morning – Ladies Home Group) or want to start a new one, please speak to or contact Veronique, she would love to hear from you –

“He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” (Acts 18:26)

[from Veronique Chittleburgh]

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Enviro-Lent Challenge One: Eat Local – Reflection

• bread from the local bakery in Stockbridge •

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;”
 (Psalm 24:1)

I am a member of Powertalk Stirling and last week’s theme for our meeting was Challenge. What follows here is the speech I delivered.  It’s amazing how our Church Eco Lent challenge spreads into all my activities at the moment.

“An Eco challenge for you too?”

What an appropriate theme for me at this time. Why, you might ask? There are always challenges in life. Yes, but my church decided this year to run an Eco Lent. So, what does that entail?

The congregation were given a choice of 5 challenges – Eat locally, Avoid single use plastics, Buy nothing new, Reduce energy consumption by 10%, Eat no meat.  I was put in a spot when asked which challenge I would like to lead and I said Shop Local. Then I discovered it was Eat Locally.

However, to my mind you cannot eat locally if you do not shop locally too, so that was my starting point. I am lucky living in this area of town as we have still got a local fish shop and butchers in Stockbridge. We also have the Sunday market and there we usually have fruit and veg and also butchers from the Borders – not too far away. The challenge defines “local” as within 30 miles of where you live, so that is what I am planning.  I already know and have used farm shops, one in the south side and 2 others to the west of the city.

And yesterday I received my second delivery of vegetables from an organic company in East Lothian. You cannot, I discovered, only think of that one challenge you have chosen without touching on the other challenges.  My box of vegetables is of course totally loose in the box – does that not remind you of when we were growing up and you or your mother went to all the individual shops – butcher, baker, greengrocer, fish merchant and grocer – I don’t remember Mum ever going to a candlestickmaker…

So here is something for you to consider – how do you shop, do you look at all that packaging in supermarkets and sigh, knowing most of that will have to go to landfill?  Perhaps you look for loose vegetables and paper bags?  But do you also look to see where the items have come from?  I was horrified to find that my beetroot from the supermarket came from Spain.  Why not beetroot from Scotland, or at least England, stored over winter?

And have you access to one of those Eco Larder places where you bring along your container and fill it there?  We have one along in Stockbridge but I have not yet remembered to carry containers when out and about – shopping bags yes, but containers no.

Another aspect I am trying to take on board is to walk, bus or cycle more to get my shopping.  I do appreciate that if you live miles from shops and bus routes, this is not an option. This perhaps will mean more frequent shopping for me, carrying 2 bags so that I am balanced while walking and carrying a rucksack when I am on my bike.

Now, what am I trying to persuade you to do?  Change completely how you shop?  No, no, no. What I hope I have done is persuaded you to think before you head out to the large supermarket several miles away and buy all the usual items, including all these special offers like 2 for the price of 1 even though you don’t really need that yet!  Think – Could I have bought some of these items locally? Can I buy British apples and potatoes? Right now, they are in the shops, you just need to look before picking up whatever comes to hand. Can I buy loose vegetables too?  When I started this challenge I ended up walking out of a local supermarket empty-handed because apart from bananas every other fruit and veg was encased in single plastic.  I then returned to another shop – I admit I am lucky to have several close to me – and selected 4 potatoes (British), 2 carrots, 1 courgette, 1 turnip, 3 onions, 1 pepper and 4 apples (British).  Of course I had to then weigh each item and look up the price at checkout, but my goodness I felt good!

My challenge is not yet over.  However, what I am learning is that I am now much more aware of my local shops and where their supplies come from, as well as considering the other challenges.

Why don’t you consider joining me in taking this challenge?”

I hope those who are taking up the Eat Locally challenge are doing well.  Anyone else tempted?            

[from Diana P]

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Attitude of Gratitude

It is exciting and unsettling when Scripture speaks to you. I was struck by a verse in 1 Timothy. (Well, for a start, it was quite literally addressed to me.)

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— (1 Timothy 2:1)

We recently held the Spring Day of Prayer – our first quarterly prayer day for 2022. The theme there was essentially: rejoice, pray and give thanks. That verse inspired and challenged all who were able to take part. This verse from 1 Timothy then landed with me and gave me pause for thought.

I have been (with the help of others) pulling together various rolls, registers and records that we need to submit to Presbytery for annual inspection. Some of the instructions were a bit out of date; others were confused and in general they were complex. As everyone on Kirk Session (and a few others besides) knows: when I am busy, I like to make sure everyone knows it. So I sounded off a bit regarding these unnecessary aspects. I had sympathy and – wonderfully – a gently effective rebuke for my threats to scribble complaints and rude notes on the Returns, assuming nobody would actually read them. I can’t say I was headed for unmitigated disaster and wholesale slaughter in the way of David, but I had an Abigail influence, for sure and I was thankful. Meantime, in gratitude that people stood with me, my heart was changed.

So I paused at that verse and decided to act on what it showed me. I express my thanks; I do so publicly, rather than not mentioning anyone lest I embarrass them or forget someone else. I give my apologies to those not named, and I say thank you to Joan, Martin, John and George. And Alison F, who is an inspiration.

I had that all sorted in my mind, but then it was as if God said, “Alison F – yes, hold that thought!” God took my attitude and expanded my heart. At the Congregational Meeting, Alison spoke about the building project and  about the funds raised. She gave thanks for all the work and effort. And THAT set me thinking further about the verse in 1 Timothy. As we embarked on the work, we did indeed make petitions. We prayed and sought intercession. And guess what? Funds were raised, tasks were carried out and the Building Works were undertaken. So I echo Alison, as she spoke at the meeting. Thank you, Church Family, for your prayers, finance and commitment. We give thanks to the Contractors for their diligence and professionalism. And we give thanks to do many who did so much. Alison F and Sarah Robertson, thank you for managing the finance. Alison M thank you for co-ordinating through opening restrictions; Ros, thank you for your architectural and project management services. George, thank you for your spiritual oversight – this was not just ‘another project.’ Stewart Robertson, thank you for giving of your time and expertise for free in the civil structural engineering aspects. Moira, thank you for cleaning the church to enable continued use. The Work Party teams and individuals who cleaned out the balcony, sorted the kitchen: thank you. This is not just a delighted roll call on the last night of a show, but a heartfelt thank you to all. Just saying thank you helps change us all for the better – those who are thanked and those who thank. It’s worth repeating. And doing:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— (1 Timothy 2:1)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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The Joy of the Babies and Toddlers Group

Today (17 March) I had the privilege of helping out with the new Babies and Toddlers Group at SSCB. This group has not even been running for a month yet and already is busy with attendees from the local area.

What a blessing it was to attend and chat to some of the parents and carers. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive with parents and carers feeling welcomed and supported. The group helpers (led by the incredible May and Elaine) were so encouraging and welcoming and I was inspired by their loving support and organisational skills! 

I give thanks for the work of our church family in supporting this vital ministry which is so needed after the last two years and for Cat and May on seeing this need and acting upon it. 

If this is a ministry, you’d like to help out with from time to time, please do let Cat or May know! There is always a place for more people to welcome and support new parents. 

Thank you Father God for your amazing blessing in the establishment of this new group and for the hard work shown by all the volunteers. We give thanks for this opportunity to spread Your Love in our local area and ask that the continued running of the group will be to Your glory. Amen

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

[from Emma D]

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Freedom Money Management & Debt Advice Service at SSCB

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

It’s been two years since we were offering a Debt Advice Service at SSCB and I’m delighted to say that we are now able to do that again, under a slightly different banner.

We have affiliated with Community Money Advice [CMA] who are a UK wide Christian Charity who will support us in providing a Money Management and Debt Advice Service.

The Debt Advice Service is exactly what we did before with CAP but the Money Management Service is something new. It is where we can work with individuals and groups to help them manage their finances to prevent them getting into debt.

It’s really tough for people right now as the cost of living is soaring and here’s some information that might shock you:

  • 1 in 10 Households have debts that they can no longer afford to pay;
  • 1 in 3 people are struggling with bills;
  • every day 23 people in Scotland are made bankrupt;
  • every day 74 people’s homes in the UK are re-possessed by landlords;
  • the average debt [including mortgages] per adult in the UK stands at £33,328 which is 108.7% of the average earnings.

Our service is face to face, free, confidential, non-judgmental and tailored to the individual’s personal needs.


Did you know that offering Debt Advice and Money Management is one of the most effective Compassion Ministries that a church can get involved in? We are able to help people at their point of need and also have the joy and privilege of sharing the good news of Jesus with them.

Our aim is to help give people Freedom from Debt and a Hope for the Future

If you would like to know more about this service, or know people who might benefit from it please contact Martin Bethell on:

Tel: 07990 892873

Martin Bethell
Freedom Money Management & Debt Advice Service

[from Martin B]

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Enviro-Lent Encouragement & Inspiration

“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12)

If you are taking part in the Enviro-Lent challenge with our church family this year or are interested in learning more about sustainable living and why it matters, here are my top environmental resources to inspire and encourage you:

Moral Fibres

Wendy lives in West Lothian and blogs about all aspects of sustainable life from fashion, family life, beauty products and research pieces. Wendy’s blog is practical and relatable and it’s my go to option if I’m looking for some eco inspiration or easy to understand environmental research. 

Ruth Valerio

Ruth lives in the south of England and works for Tearfund. She is the author of L is for Lifestyle, and Just Living, both great books on Environmental Christian Living. Ruth’s blog covers advice on green living, recipes and faith based commentary on the environmental crisis.

 Zero Waste Chef

Anne-Marie lives in San Francisco and regularly blogs on zero waste cooking and green living. Her no judgement practical approach makes cutting down your food waste easy and you’ll likely find some new favourite recipes in the process (such as her roasted cauliflower leaves with pasta. Yum!). I love that Anne-Marie has a recipe index on her website making it easy to find what you need. Our family also uses her DIY Deodorant recipe!

Less Waste Laura

Laura lives in Glasgow and works for Tearfund (another great climate resource!). Her blog covers sustainable living and climate action. Her loving, down to earth approach will inspire you. 

Zero Waste Home

Bea’s book, Zero Waste Home is a must read for anyone looking to cut down their waste. Whilst Bea and her family do live a more extreme trash free existence, she encouraged me to consider what my family consume and buy and what happens when we throw items “away”.

 Ethical Consumer

Describing themselves as “Ethics made easy – a simple way to find the products that reflect your principles,” Ethical Consumer score products and services, giving each one an easy-to-read environmental rating. Some information is only available to subscribers.

[from Emma D]

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Sunflower Hope

I just got an email earlier, letting me know that the Cubs are planting sunflowers for their gardener badge. They will start at home in a small pot and later they will plant them in our church garden.

Did you know that sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine!

If you have seen sunflowers growing, you noticed they always face towards the sun. In the morning they face east, then their heads follow the sun as it moves along the sky. During the night they reset to default mode and with the sunrise they start it afresh.

No matter what kind of day it is they always seek the sun, keep fixing themselves on the sunlight. The sun gives them life, makes them flower, and yield a crop. Without the sun they cannot survive. Even if the sky is covered by clouds, they turn their heads towards the slightest light that breaks through and soak it in!

The sky over Ukraine is overshadowed by attacking warplanes, dropping bombs, and rockets. The lives of millions are darkened with fear. Our prayers can break through that darkness and evil that the light of Christ will shine through, bringing hope, peace, and life. Continue to pray for the light of Christ to penetrate the darkness and cold of the underground shelters and the fear gripped hearts and minds of people. We know the life of Christ is the light of men and it shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Helen Keller, who was blind, once said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.  It’s what the sunflowers do.”

I want to encourage you, if you have got a bit of a garden, plant sunflowers this spring as symbols of your prayers for the people of Ukraine. If you haven’t got a garden, plant it in our church garden! These giant flowers will stand erect as signs of our prayers for the light of God to break through all darkness, fear, and war!

As the sunflower is fixed on the sun and turns around following it like a satellite dish for light and life, we fix our hearts, minds, souls and strength on you Lord Jesus, Light of the World. Shine your light and life into the darkness, fear, and war in Ukraine, and in every troubled land and heart, so your enduring peace, new life, and unshakable hope will spring up in them through your Spirit. Amen.

[from GV]

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Spirit Soaking

“Streams in the desert” – SSCB refresh events (Isaiah 43:19)

Getting soaked in Scotland is not an unfamiliar phenomenon. As I recall my years in Helensburgh the real art was trying to stay dry!

But the challenges of life, personal issues, job, health, finances, family, war, fear, and anxiety all punch a hole on our soul, heart, or mind and it is easy to feel that our energy, spirit is draining away – sometime fast emptying, other times slowly sipping away. So, we can become “half empty” or “half full” people, at worst scenario a totally drained, dried up people!

I want to remind you we are Christians, followers of Christ. And Jesus Christ came that we might have life to the FULL! (John 10:10)

The good news is that we can be filled up, we can be soaked by the love, grace, and the Spirit of God, bringing us stronger faith, fresh hope, and complete love!

Pauline has received this calling from the Lord to share the blessings and the revitalising Spirit of God with others. To fill up the half empties and half fulls and the totally empties.

And you know what is wonderful about God’s Holy Spirit? He is so diverse you can’t even imagine! Paul reminds us that God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us -that’s God’s Holy Spirit- (Ephesians 3:20)! When you are soaked by the Holy Spirit the Spirit also plugs in the holes that were punched on your soul, spirit, and heart! He is filling you up and healing you too!

Pauline is going to lead another Spirit Soaking event on Saturday, 26 March – just in time to prepare you for the Lord’s Supper on Sunday 27 March! It is an exciting and promising time to share, pray, and come under the soaking cover of God’s Holy Spirit!

Are you half full? Are you half empty? Are you dry? Do you want to be refilled? Be full of life? Whatever is your case, you should be at SSCB on Saturday 26 March to be soaked by the Holy Spirit.

Please click on the sign-up form bellow to make sure you will be there.

[from GV]

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Rejoice – Pray – Give Thanks

Reporting on the Day of Prayer and Work – Spring – 26 February 2022

“Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5 v 16-18)

This verse came to us as an overarching theme for the day and served us well. Those who prayed (together in church or separately in their selected hours) and provided feedback all pointed to re-invigoration and fellowship in this shared time adoring God.

For some, there was a 9am prayer hour in church followed by a Work Party doing tasks around the church. A lovely time that achieved much more than anticipated.

Through the day, we were all blessed. It struck a few of us that there was a double blessing: the 9am prayer time was so Spirit-filled and special – and we got to do it all over again. You see, the Zoom prayer hour with La Jolla Christian Fellowship in San Diego, was at 5pm our time … 9am their time!

We prayed under the covering of the verse from 1 Thessalonians. The feedback sits well under it, too. Please be encouraged to join the next Day of Prayer: in-person at church, in a prayer slot wherever you are or in the Zoom hour with La Jolla. Or all three! We have declared that we are a praying Church Family. Prayer is about coming to the Lord whatever our situation. God was present and God responded:


  • Regardless of the circumstances, God can and does, work in us and through us in all circumstances – that is definitely reason to be joyful!
  • It was a lovely hour to sit quietly after a busy day, to pray and read His word.
  • I left feeling so encouraged. What a God we have!
  • On two occasions prayers were said aloud for exactly the same ‘issue’ as had popped into my heart. And beautifully and clearly expressed too! 
  • It felt that the Holy Spirit was really leading and moving among us rather than us taking initiative. It felt and was so very good.
  • We need to be a Holy Spirit family, knowing that we are accepted by Jesus as we are, actively pursuing God.
  • It is good to pray together and it was so good to be reminded to rejoice whatever the circumstances.

Pray continually

  • Seek more of His presence, individually and as community. Like a constant ‘drip drip’ through every day; not just as a ‘binge session’ every so often.
  • Praying together needs to be more regular that a monthly Prayer Meeting and a Quarterly Day of Prayer…
  • We need this for our souls … why starve ourselves?
  • Early Morning Prayer Times for the Church were on my heart; Cat spoke on exactly that in her sermon the next day.
  • It was so very good to gather physically to pray.
  • We need to be a praying, Bible-reading, God-honouring FAMILY.
  • It was good to connect across the Pond and pray for one another.

Give Thanks

  • That as a church we should do what we are called to do and do it well and do nothing more. 
  • As we focus on being in His presence, everything else will follow.
  • Accept the challenge of change.
  • Don’t judge.
  • The Preaching Ministry at SSCB.
  • As a Church family we can look after each other, and encourage each other to keep going, to slow down or indeed give something up.

We finish with a picture which came through prayer; an encouragement to see what God does for us. The picture was of a detailed coastline with a large bay. There were small wooden boats crossing from one side of the bay to the other. And there were bridges in different states of repair as people tried to build a bridge across. But the coastline was constantly shifting. Boats and incomplete bridges that were far from the other side of the bay were suddenly, and safely, at their destination. The Lord says “I am making everything new!” We may try to struggle across through our efforts, but God is providing for us, making space for us. This is not a storm of trial and tribulation; this is simply seeing what God is doing. Be encouraged to look up from our own efforts and see what He does for us.

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Refuge and Strength in Times of Trouble

As images of war, and refugees surround us on every media outlet where can we find words of comfort and strength that are more than clichés? 

The Psalmists, inspired and powered by God’s Holy Spirit have got the right words for us whatever we might go through, and they never used a cliché!

Read slowly and prayerfully Psalm 46, asking God to speak to you and into the present situation in Ukraine.

I’m not sure of the exact circumstance in which the Sons of Korah wrote this Psalm, but it could not be more different than the circumstances of war-torn Ukraine! They looked into the reality of their circumstance, measured up its depth, and were very much aware of its danger! Yet they lifted their eyes to God the Most High! In Him they found refuge, and strength!

In verse 10 we read: “Be still, and know that I am God.” This is a verse that is often used to comfort ourselves and others. It suggests serenity, offers calmness, tranquillity in God. I think God wants to say more than that here. Instead of being a gentle suggestion, the context (verses 8, 9 and the rest of verse 10 and 11) implies this is more a command to those who are causing the war: “stop fighting.” “Cease striving” could be another way to translate it, addressed to the enemies of God’s people, saying stop struggling against God Most High, it is futile, He is in control, He is above the nations and the earth. Acknowledge Him as God Almighty! This is comforting to the suffering and the fearful too. Seek and find your peace in God, be in awe before the Most High, rest in His greatness, power and love. Verse 10 has something to say to both parties in the war, and to us as well.

Reading the Psalm, I found my heart more at peace, more at rest for it brought me into the presence of my God and Saviour, Jesus Christ who himself said to the raging storm “Be still!” Together with the disciples I can but bow before Him: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” I know that my life is safe in His hands for ever!

If you are seeking for a prayer for Ukraine and all suffering because of war, Psalm 46 is your prayer. Pray it, meditate over it, ask God to speak to you through it, ask Him to act through it in your life and in the lives of those affected by war. Place people in the hands of Him who can command even the wind and the waves!

[from GV]

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Spring Clean

I don’t know how you feel about spring cleaning. I remember in my childhood, we always had a big Spring Clean, my mum called someone to help as we took up all the carpets and they were thoroughly beaten out, floors mopped up, curtains taken off, washed, every nook and cranny dusted, broken, damaged, or unwanted, useless items thrown out, etc. I’m sure you get the picture. It took much effort, determination, and self-control. Especially when it came to throw out the clutter that you got used to, and liked, but really had no use anymore and were just in the way.

Lent is a spiritual spring clean! It is the forty days before Easter when Christians remember Jesus’ forty days in the desert before he began his ministry and was tempted by Satan. Jesus spent that time fasting and in very close communion with his heavenly Father preparing for his public ministry. Inspired by the Saviour and following him many Christians spend this season focusing on their relationship with God, and by decluttering their hearts, minds, and lives of anything that could hinder their relationship with their Heavenly Father. It is a time for prayer, Scripture reading, self-examination and repentance, humility -and by God’s grace- transformation.

Lent, just as a spring clean, is not designed to make us feel bad about ourselves, it rather aims to make our lives lighter, easier, hindrance free to fulfil its purpose in God’s glorious plan. Lent is a time to clear space in our hearts and lives for God to work his purpose out. It needs effort, determination, and self-control.

I encourage you to use Psalm 51 as your guiding Scripture throughout Lent to come closer to God, asking Him to cleanse all the undesirable clutter from your life.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
(Psalm 51:7-12)

[from GV]

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The first 100

We began our E-pistle newsletter in March 2020. It was a brand-new experience for all of us, brought about by the pandemic. For the first time we were distributing our newsletter by email, which was a great way to reach people as we were all confined to our homes.

We called it E-pistle, being inspired by the epistles (letters) of Paul in the New Testament. He was reaching far away congregations and individual Christians by his epistles encouraging, challenging, teaching, and blessing them. It was his way of being in touch with them from a distance. We hoped to do the same with our newsletter, and as ours is edited and distributed electronically the title became: E-pistle, a bit like E-mail.

Now, on 25 February 2022 we reached issue 100 of E-pistle. Perhaps it is not a huge milestone as far as periodicals are concerned, but we are posing for a wee while to give thanks to God for all He did through it.

So, please stop for a while and recall the pieces you found particularly encouraging, comforting or blessed by, even challenged, and give thanks to God for them that he used them in a personal way to come close to you. 

The aim of the newsletter was and is to bring you news, information, Scripture message, godly hope, and encouragement, sharing our faith and joy with each other. Many have contributed articles and pieces, words that God placed on their hearts. We are extremely grateful for that. Having a new issue of E-pislte in your inbox is the result of real teamwork! People are contributing ideas, articles, devotions, producing images, sharing information, editing and publishing it. It happens regularly each week. It is not in your inbox by magic, but through committed hard work. We are grateful to each and every one who contributed to it, through whose service God encouraged, blessed, and challenged us in the past two years.

The newsletter does not and cannot substitute the church fellowship. That is not the aim. But it is a real blessing helping us passing on God’s Word of encouragement and being in touch letting people know what is going on. Its aim is to continue to bless and build up the church family.

Thank you for reading E-pistle, for responding to some of the messages, for sharing it with others, for engaging with it week by week. We hope you find it a blessing as we continue with E-pistle. 

We close our thanksgiving, and this stop along memory lane with the words Paul often used at the end of his epistles:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

[from GV]

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“You are worthy, our LORD and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)

Lent marks the time in the approach to Easter. It is often a time for Christians to think about removing some of the clutter than gets between us and God. Be it sweets, alcohol, or social media, people often choose to give something up for Lent. 

This year SSCB is encouraging all our family to get involved with Enviro-lent – a campaign devised to encourage each other to make changes that will benefit God’s creation.

There are 5 challenges to choose from, each one deigned to enable people to give up, or take up, something for lent which will have a positive environmental impact. We are asking everyone to prayerfully consider which challenge they feel able to embrace. 

Once you have made your choice you will be able to join others embarking upon the same challenge. Together with your group leader you will support each other through prayer and practical tips throughout your Lent challenge.

The challenges to choose from

Enviro-Lent runs from Wed 2nd March through to Sat 16th April 2022.

  1. Eat Local
    • Eat produce that comes from within 30miles of your home.
  2. Buy Nothing New
    • Beyond food and medicines, can you reuse, mend, make, borrow or go without for Lent? 
  3. Reduce household energy
    • Seek to reduce household energy use by 10%.
  4. Ditch single use plastics
    • Can you eliminate single use plastic use this lent?
  5. Go meat-free 
    • Ditch the meat and reduce your carbon footprint this Lent. 

For further information about each challenge please check out our dedicated page on our website: Enviro-Lent


Loving Lord. Open my heart to your creation. Soften my spirit to its plight. Open my eyes to the role that I play. Reveal to me something that I can do that pleases you. For this world is your creation and we are trusted to care for it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

[from Cat R-W]

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Names of God: In the Name of the LORD – SUMMARY

In this series, we have looked at different names of God. Each one gives us an insight into God’s characteristics, personality, and awesome power. There are many more names which we have not encountered. This series has looked at Hebrew names, but Jesus addressed God the Father as “Abba”, Aramaic for father in the context of a close, intimate, active relationship. There are many more names, and they are set out in the Bible, ready for you to read, to grab hold of and think, “Yes! This helps clarify my feelings right now; this helps describe something of my love for God in this instant.” 

And that’s the thing: God IS love. We may yield to His indescribability (Yahweh – I AM who I AM). Or be inspired by how He knows us and looks after us as a shepherd (Yahweh-Roeh). Or be satisfied that He provides for us (Yahweh-Jireh). We may be struck by the beautiful simplicity of Adonai – Lord. But the name is the means not the end; it is to draw us closer to the person. And we haven’t even begun with the many other names for Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit). Look again at our list. Mediate on one at a time and see how appropriate each one is. Put them all together and see how inadequate they are. But in doing so, may you draw nearer to our Father.

YahwehI Am who I Am
El ShaddaiGod Almighty
El EloahMighty, strong
El ElohimCreator, judge
El GibhorStrong God
Yahweh-ElohimLORD Creator
Yahweh-RoehLORD my Shepherd
Yahweh-JirehLORD will provide
Yahweh-RaphaLORD who heals
Yahweh-TsidkenuLORD our Righteousness
Yahweh-ShalomLORD of peace
Yahweh-ShammahLORD is there
Yahweh-NissiLORD our banner
Yahweh-M’KaddeshLORD Sanctifies
Yahweh-TsevaotLORD of Hosts
Yahweh-TsuriLORD is my Rock
El ElyonGod Most High
El RoiGod of seeing
El OlamGod Everlasting
Yahweh HoseenuLORD the Maker
Ha’El Hanne’emanThe Faithful God
Elah ElahinThe God of gods
Ruach Ha-Ko’deshHoly Spirit
El HannorahAwesome God
ImmanuelGod with us
Adonai RabonniLord Teacher
Seh Ha’ElohimThe Lamb of God

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
    I am the Aleph and the Tav, the Rishon and the Acha’ron, the Reshith and the Qets.  (Revelation 22:13)

[From Timothy Pitt]

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‘Comely Bank Families’ – New Baby & Toddler Group

We’re delighted that SSCB will soon be running a new baby and toddler group.

‘Comley Bank Families’ is a baby and toddler group for local babies, toddlers and their primary carers – be it mum, dad or whoever does all the hard work.

The group is an outreach from our church, designed to help families meet other local parents, have a chat, and finish a hot drink. We hope it will introduce families to our people, through the volunteers running it, our ethos through our hospitality, and our church building.  

The wee ones can enjoy lots of fabulous toys, books and singing. A healthy snack will be provided for the wee ones, and tea and coffee for the adults.

9:30 – 11:15 on Thursdays @ SSCB Halls

We will meet on Thursday mornings, 9:30 – 11:15, at St. Stephen’s Comely Bank Church halls. People do need to sign up in advance to guarantee a place, so if you want to spread the word, please send them to our church website or Facebook/Comely Bank Families.  

The £2.50 entrance charge covers the costs of running the group and gifts at Easter and Christmas. 

This service will be provided by volunteers as part of our community outreach. We do need a few more people to prepare snacks and provide a smiling welcome, so if you can spare a few hours one Thursday morning per month, please get in touch with May Fong.

Check out our deviated page on this website and/or our Facebook page:

[from Cat R-W]

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Enviro-Lent at SSCB

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). Caring for God’s creation is about our Christian call to love our neighbours. Here at SSCB we continue to think of new ways to care for God’s creation. As part of this we’ve created a challenge to either take up, or give up, something for Lent that will benefit our earth. 

Lent is a time of self-discipline in order to grow in our discipleship. The Enviro-Lent challenge tie in with the fact that people often give things up for lent, but are designed to help us make a practical environmental difference. Lent is only 40 days long, but these changes could have an impact forever. They’re not easy challenges, but we pray that God uses them to open our eyes to the need for personal renewal.

There are five challenges to choose from, we ask you to read, think and pray about which one you can do this Enviro-Lent. God created us all uniquely and not every challenge is for every person. We hope that there is at least one option to suit everyone and that doing this together can be fun and rewarding. 

  1. Eat Local (Week 1; 6-12 March)
  2. Buy Nothing New (Week 2; 13-19 March)
  3. Reduce household energy (Week 3; 20-26 March)
  4. Ditch single use plastics (Week 4; 27 March – 2 April)
  5. Go meat-free (Week 5; 3-9 April)
Enviro-Lent 2022 Challenges

There will be an article detailing each challenge shared here and in the E-pistle Newsletter each week. We ask you to read, think and pray carefully about each one. 

We ask people to choose their challenge and make their commitment. As a church family we will journey through Lent by making these commitments together. Each challenge will have a leader from within the church family. Groups will have the opportunity to share tips and support each other throughout this season of challenge and renewal. 

Lent runs from Wednesday 2nd March through to Thursday 14th April 2022.

The challenge is based on ‘Living Lent’ We should note that there is normally an additional choice of challenge about transport, however we felt it inappropriate in the light of the high Covid cases currently. If the situation changes, or you feel enabled to do so, please feel free to adopt that challenge too!

[from Cat R-W]

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Names of God: Seh Ha’Elohim

SEVEN EPITHETS: SEH HA’ELOHIM (שׂה האלהים) Lamb of God

‘Seh’ means a young sheep or goat – generally referred to as a lamb and in the Bible it is the most significant of the sacrificial animals, with Leviticus and Numbers setting out detailed rules for the ritual of offering the lamb for sacrifice. An ordinary ritual simply requires a young lamb, but certain events such as the Day of Atonement (making amends for wrongs) and Passover (the lamb’s blood as the redemption sacrifice) required the sacrificial lamb to be ta’min; meaning that it had to be innocent and perfect – without blemish.

Jesus was led to sacrifice like a lamb. Caiaphas unwittingly set out the truth of the scale of that sacrifice when he said:

You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50)

And Isaiah had foretold both the perfection of Jesus and also his sacrifice for us. For Jesus is, of course, ta’min – innocent, perfect and without blemish. Isaiah contrasted us as broken, sinful humans against the perfection of Jesus even as He allowed Himself to be sacrificed for us:

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:6-7)

And so Jesus became – and is – our ultimate, innocent, perfect sacrificial lamb. He became Seh Ha’Elohim – the Lamb of God, often shortened just to the ‘Lamb.’

John the Baptiser recognised Jesus for who He is. John could have used so many names or titles for Jesus when he encountered Him when Jesus was calling together His disciples at the start of His ministry. As they met up, John could have greeted him by exclaiming, “Cousin!” He could have alluded to the power and authority of Jesus, part of the Holy Trinity, and said, “El Shaddai!” Or simply “Adonai.” But in that moment, John understood what Jesus was going to do for us all:

The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look, Seh Ha’Elohim [the Lamb of God], who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

We find completion in that the Lamb will be our Shepherd (Jehovah-Raah) leading us to living water (the living water being the Holy Spirit), where the Eternal One (Yahweh) will love us into perfection:

For Seh Ha’Elohim at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd;
“he will lead them to springs of living water.” 
    “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”(Revelation 7:17)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Day of Prayer and Work Party: Saturday 26th February 

We are holding the first of our Quarterly Prayer events, we will also hold a Work Party to undertake some housekeeping at our lovely church building and garden grounds, and to enjoy a time of fellowship whilst doing so. The work and the fellowship on the day will be rooted in prayer, giving us the right frame of heart, mind, soul, and strength.

We will begin with a time of prayer in church from 9:00 – 10:00, followed with a period of about two hours of work (10:00-12:00),  and the rest of the day there will be prayer slots available for you to book.

Our Friends across the pond at La Jolla Christian Fellowship, San Diego will be joining us at about 17:00 on Zoom for an hour of joint prayer (further details will be issued a bit closer to the date).

 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18]

 Please focus your prayers around the following:

  1. Rejoice always (taking from ongoing Ministries per the reports for the Day of Discernment):
    • Framework Mission: Homegroups – Leadership – Pastoral Care – Prayer – Sunday Club – Sunday     Worship
    • Outreach Mission: All Things Eco – Children and Families – Holiday Club – Lunch Club – SU – Youth work
  2. Pray continually (are we called to accept, to challenge, to amend, to try something new?)
    • Presbytery Consultation our current “Hot Topic”
  3. Give thanks (are we called to go out into the community? How would we do this?)
    • Taking Jesus Beyond our walls!!!

Please also “Take time to listen” to what God is saying to you and reflect on what God has laid on your hearts. You will have an opportunity to share this and we will publish anomalously to the whole Church, what we feel God has been laying on our hearts.

The two links here are to register your prayer time, and the other to register your willingness to come along and help with the work around the church and the halls. Both your prayers and physical help are much appreciated.

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Could We Celebrate 2021?

We may feel there wasn’t much to celebrate about 2021.  We started the year in our second lockdown and it all felt a bit bleak, like we’d been stuck in this particular loop before.

But I sat down this week to write a summary for our annual accounts of our achievements in the year and, frankly, I felt a lot better by the end of it.  Encouraged? Certainly. Inspired? Yes, even inspired.

Because despite all the challenges, we can be sincerely thankful for God’s faithfulness and provision as He blessed us in so many ways:

  • We ordained 4 new Elders to our Kirk Session in April.  Cat, Emma, Jacqueline and Veronique each brought their own unique skills, talents and spiritual gifts to our team and their impact to the way we lead has already been felt by our church family.
  • We have been blessed by, and are thankful to, our staff team.  George has been very busy this year with his normal preaching duties combined with the additional tasks of keeping us in touch through the weekly newsletters and the myriad other tasks a minister is called upon to do.  Our Operations Coordinator, Alison was only just appointed at the start of the year and has made significant improvements to our administration and provided much-needed support to all of us.  In July, we were delighted to welcome Kenny to our staff team, and along with Ashley, to our church family.  He quickly picked up the reins from where Philip had left off in April and has proved to be a brilliant teacher already to our young people.  Our cleaner, Moira was furloughed for some of the year, but has made up for lost time in the last quarter of the year, tirelessly battling the dust created by the building work to restore the church to its pristine condition.
  • We launched our first online Alpha course in April and were delighted and overwhelmed to have the privilege of hosting 26 guests with 11 leaders – a mighty undertaking each week between Easter and the end of May.  Many of us on the course experienced a real sense of growth in our journey with the Lord and at least 1 guest came to know the Lord as their Saviour – praise God.
  • And, significantly, with some negotiating and significant prayer, we were given the go-ahead by Edinburgh Presbytery to start the long overdue work to transform our building into a space fit for purpose for our church family and local community in the 21st century.  We started in June, and by the end of the year, we had a new kitchen, completely replaced toilet facilities, vastly improved access between our Church and halls and a new staff office.  The West Transept now provides an attractive meeting space and a new disabled toilet and hospitality point at the back of the church supports our aim to make the Sanctuary as accessible and welcoming as it can be.  
  • And that’s not to mention the work of our new Eco Group, the planning for the launch of our Toddler Group and our packed Christmas outreach programme!

I think I might need a lie down now!  Seriously, though, none of what we do at church would be possible without the commitment of our faithful church family who volunteer in so many ways to serve.  Our sincere thanks to everyone for what you have done, and for what you will do, in His name and to His glory.

[from Alison Franks]

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Why Did Jesus Come?

John Blanchard, in his pamphlet Why on Earth did Jesus Come? recalls how, some fifteen years ago or so, the Governor of the Bank of England, commenting on the UK’s Christmas trading, said: “The real significance of Christmas will not be known until Easter!”

“The real significance of Christmas will not be known until Easter!”

It is quite a statement, worthy of any good Gospel preaching pastor, and any faithful witness of Jesus Christ. Easter explains why Jesus came. Without Easter Jesus’ mission did not achieve its purpose. Without Easter our faith has no meaning.

As we are approaching Easter, in the forthcoming Sundays, by God’s grace, we will explore Jesus’ own words, His testimony, why He came. We will journey back to the authentic source, to Jesus himself, and hear from Him the reasons for His coming as He saw it. We do this that we will not miss the actual purpose of His unique mission. We do this that we will make no mistake about the meaning of Easter.

Spoiler alert! The Apostle Paul succinctly and powerfully summed up to Timothy the reason for Jesus’ coming:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)

Paul’s words were not just to fill in the space in his letter, they were heavy loaded with a tried and tested meaning. It is a testimony that can be trusted and should be embraced. It is something that we all need to hear, trust, and welcome as good news to us. For it declares nothing less than that Jesus came for us, for you and me! He came even for the worst in the world! The purpose of our sermon series is that we will hear, welcome, and accept this good news: Jesus came to save me! Praise, and glory, honour and blessing to God for His saving love in Jesus.

  1. Why Did Jesus Come? – To Fulfil the Law (Matthew 5: 17-20) ~ 20 February 2022
  2. Why Did Jesus Come? – To Preach the Good News (Mark 1:35-39) ~ 27 February 2022
  3. Why Did Jesus Come? – To Bring a Sword (Matthew 10: 34-39) ~ 13 March 2022
  4. Why Did Jesus Come? – To Call Sinners to Repentance (Luke 5:27-32) ~ 20 March 2022
  5. Why Did Jesus Come? – To Do the Father’s Will (John 6:35-40) ~ 27 March 2022
  6. Why Did Jesus Come? – To Testify to the Truth (John 18:28-40) ~ 3 April 2022
  7. Why Did Jesus Come? – To Give Life (John 10:1-10) ~ 10 April 2022

[from GV]

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Let’s Celebrate?!

Many of you, I am sure, like me, will have been sickened and outraged at the almost daily revelations of drunken parties and social gatherings, or should I use the more euphemistic term ‘work events,’ emanating from the very upper echelons of government, at a time when we were all in strict, covid enforced lockdown. For me, the wild revelry at the heart of government on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral was particularly shaming. The initial findings of the Sue Gray report have made it very clear that the rule makers have become the rule breakers par excellence. This is especially galling as we have all made huge sacrifices over the last couple of years, with many of us having missed milestone life events. How many of us could not celebrate a special birthday, attend a wedding or the funeral of a close friend or relative? How many of us could not see our elderly parents or visit a loved one in hospital? How many of us felt an intense sense of loneliness or isolation as our social contacts were banned by law? Even although our worship at St Stephen’s continued on zoom, we were forbidden from meeting as a Christian family in our church building. 

Those trying to defend the indefensible have used the spurious argument that there are far more important issues we should be concentrating on; the worrying situation in Ukraine, the looming cost of living crisis, the disparity between the rich and the poor. I agree. There are more important things we should be discussing. This is not about being ambushed by a cake or having a glass of wine at the end of the working day. This is about integrity, honesty, and leadership. Without them, there can be no trust and no good governance. 

The Bible makes it clear that honesty and integrity are central to good leadership. Four of the ten commandments deal with honesty and integrity. In Proverbs 12:22 we read

“The Lord detests lying lips but He delights in men who are truthful”

and in Proverbs 19:1 (ESV) we learn

“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.”

1 Timothy 3:2-5 defines a leader as follows,

“Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”

If we want to see an example of good leadership, we need look no further than our Lord Jesus Christ. During his short time on earth, he always practiced what he preached. He was integrity personified. There was never one rule for him and one rule for others. There was not one word, command or teaching that he was not willing to do himself. His messaging was clear and consistent. Repent and “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) There were no U-turns or attempts to pamper to the populist culture of the time, no attempt to water down the message to make it easier to accept, no attempt to backtrack or cover up what he just said. 

I would hate you to think I am a ‘party-pooper.’ I am all for celebrating but let us celebrate God’s infinite goodness to us and the gift of His Son, who through his love and self-sacrifice is the example of perfect leadership and paradigm of honesty and integrity. If Paul could celebrate the joy of knowing the Lord from a prison cell, then so can we, no matter where we find ourselves and regardless of any covid restrictions or lockdowns. Let’s celebrate! 

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs … For the Lord is good and His love endures for ever, His faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100 v 1-5

[from Michael Chittleburgh]

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Names of God: Adonai Rabboni

Seven Epithets: 5.6 Adonai Rabboni

Jesus taught. He instructed not just the disciples, but crowds of people. And His actions and words continue to instruct us today. He taught us through the power of His miracles, the humility of His service and the redemption of His sacrifice. Jesus referred to himself as Lord and Teacher:

“You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:13-14)

The New Testament was originally written in Greek where ‘Lord and Teacher’ is Kyrios Didaskalos. But Didaskalos is not just ‘teacher’ … and this is one instance where, surprisingly, British history and the English language help us for the UK education culture would more usually refer to a ‘master’ rather than a ‘teacher’ – so we have schoolmaster and headmaster. Students can gain a ‘Masters’ Degree at University. (Indeed, the King James Version translates didaskalos (or ‘Dominus’ in the Latin) not as teacher but as ‘master’.) El Shaddai shows two names as one: ‘God’ and the ‘Almighty One’ –  hence, God Almighty. In the same way, Kyrios Didaskalos shows us the Lord, our Lord Teacher; our Master.

Looking at Hebrew names for God, we need to make the connection from the Greek. John does this for us in explaining that didaskalos is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word rabbi (and he gives us the Aramaic as well, for good measure).

“… They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Didaskolos [teacher])…’” (John 1:38)

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni” which means “Didaskalos’ [teacher]). (John 20:16)

John 13:14 refers to Adonai Rabboni (Lord Teacher-Master or God the Teacher). In the time of Jesus’ ministry, the word rabbi was not really a word for the Jewish clergy, in the way of minister, vicar or today’s understanding of the term rabbi. In those days, it was a specific form of address meaning ‘My great one – my lord and master.’ (This provides clarity of when Jesus chastised the pharisees and religious leaders, saying “they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.” (Matthew 23:7) So when people addressed Jesus as ‘Rabbi” they were not just saying ‘Teacher’ but were actually addressing Him as ‘My great one.’ We are not limited, in this teaching model, to Jesus. God the Father and the Holy Spirit teach us and instruct us. Be my guide and my Rabbi in the true way; for you are the God of my salvation; I am waiting for your word all the day. (Psalm 25:5)

You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. (Nehemiah 9:20)

We can leave the last word to Nathanael:

Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.’ (John 1:49)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Renewal & Encouragement

Spring is not here yet, but its signs are slowly but steadily emerging from the ground. Crocuses are bobbing up in the back garden of the manse, and I wonder if you noticed the snowdrops lifting their dainty heads in the church garden?

But snowdrops are not the only things that speak to us about renewal at the church. The renewed premisses speak loud and clear. But beyond that I was deeply encouraged this week as God was laying it on my heart one word: RENEWAL. He guided my gaze towards our church and church family. These are the signs of renewal God showed me:

  1. Lunch Club is restarting.
  2. A new church group, called Comley Bank Families Toddler Group, initiated by people and young families at SSCB is starting its activities on Thursday 24 February.
  3. The Holiday Club is back, focusing on the Gospel of Luke (Diary of a Disciple) during Holy Week.

These old-new initiatives are encouraged to restart by the completed building refurbishment and by the stirring of God’s Holy Spirit. People are eager to serve, to be the church we are supposed to be. It is wonderful to see it, and be part of it.

After a long and uncertain wait because of the pandemic now we have these fresh shoots of hope growing up around us and calling us to be part of them and enjoy them. This is why we are here, this why God has saved us through Jesus Christ and called us, to be His people in Comely Bank. We were longing for this, weren’t we? Now, here are the opportunities, time to be part of the church life and ministry again! God our Father is encouraging us through Scripture:

‘Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.’
(Isaiah 43:18-19)

God is making the way for us. The past two years were very challenging and dispiriting in so many ways. But God carried us faithfully through them and now as if he placed us on a rock, he is showing us all that he has prepared and is ahead. Where we thought there is only a desert without much hope, God is showing us the new things he is doing that are springing up around us, he is pointing out the way we as a church family are to continue to go, and he is refreshing us by streams of water.

Rejoice and give thanks for the signs of renewal around us in the church family and in your personal life. Be encouraged by them to return to the church family and be part of it again. Look around in your personal life and notice the things God is making anew there. After all, the flowers are not only growing in the church garden but in our gardens too! Ask God for what purpose is he renewing you in heart, and mind, and soul, and strength in this new, exciting season. Embrace this renewal God wants you to be part of!

Dear Lord, and Father, thank you that you are the God of renewal. You are my faithful God who carried me thus far. Praise you for the hope I can have in you for the future. Thank you for the many signs of renewal and hope around. Open my eyes to see you at work and be encouraged in all the things that you are renewing. Renew in me the desire and strength to let go of the past and move forward in faith in the renewed path you have prepared for me. Amen

[from GV]

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Holiday Club is BACK

Dr Luke has a story to tell. It’s a super incredible, massively, mind-boggling totally AMAZING, absolutely awesome, epically H U G E story. Luke wrote down everything​ that happened because he wanted everyone, everywhere in the whole world to hear what he had to say.

Dr. Luke and his Diary unfold over the course of a week the events that shaped not only his life but history. Luckily for us, Dr. Luke was very clever and studious, writing down as much detail as he could. We pray that the contents of this letter to Theophilus will come to life in the eyes, ears, and minds of our local children.

Holiday Club IS BACK to run the duration of Holy Week and really bring Easter and Jesus’ resurrection story in full view with the saving truth of the gospel. We chose to use Scripture Union’s “Diary of a Disciple: Luke’s Story” this year for the basis of our content because it so closely aligns with the wonder of God’s Word.

The timing couldn’t be better – the hope of spring is in the air, school is briefly put on pause, and local children have a week full of fun learning that the coming Easter Sunday is about something far better than chocolate. Yes, there will still be chocolate! But they’ll also be told all about a God who loves them so unconditionally that he didn’t spare his own Son to save them. Holiday Clubs are summed up in this:

through the power of the Holy Spirit the efforts of one church family can change the life of a child for eternity.

Each Sunday this February, Tim and I will bring the coming Holiday Club to the forefront of your attention to remind how much fun (and how rewarding) it is to be a part of. There’ll be a volunteer sign-up sheet at the back every week, so please consider how you might be involved this year.
Our first volunteer meeting will be following the morning worship service on 27 February.

I hope to see you there.

-kenny [Kenny McCartney, Youth Pastor]

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Names of God: Immanuel

Seven Epithets: 5.5 Immanuel (עמּנו אל) God with Us

Immanuel is Hebrew and means God is with us (Imanu’El). It is often stylised to conform to the Greek and Latin pattern as Emmanuel, and we can be drawn immediately into Christmas thoughts – go on, admit it: you were already thinking of the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”!

A quick digression: The complete hymn was originally written in Latin (“Veni, veni Emmanuel”), but has its origins in the O Antiphons –  Advent Vespers sung from the 6th Century onwards in Italy. These shorter lines were then paraphrased by Cynewulf, an Anglo Saxon poet who lived about 200 years after, but was inspired directly by, Cædmon. So we are looking at a link with Celtic Christianity, with “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” being rendered as “O curna O curna alwealda ben ús.”

Isaiah set out the prophecy clearly:

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)

Matthew was particular and precise in how he set out his Gospel, in the facts that underpinned the narrative. Having recited the earthly lineage of Jesus, he then referred back to that earlier prophecy set down by Isaiah, to show it had been fulfilled:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’). (Matthew 1:23)

Immanuel is a name of God, and means so much more than the Baby in the manger, even though it appears only three times in the Bible (plus one further reference to it).

After the initial prophecy, we next  find it when the Lord is speaking to Isaiah and telling him that the people have rejected the Lord and that Assyria will invade, but will not conquer Judah. As part of this, the Lord tells Isaiah that the raging and powerful floodwaters of the Euphrates River (meaning the king of Assyria with all his power) will come …

“…and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it,
    passing through it and reaching up to the neck.
Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land,
(Isaiah 8:8)

Did you see the significance of the name there? Of God’s constancy to us? Immanuel – God with us – even in in those times, God would be with His people. He would not abandon them. They brought about pain, and God allowed Assyria to invade as part of that pain, but God did not run out on them; He stayed. He loved. He forgave.

The Lord provides us with all strength. The enemy makes plans against us in an attempt to fight the Lord, comes against us in an attempt to defeat the Lord. But that battle comes to nothing because Immanuel; it comes to nothing because God is with us.

Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted;
    propose your plan, but it will not stand,
    for God is with us. (Isaiah 8:10)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Great Boldness

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4:29)

This verse is part of the believers’ prayer when Peter and John were released from prison after Pentecost (Acts 4:23-31). It is a request that is almost 2000 years old! They did not ask for protection, it is definitely not a request for some kind of evil to befall on their enemies. They were asking that they will continue to proclaim the good news with courage, conviction, and power. Their enemies will benefit from this the most. They prayed for courage to be in all circumstances the people they are by the grace of God!

The word translated as boldness has an abundantly rich meaning: outspokenness, frankness, freedom of speech, straightforwardness, openness, saying without fear what is important to the hearers. The one who speaks like this will not keep silent about any little bit of the information, not even the bits that are not received well by the hearers.

In our western tolerant and diverse society, it is assumed that it is for granted that we have freedom of speech and we do not have to have particular courage to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t, for it is not so. For it is expected that as you enter the workplace or the public arena you leave your faith outside in the cloakroom as a piece of clothing, or leave it at home as you would your slippers when you leave the house. Street preachers were arrested in the UK for proclaiming the gospel publicly, a Finnish MP was facing criminal trial this past Monday for tweeting in the past her Chrsitian views of marriage and sexuality.

To be a follower and proclaimer of Jesus Christ demands courage in every age, so it does today! Nowadays when preaching the good news of Jesus Christ is alien to the majority of our society it is more so. Boldness, total conviction, and love for our hearers is needed that we will still not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for the salvation of everyone who believes without discrimination (see Romans 1:16).

Pray the prayer of the Christians of ancient Jerusalem, as you give thanks for those who proclaim and share the gospel today – ministers, and pastors, elders, and deacons, youth pastors and children’s workers, mums and dads, grandparents, and kids – that God will enable them to speak the word of God with boldness. And you know what, spare a prayer for yourself too, that you will be bold enough to speak the good news about Him who saved you! We are counting on you! More to the point, the Lord is counting on you!

[from GV]

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Names of God: El Hannora

Seven Epithets: 5. 4 El Hannora (אל הנורא) Awesome God

Sometimes, something can happen – an experience of God’s love for us; a view of an aspect of God’s creation; an answer to prayer as God speaks to us – that stops us in our tracks. It is hard to process, to grasp and contain, yet we know it is of God. It fills us with a sense of wonder at God; of love for Him as He loves us; of gratitude to Him as we realise the price He has paid for our salvation; of how small we are as we look beyond the conceit of our own significance; of fear as we catch a glimpse of some of His power and might. Truly, He is awesome.

We can only relate and describe such events, and hope that our listener understands something of what we are trying to get across. I remember the sense of how vast God is when as a child I stared at the stars, and realised how big the universe must be, how small the earth is and how tiny I was. I remember the feeling of completion and deep, pure love when I realised that my wife (then my girlfriend) really, truly (madly, even) loved me; that God had set us together. And I remember the feeling of elation on my bike, completing l’Etape du Tour de France – that first one when I did not know what to expect, was utterly emptied by the effort in the heat on the final climb, prayed for the Holy Spirit to help and just felt lifted as on eagle’s wings … and a split second after experiencing that ‘lift’, my wife texted to my bike computer:

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary …
(Isaiah 40:31)

That. That sense of God’s power that stops you, overwhelms you in love and invites you to lean into Him. That is to experience something of El Hannora, awesome God.

Nehemiah related to El Hannora – an expression of this great, awesome and loving Father:

Now therefore, our God, the great God, El Hannora, who keeps his covenant of love (Nehemiah 9:32)

And Nehemiah had been brought to this moment by the ‘Big God – Little everything else’ imagery which stopped him in his tracks, for just before that he had written:

You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. (Nehemiah 9:6)

‘Hannora’ is linked to the word for ‘fear’ but this shows something of our respect for the mighty God, not terror of Him, for after all:

“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom … (Proverbs 9:10)

Be in awe of God, not terrified. He is with us and all else is less than Him, so do not fear.

Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is El Hanorra. (Deuteronomy 7:21)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Vision 2020 – Not a Vision Anymore!

I write it with much joy that our building project, which we named Vision 2020 is no longer a vision! Not a plan, not a design, it is reality! We began dreaming, praying and planning well before 2020 to renew our aging premises to match the needs and the vision of our ministry in the present age.

God was gracious. He provided the right people to carry out the task. I do not want to mention names, for I am sure I was unable to keep account of all the people who worked and prayed faithfully in the last three years and more! But God provided us with visionary architect, efficient building experts, enthusiastic fundraising people, supportive foundations, faithful finance people, and last, but by no means least, gracious, and generous church family who willingly gave the funds for the project. We are also grateful to all the various workmen who made the dream and vision reality.

It was an amazing and encouraging teamwork! Thank you everyone! You have been an inspiration in unexpectedly hard and challenging times!

Now we can take ownership of the refurbished building, and use it for which we planned it, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, to worship, pray and support each other with the love of God, to share fellowship, encouragement, coffee, and food together at Lunch Club, and Church Lunch, to have fun at Holiday Club, to welcome the community and organisations to carry out their activities that builds up the kingdom of God.

On Sunday 30 January we want to give thanks and dedicate the refurbished building to God. But as we, the church family are the actual spiritual building of the church, we want to dedicate ourselves afresh to God’s service. So please come, even if you stayed away for a while because of COVID, come to celebrate, to give thanks, to commit yourself to Jesus Christ afresh, to enjoy the gift of the building God entrusted into our care! Come to enjoy a slice of celebration cake and church fellowship.

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life for evermore.

(Psalm 133)

[from GV]

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Budapest is similar to Edinburgh in that the old and new parts of the city are divided, by the railway here and the river Danube there, and the two parts are connected by bridges. The bridge is also symbolic: it allows traffic and connects the two sides. So what are the symbolic bridges between Hungary and Scotland?

1. A historical bridge

Queen Margaret of Scotland (Mecseknádasd, Hungary, 10 June 1047 – Edinburgh, 16 November 1093,) Queen of Scots of Hungarian descent, who was III. Malcolm’s second wife and had a great influence on medieval Scotland, as well as a significant role in faith, contributing to the spread of Christianity in Scotland. Six sons and two daughters were born, and her descendants include the Scottish kings Alexander I and David I, and a daughter who became the wife of Henry I as Matild of Scotland, and thus the ancestor of every English queen. Margaret is buried in a Benedictine monastery in North Qeensferry (named after her), 20 km from Edinburgh, with her husband, who died in the battle against the English in 1097 with her son. The people of Scotland honoured Queen Margaret with grateful heart, and she built churches, monasteries and helped all the afflicted.

By practising deeds of mercy, she set herself in people’s hearts.

2. A real bridge: The biggest attraction of Budapest: The Chain Bridge

The first stone bridge over the Danube in Hungary’s capital, Budapest, was designed by William Tierney Clark, a British engineer, who designed several similar chain-type bridges (eg. in London). The bridge was built by the Edinburgh-born Scottish engineer Adam Clark, to whom the Hungarians are very grateful. One of the important squares and transport hubs of Budapest was named after him: the one between Chain Bridge and the tunnel under the hill of the Budapest castle, which was also built by him. Clark did not accept any awards, but he felt so good in Hungary that he eventually stayed there, married, and had three children. He also died in Budapest in 1866 and his body still rests there today.

God’s special ways will sometimes shape our personal lives!

3. The Mission Bridge

The Scottish Mission in Hungary was born under adventurous circumstances. When Scottish missionaries turned back on their way to Palestine in the mid-19th century after one of them fell off the camel carrying him (1841), they stopped on their way home at Pest, where they were forced to spend some time due to an illness, so they met the Protestant Archduchess Mary Dorothy. After helping the missionaries recover, she called for a mission station in Budapest where Scottish missionaries could help Protestants and build relationships with the Jewish community. Missionaries were coming from Scotland, and they ministered to the Scottish and English workers working on the Chain Bridge. Reverend John “Rabbi” Duncan was appointed First Pastor by the Edinburgh Jewish Commission. In addition to his personal testimonies, he built relationships with the Jewish community and spread Christian literature with the help of the British and Foreign Bible Society. The school of the Mission grew out of the original Sunday School where Jewish and Christian children could study together. The Scottish Mission has recently celebrated its 175th anniversary and whenever possible, employs a Scottish pastor.

The congregation is a welcoming community, so it can also be a home for expatriates in Budapest.

4. The bridge of sacrifice

Jane Haining was a teacher and martyr born in 1897 at Dunscore, Scotland. She lost her mother when she was five years old. Growing up, she worked in a spinning mill in Paisley for ten years. In 1932 she began working at the mission of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Budapest. The Scottish Mission operated a school for 400 Jewish and Christian children on Vörösmarty Street. Haining was on leave in Britain in 1939 when the war broke out, but she nevertheless returned to Budapest. She would have had the opportunity to return home in 1944, but she wrote to his sister, ‘If these children need me in the days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in the days of darkness?’ The Scottish Mission has also provided refuge for those fleeing political persecution. She was arrested on charges of espionage in April 1944 and, although there were various attempts to free her, she was abducted and was killed in Auschwitz on 17 July 1944. In Budapest, a long quay is named after her. On the 100th anniversary of her birth, her portrait is immortalized in a stained glass window at Queen’s Park Church in Glasgow and Dunscore Church.

The memory of the righteous is truly blessed. The Yad Vashem Institute gave her the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

5. Friendship Bridge

We are united – theologically – by the alliance of Calvin and Knox, who are both represented among the figures of the Geneva Monument of the Reformation. In addition to the Reformed Hungarians and Transylvanians, the Reformed Swiss and Dutch, the most important Reformed (Presbyterian) community is in Scotland. There are many connections between our churches, for example the Church of Scotland provides an opportunity for Hungarian theologians to study in Edinburgh, and many pastors have been scholarship holders at New College. We have a professor who was a doctorate here, and his book on the New Testament can also be found in the library. I have also brought in several groups of youth and theologians to visit the beauties of Scotland. We have often experienced the welcoming love of congregations and pastors.

May God bless and strengthen the relationships, bridges among us so that we can reach out to each other many times!

[from Rev András Bölcsföldi, bridge builder – pastor; chaplain at Hungarian Reformed College, Budapest] – András is spending his study leave here in Edinburgh. Emese, his wife, and András are worshipping with us until the end of January, when they will return to Budapest

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Names of God: Ruah Ha-ko’desh

Seven Epithets: 5.3 Ruah Ha-ko’desh (רוח הקדשׁ) Holy Spirit

Ruach Ha-ko’desh: Holy Spirit. It is a disservice if we only ever refer to ‘The’ Holy Spirit or, worse, consider Holy Spirit to be an ‘it’ – a thing; even if a ‘Holy Thing.’ Ha-ka’dosh means The Holy One, but Ruach Ha-ko’desh means Holy Spirit. It is like only calling me The Timothy, and so never quite drawing close to me. We may liken our experience of Holy Spirit to that of a dove or a breeze, but both are symbolic, not actual.

Celtic Christians referred to ‘chasing the wild goose’ but this referred to the (almost elusive) nature of Ruach Ha-ko’desh. You meet Ruach Ha-ko’desh on His terms, not on your demands; you do not dictate where He goes, where He guides you; we cannot see the wind, but feel its effects. And we can see the effect of Ruach Ha-ko’desh in our lives. Jesus explained this role and function in John:

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 … But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth … He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. (John 16: 7, 13-14)

Before we even get to the Advocate glorifying Jesus, notice how Jesus refers to Ruach Ha-ko’desh? ‘He’ not ‘it.’ Advocate is but one name. There is a complete series just on the names of Ruach Ha-ko’desh, their meanings and what we can draw from them.  Ruach Olam: Eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). Ruach Adonai: Spirit of God (Acts 5:9). Ruach HaEmet: Spirit of truth (John 15:26). There are many more. Each name highlights another aspect of God as Ruach Ha-ko’desh and the blessings He gives us.

As we know more about Ruach Ha-ko’desh, so we add to His names. Contrast this with, for example, Jacob which means ‘supplanter’ (he took the blessing from his elder brother, Esau). Later God changed it to Israel (‘a prince who has power with God’). But for Ruach Ha-ko’desh we find that these names are adding to His name, and still we have hardly begun to know Him and what He does for us. He glorifies Jesus just as Jesus glorifies the Father. Ruach Ha-ko’desh helps us, comforts us, speaks up for us, intercedes on our behalf, gives us wise counsel, strengthens us and provides us with support. Ruach Ha-ko’desh was there at the beginning with the Father in Holy Trinity:

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and Ruach Ha-ko’desh was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:2)

And is there for us (for we are the bride) at the end:

Ruach Ha-ko’desh and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17)

‘Shalom’ is not just ‘peace’ but peace made good, full restitution: restored; made whole in body, soul and spirit. Jesus gives us THIS shalom through Ruach Ha-ko’desh.

But the Counsellor, Ruach Ha-ko’desh, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Shalom I leave with you; my shalom I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14: 26-27)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Light of the World

Did you catch the Castle of Light this past holiday season? It ran from late November until 9 January, ending this past weekend. Unlike the light shows at the Botanics and elsewhere, one didn’t have to buy a ticket to get a glimpse of the brilliant light display. From anywhere in the city, you could see beams of light being projected out from the Castle in all directions.

Undoubtedly it was quite a spectacle close up within the ramparts, yet I’m drawn to the beauty of the simple fact that it could be enjoyed right across the city. There’s a similarity between this and fireworks in the sense that it attracts attention and awe, but I find these beams of light far less fleeting and much more elegant.
I think this is something like what Jesus would have had in mind when he enabled and implored his people to be the light of the world.

Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Jesus called himself the light of the world, but what made him shine? Certainly, it was his words, but not only those; it was also his works. He said, “The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me” (John 10:25). Jesus’s works made what he said about his Father and who he was abundantly clear. His works shone, and they still shine.

Jesus calls us the light of the world, too, but what makes us shine? In the same way it’s not just our words, but the works that we do in his name point to the Lord. Everything we say and do in his name make clear the light of Jesus shining through us.

It’s my personal prayer that this year God would use me as a light (or, a Lenny!) to those round about me. It’s also my prayer that we would experience this as a church family in such a marvellous way that we couldn’t help but conclude it was God at work through us.

We are the light of the world as we point others to Christ, and as a church family we truly can be a lighthouse in our part of the city. Like the Castle of Light installation, let’s pray that God shine his radiance through us to illuminate far and wide, steadfast and faithful, all year round. May our light shine before others to the glory of God.

[from Kenny McCartney, Youth Pastor]

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Let Us Worship – Introduction to Our New Sermon Series

“Let Us Worship” – we hear this every Sunday at church. But what is worship? How would you define worship in your own words? For most people worship means singing in church. But it is much more than that.

We worship God because God created us to worship Him. Worship is at the centre of our existence, the reason for being. In Genesis we read that God created the whole universe, us included in it, to reflect his glory. In worship we give Him the glory. Our worship is our response to God, to His majesty, love, mercy, kindness, to Who He is. We are bringing ourselves the whole of our being in worship to God. The apostle Paul encourages us to do this, writing:

“I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual (or reasonableact of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

The big question, many of us are asking, is “How am I to do that?” We are embarking on a new sermon series ‘Let Us Worship’ exploring exactly that. Jesus’ answer to a teacher of the law will be the Scriptural guidance for us in the series. The teacher asked which one is the greatest commandment. Jesus defined it by simply quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

What Jesus is saying here is simply this: you come before God loving Him with all that you are, all your faculties, abilities, your whole being, nothing is left out. Worship Him with all that you have, with the whole of your life. Worship is more than just an hour’s activity on a particular day of the week. Our whole life, from its beginning to its end is to be WORSHIP.

Graham Kendrick, in his book Worship (Eastborne: Kingsway, 1984) shares the story of a severely disabled man in a wheelchair in the midst of an enthusiastically worshipping congregation, voices rang out, arms raised, hands clapping, bodies swinging, dancing in joy, smiles everywhere. That man joined this selfless praise by all that he had. He was in an electric buggy, equipped for street use, and he was flashing the headlights, the break lights, the indicators, pumping the horn, everything that could flash or make a noise or move was activated. He gave all he had in praise to the God he loved!

We are inviting you to be encouraged in your worship, to give all you have in praise to the God who so loved you that He gave His one and only Son that if you believe in Him, you should not perish but have eternal life.

Join us as we seek the Lord’s touch, guidance, inspiration and empowerment in worshipping Him with all that we are and heave: heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Let Us Worship:

16/01/2022 – The Case for Worship (Mark 12:28-34) – preacher: Kenny McCartney (Youth Pastor)
23/01/2022 – Worship with All Your Strength (Romans 12:1) – preacher: George Vidits
30/01/2022 – Worship with All Your Mind (Romans 12:2) – preacher: George Vidits
06/02/2022 – Worship with All Your Soul (Philippians 5:4-7) – preacher: George Vidits
13/02/2022 – Worship with All Your Heart (Ephesians 5:19) – preacher: George Vidits

[from GV]

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Names of God: Elah Elahin

Seven Epithets: 5.2 Elah Elahin (אלה אלהין) God of gods

We are looking at the names for God, seeking to understand their meaning and to draw closer to God as a result. God is THE God. He is God of gods, or Elah Elahin; there are no equals. We may choose a god that leads us to turn away from God, to try life on our own, but we find out how utterly empty and isolating this is. We are an inventive lot with a compulsion to fill up spaces and when we empty ourselves of God, we find ourselves inventing a god (small ‘g’) and trying to fill our emptiness with that:

Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
    over it he prepares his meal,
    he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
    ‘Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.’
From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
    he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
    ‘Save me! You are my god!’
They know nothing, they understand nothing;
    their eyes are plastered over so that they cannot see,
    and their minds closed so that they cannot understand.
(Isaiah 44:16-18)

We might pursue wealth, fame, praise etc. where our active pursuit denies God His rightful primacy and we close ourselves off from God, creating a divide through our actions and desires; isolating ourselves. We might try to disguise what we pursue, turning it into something else and giving it a false authority. That’s what Aaron did with the gold collected from the Israelites:

He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ (Exodus 32:4)

God expressly forbids this, because if we choose anything godless, then we deny God.

So that’s the bad news: what we do on our own, ignoring God’s leadership. Now, have you ever actively sought God’s leadership, knowing that to rely on our own leadership means navigating towards evil, whereas God keeps us safe? Try putting a pause into the Lord’s Prayer, simply allowing God the space to lead, then see the difference:

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

– or – 

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

The good news (or, in Old English, the ‘gód spell’ or ‘Gospel’) is that God is more than any god, and we recognise this when we simply worship Him, and afford Him the courtesy of revealing His authority:

Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord –
that you alone are the Most High over all the earth. (Psalm 83:18)

We can rest content in not just knowing who He is but knowing HIM:

For the Lord your God is Elah Elahin and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. (Deuteronomy 10:17)

(from Timothy Pitt)

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Looking at the Road Ahead

Reflection for the New Year

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6; NIV)

At the end of 2021 I encouraged you to look into the back view mirror of the year with gratitude, so to speak.

Now I invite you to look at the road ahead in 2022. You might respond to this invitation: That’s easy to say! I can’t see the whole of the road, it is brand new to me, it is unknown. Most of it is still concealed, covered by thick fog! I have no idea how many turns it has, or will it take me uphill or downhill. I’m concerned about this road ahead, especially in view of the recent roads we had to take in the past two years!

Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6 are wise and encourageing advice for the unknown foggy journey ahead: do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation pray! It is easy to be anxious about things we do not know, and we all do get anxious time and again, since we have experienced so many mishaps, and disappointments in the past. Paul knows this. I am sure he was anxious a number of times in his life too. But he experienced God’s amazing power and comforting presence in extremely hairy situations. So here he confidently suggests, even commands us an alternative: PRAY!

The root of anxiety is doubt, fear, or lack of trust – prayer, on the other hand is rooted in trust, and faith in God. Anxiety sips away our energy – prayer rather increases and motivates our energy. Anxiety creates tunnel vision for us, it focuses only what possible trouble and potential calamity may be ahead. But the praying person has a wide horizon opening up before them, they can see even what is invisible and regard it as reality. The anxious believes they got good reason to be afraid. The praying person is convinced that they have got very good reason not to be afraid, because they focus on God, and Jesus, their Saviour, and look forward with holy curiosity to see how God will reveal His power, grace, and love in a new situation. The anxious person already carries the troubles of tomorrow today! The praying person takes the burdens of today to the Lord and carry them together.

It is not the anxious that stands on the firm ground of reality, because they already battle with imagined difficulties. It is the praying person that stands firmly rooted in the ground of reality, for they count with the visible facts, and also count with the Lord of all creation! They count on His grace and lovingkindness.

So, what does it mean to pray? According to the Lord Jesus it means pouring out our heart before God as a little child would do that to their daddy, for they know that He loves them and is able and willing to do anything for them!

Let’s pray this year, spending more time with hands put together in payer, supplication, and thanksgiving than with wringing our hands in anxiety. This is a worthy agenda for the new year for all of us. Try Praying!

[from GV]

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Names of God: Ha’El hanne’eman

Seven Epithets: 5.1 Ha’El hanne’eman (האל הנּאמן) Faithful God

We are investigating the names of God, looking to see if this can help us have a closer relationship with Him, to adore and worship Him personally. All we do and all we know should be for that purpose. We sometimes (often!) get it wrong, take Him for granted; turn away; try our own faulty path. But God never leaves us: He is faithful. And that is the first of our epithets: Ha’El hanne’eman or Faithful God. We find this in Scripture:

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is Ha’El hanne’eman, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

And find it again later in the same book:

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.
Ha’El hanne’eman who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4)

So what does this mean for us? Deuteronomy 7:9 extols us to KNOW who He is; that He is OUR God. This does not mean loyalty just to rules, customs and traditions, but to God Himself. He is faithful and keeps His promise of LOVE to those who love Him and keep His commandments. That points us to relationship: true love lives in relationship. It is not the ‘idea’ of being in love, but actually being in love which calls us to keep His commandments. Little wonder Jesus said (and note the order in which He said it):

Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’(Matthew 22:37-40)

Look again at Deuteronomy 7:9 – our faithful God keeps His promise of love to us and our offspring where we love Him and keep His commandments. Jesus tells us to love God and keep His commandments. Deuteronomy 32:4 shows us that God does the same: His works are perfect, His ways just, He does no wrong and He is faithful. Such is His love for us.

He is there first in that, and Jesus provides the way for us to respond because Jesus knew God is faithful and He trusted God not just with His life but with His eternal spirit. Thanks to Jesus, God is our Father too. So trust Him. Because He is ever faithful to you and He loves you.

And He is there at the end. The Hebrew ‘eman’ is the root of this sense of being faithful, true and certain. It finds its way into Greek as ‘amen’ meaning ‘in agreement as true and certain.’ God as Ha’El hanne’eman … Revelation 3:14 refers to Jesus as “The Amen, the witness who is faithful and true, the source of God’s creation.”

Interestingly, there is one other time in the Bible that ‘Faithful God” is recorded. It is in Psalm 31:5. How relieved and secure must Jesus have been to be able, on the cross, to declare with His last few breaths:

Into your hands I entrust my spirit.
    You have rescued me, O LORD, my 
Ha’El hanne’eman. (Psalm 31:5)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Looking into the Back View Mirror

End of Year Meditation on 2 Samuel 22:1-51

When I took my driving lessons, one of the most important basic skills I had to learn was the effective use of the mirrors in the car. If you drive, you know it too that it is not just the road ahead one needs to pay attention to, but also to the road behind! When it came to my driving test, I was advised to make exaggerated motions looking into the rear mirrors so the examiner will be satisfied with my driving. What’s behind us is just as much important as the road ahead!

In 2 Samuel 22 we find a prayer of the aging King David, nearing his death (in chapter 23 we find his last words recorded). David looked into the back view mirror of his life, to the whole journey, and his heart was filled with thanksgiving:

“Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing the praises of your name.”
(2 Samuel 22:50)

As we arrive to the end of 2021, we should also look into the back view mirror of our personal lives and remember the journey we made in the last 12 months.

David remembered his life, recalling his running from Saul, his endless battles with the Philistines, his victories and his defeats, his son’s rebellion against him, his enemies, both without and within, his own sins. What is interesting about this prayer in 2 Samuel 22 is that David is not listing his sorrows, bitterness, or his successes, and achievements, as much as listing God’s gracious acts in his life. Looking in the mirror he saw God being there every step of the journey by his side and being active! It was God who protected David against the enemy, God gave him ideas, God gave him strength, God forgave David his sins. It is God, again, and again in the centre of his prayer (You, You, You, You …).

How are you remembering the events of this past year? Looking into your personal back view mirror are you noticing your almighty and gracious God being there with you? Do you see the Lord in every event of the past year? Are you able to take from the hand of the Lord the blessings and the losses? Do you believe that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him? (Romans 8:28)

As the fireworks are about to pop and the fingers of the clock meet at midnight on 31 December, please read this prayer of David in 2 Samuel 22 and add your own to it! And allow your gracious God who gave His one and only Son for you to fill your heart with gratitude and peace. May those be the seals over the year that we leave behind.

[from GV; after Kálmán Cseri]

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Our Christmas Celebration has Begun

We give the praise to God for His grace and love to us. We were blessed with a joyful start to our Christmas Celebrations at SSCB. It has been an amazing team work to put together 3 (THREE!) different events for one day to celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ! And it is not even Christmas yet!

Excitement was bubbling early morning on Sunday 19 December as the cast for our Christmas Trail in Inverleith Park gathered in the church to dress up in their costumes and have the first and final rehearsal of their lines! It was a bit drizzly out there but with an enthusiastic group of young and not so young following Donkey, the Christmas Trail started out at 10:00am. ‘Meanwhile,’ the Donkey, faithfully guided them along the Christmas story from Mary’s house to Bethlehem where, finally the three wise men worshipped the new-born Saviour, Jesus. Children and folks of all ages were encouraged to dress up as their favourite Nativity characters, so we had stars, a camel, angels, shepherds, and wise men in the crowd. Children had their activity sheets stamped at the stations and we sang a few carols to the amazement of the folks passing by.

We all returned to the church for a cup of hot chocolate and the Christingle Service. Kenny led our worship, teaching us how to make the Christingle. He told us the Christmas story, and he used his blowtorch to light the candles! We are delighted to say that no oranges or children were harmed in this! We dimmed the lights, and the Christingles gave the glow during the short message about Jesus, the Light of the World.

After the Christingle Service, Moira kindly cleaned the church, to make it safe for the evening, the screening of two Christmas specials by the film makers of The Chosen. First, we watched the moving story of The Shepherd, followed by this year’s Christmas worshipful special The Messengers.

In the midst of the renewed anxiety and fears of the pandemic it was a privilege to welcome visitors taking part, and delightful to see smiling faces, joy in the eyes, and hearing laughter and excitement from the lips, and notice the amusement and surprise of those passing by.

Our heartfelt thanks go to all who made this happy celebration possible! The glory belongs to God that we were able to do this, it is because of His amazing love taking shape in the birth of Jesus that really moved us all to do this. We did it to glorify Him, honour Him, tell His Good News that God came to be with us, show us his love by dying for our sins, saving us from the grip of sin, and the fear of the grave. To Him be the glory for ever and ever!

We pray you also will have the joy, excitement, and peace in your celebration this Christmas, which the living Lord, Jesus brings. Joy, excitement, and peace that surpasses all understanding and overcomes fear and anxiety in this pandemic and for ever!

From All of us at SSCB, We Wish You a Blessed Christmas!

[from GV]

People Must Know

Thank you to everyone who was able to come to the big screen viewing of The Chosen Christmas Special(s) at SSCB on 19th December.

The Shepherd is a short film – only 20 minutes long – created as a Nativity Film by Dallas Jenkins, the Director of The Chosen, for his own church. Being a film director it was a high quality, professional offering and led to so many requests that he should make a ‘thing’ of it and tell the story of the Gospels that he is doing just that. So The Shepherd is now treated as being the pilot episode for a series that so far has 2 (out of a planned 7) complete series, each of 8 episodes. Oh, and the 2021 Christmas Special.

The 2021 Christmas Special is called The Messengers, with the tagline “People Must Know.” It is nearly two hours long, with the 50 minute ‘episode’ preceded by contemporary praise music and monologues by high profile Christian artists. Please do make the time to watch the music part – there are some stunning songs that really help engender a time of worship. The Messengers was released commercially in cinemas across the USA and was the Number 1 box office film for its first two days, eventually achieving 4th place in its opening week; and that was in competition with all the Hollywood releases. People want to know about Jesus and the story of our redemption through His efforts; we just need to provide a platform for that story to get out!

The Chosen aims to be free to anyone who wants to watch it, and it has currently been viewed – for free – some 326,526,506 times around the world. It is in fact the world’s largest crowdfunded media project. The Messengers itself has now been released as a free-to-view programme, but for us, even though it was still being shown commercially in the cinemas, they kindly allowed us to watch it on our big screen at church for free. If anyone does want to donate to them so they can continue to be free-to-view, just surf on over to

We opted to show the two episodes – The Shepherd and The Messengers – as a double bill and did not show the praise music; watching the music part is a treat in itself for anyone accessing their website. We dimmed the church lights with just our Christmas lights showing and settled down with sweets and goodies we had brought with us for our cinema outing. Afterwards there was a spontaneous round of applause for a stunning re-telling of the Nativity story from the perspective of the shepherds and then from the perspective of Joseph and Mary.

Our reaction can be fear (how many times were we reassured on our Inverleith Park Walking Nativity by the Angel, “Do not be afraid”?). But our response to the message is one of utter joy when we realise that God is indeed with us – Immanuel. We saw, too, a plausible explanation for how the Bible was written not as a storyboard mapped out from Chapter 1 and ending neatly with “The End” but as a patchwork of real life experiences, recollections, speaking out and writing down. Why? Well, because people must know. If you want to watch, follow the link:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46-47)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Caring Christmas

One dark December evening many years ago I happened to drive past St. Stephen’s when it was hosting a Caring Christmas Tree distribution site. Before I even knew anything about the church family here, the significant queues outside and the impressive stacks of trees in the garden caught my attention. A fleeting thought while I waited in traffic: “what a unique opportunity that church must have!”

And what an opportunity it has been in 2021. Alison McLaughlin organised this year’s collection and certainly capitalised on the unique nature of the event. Bethany told us that the feedback they had received from past customers was clear and simple: make the collection as “Christmassy” an experience as possible. Well, who better equipped to do that than the church herself? Not only that, St. Stephen’s is the only church-based collection site for Bethany’s Caring Christmas Trees in the city.

Queuing on the cold, hard pavement of East Fettes Avenue is one way to collect your tree, but seeking to offer a better experience and some warm hospitality we instead welcomed punters into our heated church sanctuary. With the stage decorated, the beautiful nativity illuminated, Christmas music playing, and lights lowered creating a peaceful atmosphere, this was a far nicer environment than the pavement. The indoor route meant shelter from the rain, wind and cold too. Families were welcomed through the main door, greeted with a hello, and offered a chocolate and a cup of hot chocolate while they waited for their tree to be netted and carried away.

For one Friday night and two Saturday mornings, over 450 trees were collected by families of various sizes. Most people didn’t come alone so it’s not unreasonable to think a thousand received warm Christmas hospitality. We had some lovely conversations with people and were surprised by just how many stopped to thank us and comment on what a nice gesture it was to accompany their tree collection. Some of these chats were only half a minute, but some were half an hour or more! The sentiments were echoed by the Bethany volunteers too, who braved the outdoors for four hours each day and undoubtedly found a respite from the cold very welcome indeed. A significant number of folks encouraged us to repeat (or even expand!) hospitality again next year.

We give thanks to the Lord who has positioned our church in such a way for so many to come to our doors every year in December. We pray that the simple welcome through our sanctuary is a moment of pause and a reminder that the humble baby Jesus is the reason for the season, and his people offering hospitality are ambassadors of God-given joy. Next year, when the time comes, join us in planning how we might further expand our efforts and join us in prayer that God will continue to use this simple family tradition through his church in a mighty way.

[from Kenny McCartney, Youth Pastor]

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You Prepare a Table for Me

“You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies…” 
(Psalm 23:5)

Here we are, facing another Christmas with uncertainty, fear, and doubt hanging over our preparations. As another COVID variant is fast spreading around us, anxiety, concern, and unpredictability are almost tangible. We feel robbed of joy once more, instead of the threat of infection, we should be overwhelmed with the spreading of the Good News that a Saviour was born to us, who is Christ, the LORD.

I want to share that Good News with you! You need it as much as I do! The other day I was listening to the preaching of Colin Smith, pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church, Chicago. Colin was born and raised in Edinburgh! Not a bad place that Edinburgh, is it? He was referring to Psalm 23 verse 5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”. As he unpacked that verse I was immensely encouraged and now my prayer is that God will use that verse to encourage you also!

This verse: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” showed me the picture of our Christmas. Indeed, we are preparing to celebrate, to rejoice, but we have to do it in the presence of our enemies: COVID infection, fear, anxiety, isolation, sorrow, and illness, and perhaps many more. They are present, we know that, we feel their presence, we see them. They try to intimidate us.

But Psalm 23:5 takes us into the banquet hall of the King in His Palace. Our enemies are around us, but there is the Servant King too. He personally is preparing a banquet for Us, You, and I! He is not intimidated by our enemies. He carries on laying the table, putting out the tablecloth, the plates, the golden goblets, the silver cutlery, the decorations. All that is needed he brings them out one by one. We can smell the sweet aroma of the prepared food. And as we watch on, our enemies are doing the same, they can but watch, for they are not in charge, they are powerless, they can but stand by, they can’t do anything, the banquet preparation cannot be halted! We know they want to, but they cannot cancel the banquet! We are assured that the banquet is happening! It cannot be cancelled! They cannot stop the Servant King!

As the King is getting on with the preparation it is like He is saying to you and me: do not be afraid of them! Don’t be intimidated by their mockery and snarling! They are toothless! They are finished! (John 19:30) I have redeemed you! You are mine! Your place is reserved and secure at the table! No-one can take that away from you!

Our present Christmas is like this, isn’t it? Be of good courage! Take a step closer to the table, to the King! In His presence, in His hands no enemy may harm you!

Have a blessed, joyful, and peaceful Christmas. Be overwhelmed that a Saviour was born to you, who is Christ, the LORD! And he is preparing a table for you, no matter what!

[from GV]

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Christmas Present Appeal – Thank You!

A very big thank you to everyone who donated a gift to the recent toy appeal. You were stars! My friends at the Salvation Army were delighted with our donations and sent the following note of thanks…

We are so grateful for your generosity.  Your gifts will be distributed to families in North and West Edinburgh who are struggling to heat their homes and feed themselves this Christmas. Sadly, buying gifts is completely beyond their means.  

Your gifts mean families can experience the joy of giving and receiving this Christmas.  The toy sacks contain a large and small gift, selection box and stocking fillers (stationery, books or toiletries) for every child.  They are also accompanied by a Christmas food box where the agency requests.  

Thank you for bringing light to families feeling encroaching darkness this Christmas. 

God bless you.

Let’s pray for those who cannot afford to heat their homes or put food on the table. May God grant them provision, safety, comfort, and all they need.

Let’s give thanks for the Salvation Army, bringing God’s love and light into the darkness of our world. May God bless them, keep them safe and keep them proclaiming his love.

Thank you.

[from Cat Rawlinson-Watkins]

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Names of God: Yahweh Hoseenu

Seven Active Names: 4.7 Yahweh Hoseenu (יהוה עשׂנו) The LORD Our Maker

We have looked at El Elohim, a name that conveys a sense of God the Creator. Now we turn to Yahweh Hoseenu – the LORD our Maker. The Creator has a sense of the Hebrew word ‘bara’ – of creating something out of nothing. An architect dreams of how a structure will look, and out of that comes a created building. The Maker, however, echoes the Hebrew word ‘Asah’ – fashioning a created object out of something. This could be both creating a model out of wood and also the builder who takes those the bricks, nails together the beams and builds the house out of his resources. God our Father is both Creator and Maker.

God created the world:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light …  And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water”…  And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear” … Then God said, “Let the land provide vegetation …” (Genesis 1: 3, 5, 9, 11)

God made humankind:

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath if life and the man became a living being … So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a dep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took on of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2: 7, 21-22)

Isaiah recognised this and knew God for who He is. He recognised that God both created and made us, breathed life into us, and that this was done at and by God’s hand – that we are just clay in the hands of the Master Potter:

But now, O LORD, You are our Father. We are the clay, and You our potter;

And all of us are the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

The potter can destroy what he has made and start afresh. God loves us for who we are. We don’t have to get ‘right’ in order to be accepted. In and through the sacrifice of Jesus He saves us from destruction. And then He starts to make us new. We are re-moulded, re-shaped, ready to fulfil His calling for us, not the calling of the world. We are to worship and adore God. Not because He needs it, but because that is why and how we were designed, created … and made new. Our confirmatory verse requires the context of a few verses immediately before it:

“For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.”
(Psalm 95:3-5)

And it is that worship and adoration of the LORD Almighty, who made everything, which leads us to a recognition of God in our own life, and thus to our reaction:

“Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before Yahweh Hoseenu;
for he is our God…”
(Psalm 95:6-7)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s Advent

Read: Luke 1:5-25

Advent – prayer … waiting … hoping … expecting …

Advent (The Coming of the Lord) is not an easy time. Do you find it hard too? You pray … you wait … you hope … you expect – And you are left wondering will anything happen? And if anything happens, when will it happen?

Imagine Zachariah’s and Elizabeth’s Advent! Their time of praying, waiting, hoping, expecting. Zechariah and Elizabeth were the parents of John the Baptist, the first and major figure of Advent in the New Testament!

Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in the hill country of Judea in a small village and for many years were earnestly praying for a child! They prayed for many years, they hoped, they waited, they expected … and nothing happened. Now they grew old, and they even stopped praying. One day, however as Zechariah was fulfilling his priestly duties in the temple, in Jerusalem, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, passing on God’s message to him that they will have a son who will prepare the way for the Messiah! Zechariah believed it and believed it not. It was just too amazing. Because of his unbelief Zechariah remained silent until the birth of his son, John. When he could speak again, he praised the Lord with a grateful heart!

In this rich and powerful story, please notice something. Notice how God builds into His amazing plan of salvation for the whole world the quiet, hopeful prayers of ordinary people! God has had His Salvation Plan from before the beginning of time. It was ready. It was complete. In an amazing way, amazing to us, God built into His world-transforming plan the lives and prayers of simple, ordinary people, like Zechariah and Elizabeth,Mary and Joseph, and you and I! The timing, by human standards was not right for Zechariah and Elizabeth, nor was right for Mary and Joseph, maybe it is not right for us either. But God keeps account of people and their prayers, and in His own timing He responds to them when and how they first in with His eternal plan. How astonishing and mazing this is! What a privilege this is that we are part of God’s Salvation!

God has everything planned, there is not disorder in his ways, he does not improvise or has to revert to Plan B. All is done according to His wisdom and will. this gives me confidence and comfort!

How is your Advent? Have you been praying, hoping, waiting, expecting? Be encouraged by Zechariah’s Advent. Dare to entrust your life, the small prayer requests, and the big ones, into His mercy. Zechariah’s unbelief was not a hindrance to God, nor will your doubt be an obstruction to His will. You have been part of His Salvation plan from eternity! Hallelujah!

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” (Luke 1:45)

[from GV]

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Names of God: El Olam

Seven Active Names: 4.6 El Olam (אל עולם) Everlasting God

We have already seen the power of the eternal God – I Am Who I Am; Yaweh, the Eternal One, always existing. We have seen how El Elohim emphasises God as the Creator, and how Yaweh-Tsuri sees Him as the Rock – eternal and steadfast. These aspects were brought together by Jesus Himself.

‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ (John 8:58)

At first (even allowing for translations from Aramaic or Greek) it looks odd. My grandfather (now dead) was born with Queen Victoria as his monarch, and she had been queen before he was even born. But she, too, is now dead. So this is narrated as “before my grandfather was born, Queen Victoria was queen.” However, God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) has always existed, currently exists and always will exist. So, grammatically the correct narration is to say, “Before Abraham was [born and existed], I am [because I existed before Abraham was born, during his life and continue to exist after his death].”

Victoria defined her era. My Grandfather was a Victorian (albeit by 3 months!). Literally, for the duration of the Victorian era, Victoria was queen. Similarly, everything (before time started and after time ceases) was, is and will be, the era of God.

There must be an easier way to set out this nature of God! There is, and it is found in the name El Olam – “Everlasting God.”

El Olam is God through the ages; everlasting. We are always in God’s era. He created time, then created us and placed us within time. His agelessness is seen when Abraham and Abimelek had been in dispute and agreed a treaty over a well that Abraham had dug. The treaty was to last for ever and the mutual trust was to be as though the treaty had always existed – everything is and always has been, under God’s control:

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, El Olam [the Eternal God]. (Genesis 21:33)

And El Olam is God through the generations. My Grandfather was ‘Victorian’ for his first three months; everyone who ever was and ever will be is and remains “God-ian.”

There is rather a good summary of all this in one sentence:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

God is everlasting; He is free of time. Yet (through Jesus) He constrained Himself in time in order to be with us and rescue us.

Lord, you have been our dwelling-place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are El Olam. (Psalm 90:1-2)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Christmas at SSCB

I hope you are excited about Christmas! I surely am! Every chance to celebrate God’s love and grace coming to us is an exciting opportunity that we must relish! This year, God willing we will have a number of opportunities to celebrate and rejoice! Here is what is on offer.

Donkey’s Christmas Trail – This is an open-air all age event in Inverleith Park starting at the church at 10:00, Sunday, 19 December. Children and all family members are invited to join the fun dressed up as your favourite Nativity character and follow Donkey leading us through Inverleith Park, telling the story of the Nativity and meeting the characters on our way. We aim to return to the church for 10:45 to get ready for the All Age Christingle Service at 11:00.

All Age Christingle Service – We are having an action and fun filled All Age Christingle Service at 11:00, Sunday, 19 December in the church. Please bring an orange for all members of your family! All other items will be provided! Let’s celebrate the coming of the Light of the World into our world and life by sharing His light with one another.

Christmas with The Chosen: The Messengers – The film series The Chosen became a much-loved production in the last four years. We are delighted that we have got the producers’ permission to show free of charge their brand-new Christmas Special: The Messengers on our large screen in church. So, get your popcorn, come, and join us at 18:30 for pre-movie mince pies and hot drinks for the premier of The Chosen: The Messengers, starting at 19:00, Sunday 19 December. The event is free of charge but is ticket at! Please make your booking at the website:

Watch the trailer here:

Watchnight Service – Our traditional Carol filled Watchnight Service will be at 23:15, 24 December.

Christmas Day Pyjama Service on Zoom – We invite you to join us for a Christmas Day worship and celebration form the comfort of your own home, in your pyjamas, 10:30, 25 December. This service will be only on Zoom, the link will be provided closer to the date.

Boxing Day Service: Micah for Christmas – On Boxing Day, Sunday, 26 December, we return to the church for our last service of the year, at 11:00.

We hope and pray you will join us to celebrate and worship this Christmas time.

[from GV]

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We are getting ready for Christmas

How is your advent preparation going? It is an exciting time and at St Stephen’s Comely Bank we are getting ready for Christmas to celebrate together and bless people with the love of God. While the building work is not completed yet the church changed into a festive mood! Rock Solid together with Sheila, and quite possibly some other unnamed helpers too, did a wonderful job decorating the church on Thursday, 2 December. Here is a little preview for you. But here is an idea, why wouldn’t you come and see it live in the church? We got plenty to offer to you and your family this Christmas – from Donkey’s Christmas Trail in Inverleith Park to the premier of The Chosen’s Christmas Special: The Messengers on the big screen (!), Christingle service (bring your own orange!), Watchnight Service, Christmas Day Pyjama Service from the comfort of your own home, and even a Boxing Day Service. Pick your choice, or even better, come to all of the events and services! We also got mince pies and hot drinks! We’d love to meet you there!

[from GV]

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What Does the Future Hold?

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

It is a big question, isn’t it? As we approach Christmas and the end of another year we often ponder about the future and all that it might hold for us and the world.

Futurology is methodically researching where the course of events in the present might lead to in 10-, 20-, 50- or 100-years’ time. The predictions aren’t always, or rather, aren’t mostly encouraging. Climate change, COVID, unpredictable political and social conditions in various parts of the world are serious concerns for worry. Increasingly the talk is about a last chance to change course before the world would run into an unavoidable crisis. It seems very hard to alter the thinking, the habits, the needs of humanity, so basic needs for life, like clean air, sufficient water and food are becoming the primary concerns. And there are many more beside them!

Believers do take these issues seriously too! And we try as far as we can to protect and save all that can still be redeemed of God’s Creation.

The crucial difference between believers and non-believers is that believers are not only waiting for what the future holds, but we are waiting for the One Who holds the future, the Lord of All! Our key phrase is not ‘future’ but ‘ADVENT’. There is a massive difference between the two! We are waiting for the Lord of the universe, whose appearance means the end of all need, misery, lies and suffering among many other things! He will take to himself all who believe in Him and will judge all wickedness, inhumanity, injustice, and ungodliness.

We are not wating for the end of the world, we are looking forward to the beginning of something new when Christ will return in glory. At His first coming He came to offer salvation to all who believe in Him. Next he will come judging all. That’s why it is so essential that you should know Him personally as your Saviour and Lord! For we are not asking what the future holds, rather Who holds the future! For he is the one who has prepared the future for us, He who loves us and gave Himself for our salvation that we might have a future!

We are unable to resolve all or even most of the miseries of the world. But I am certain that our labour in the Lord is not in vain! The world, its future, are in good and safe hands as he is holding them. Our life has a Master overseeing it and caring for it. I find that encouraging and comforting! That’s why I live an Advent Hope every day! What about you?

[from GV]

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Give Thanks without Ceasing

(artwork by Myra Ball)

“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

On Thanksgiving Day (25 November 2021) let’s just pause for a moment and consider Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving as such is not ‘our’ festival here in Scotland but giving thanks should not be restricted only to one nation, continent, or group of people. Giving thanks is good, important, and it is God’s will and purpose for us in Jesus Christ.

This is the first place to pause! Wow, have you realised that giving thanks is not just an optional manifestation of politeness or good upbringing? It is the WILL of God Almighty for every Christian! In the light of this, let’s just explore our thankfulness and gratitude for a moment! Am I thankful in all circumstances? Do I receive gifts, deeds, comments from others with a thankful spirit? I personally find it extremely encouraging to know that when I am thankful to someone I am actually obeying God and fulfilling His will for me!

Reading the Bible, I am sure you also noticed that it often encourages us to keep count of God’s good deeds, to remember them, to give thanks repeatedly to Him for His gifts, to give thanks abundantly, in all circumstances, and without ceasing. How good it is when someone is not holding back their thankfulness to us! It’s great isn’t it! How important it is to learn saying ‘Please’ and ‘thank You’ when we are very young!

When we give thanks for a good deed or a gift, our hearts respond to the heart of the giver, let that be God, Jesus, or our neighbour!

When someone is thankful to me that encourages me to do another good deed. Thanksgiving is energising me. I know of someone who works with children with learning difficulties. The work is demanding and exhausting yet she would not work anywhere else for all day long she is among thankful smiles.

A thankful person realises how rich they are. The ones who are never satisfied see only what they do not have. The thankful ones see all that they have, and in their prayer of thanksgiving they keep stock of those blessings.

Our expression of thankfulness is a joyful and powerful testimony about our great and loving God. It tells others that God is a rich, powerful, gracious, loving Father, who can be trusted and relied on. His children know all that they have comes from His abundant grace.

Such thankfulness protects us from anxiety. In our faith we look upon God with great anticipation every day, for His mercies are new every morning. Therefore, the believer trusts God and Jesus Christ even in times of trouble and trials and gives thanks for His faithfulness.

As we approach the end of another challenging year, count your blessings, the undeniable evidence of God’s favour and love to you. Prepare for Christmas with a grateful heart!

[from GV; artwork by Myra Ball]

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Names of God: El Elyon

Seven Active Names: 4. El Elyon (אל עליון) God Most High

We have seen that Elohim means God, mighty, strong, creator, judge. It is sometimes shortened to “El” and here it precedes Elyon (upper and above) to denote not just that God is ‘right up there with the best of them’ but that He IS the best of them; He is above them all. In other words, and in literal translation, El Elyon – He is God Most High.

This shows something of God’s absolute right as Lord – His absolute right as lord over us and as lord over all creation. It reflects the sense of God as the creator of heaven and earth; of everything. And the nuance deriving from that is that as God is Creator and Lord of all, we should not worship any idol, god or created thing, because to do so is to introduce something (obstacle, barrier … distance) between us and God our Father.

Anything and everything is ‘lesser’ than God, so if we choose to put something above us, we are putting it in between us and God – even if we do not see (or choose not to look) that God is there. If we are blinded by the thing, and consider it the biggest, the greatest, then it is simply a mountain boulder; a false summit obscuring our view to the actual mountain top. Hopefully we look beyond and choose the path upwards.

When we fail to see past, we cannot hope to comprehend God. How little we see; how little we discern. Perhaps we will only understand Most High when we are with Him in His glory.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

This serves not to confuse but to show something of the incredible complexity of God. On our own we can hardly start to know Him or describe Him – after all:

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

Remembering, and declaring, El Elyon – God Most High – helps not just to remind ourselves that we are below God (where we always are) but to remind us of its corollary: that God is indeed The Most High. Nebuchadnezzar praised himself and looked to his own power; thought he was the biggest, the most powerful. He was reduced overnight from king to one who lived as a wild animal. And when he came to his senses, it was to see the true ‘big picture.’

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the El Elyon; I honoured and glorified him who lives for ever. (Daniel 4:34)

If we are under the shadow of our own (or the earth’s) boulder or obstacle, we will not be able to perceive the amazing heights that only God reaches and we will live under the lie that there cannot be anything more. We need to remember who He is:

They remembered that the LORD was their rock,
El Elyon [the LORD Most High] was their God. (Psalm 78:35)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Christmas Preparation?

This past week we received our first Christmas card of the year! So, it is official, Christmas is here, well, nearly here. For many Black Friday signals the beginning of the frantic preparation for Christmas. The secular world and commercialism brought this phenomenon into our horizon for the last ten years or more. Have you got the Black Friday anxiety, yet? Am I missing out on a great bargain?

So, how are you getting ready for Christmas? How is it going with planning, managing your time and finances, coping with COVID? You might feel uncertain if you can prepare for Christmas at all with COVID and vaccines, and all! Perhaps your personal list is even longer? There are plenty of things to be anxious about. No wonder that by the time you get to the 24th of December your strength is gone, your wallet is empty, you feel exhausted and wish to be over and done with this whole Christmas business. You hardly have got any more energy left to consider what Christmas is really about! That some two thousand years ago in a little town, called Bethlehem a baby was born to be the Saviour of the world. In him God came into your world that instead of such anxieties, fear, sin, hurt, and tears His peace and joy would rule and govern your life!

If only there were another way to prepare for Christmas? There is! You might find it a helpful reminder and encouragement for the season, as I did, God’s own word in Psalm 46:

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

If you read the whole Psalm, and I encourage you that you do so, you will notice a number of things.

Frist, that God Lord of all and in Him one finds stillness and peace in all circumstances!

You will also notice that the God is the Lord of Salvation. Although the powers of evil, and darkness and war try to rob us of life and joy, in God, through Jesus Christ, the Christmas baby (!) we can find refuge, safety, and strength!

You will also notice that God is the Lord of history. Nations can be in uproar and kingdoms might rise or fall, but when God raises his voice, the whole earth melts before His power! God is in control! He rules them all! The Christmas birth tells us so, the new ruler, the Prince of Peace was born in Bethlehem.

You will also notice that God is your personal God! He is your strong fortress, your personal stronghold who keeps you forever. He is with us! (verses 7 and 11). That’s His Christmas name, did you know that? Emmanuel – God is with us! How awesome is He?!

I encourage you to plan quiet days and evenings this advent, either alone or together with the wider family, when you will focus on God in whom you have peace, and security. Speak to him in prayer and praise, spend time listening to him, reading his message to you. Lift up your eyes and see where your help comes from. It comes from the Lord! Notice His great deeds in the world and in your life, notice that At Christmas he came to be with us in Jesus Christ. And give thanks to Him for coming after you!

Prepare for Christmas differently than the world! In the stillness and quiet you will hear what you would otherwise miss in the noise and the rushing! (What you might miss in the shops now, you will get them in the sale in January, anyway.) Listen, and hear the message of the Lord to you this Christmas! Be still and know He is God. He is your God!

[from GV]

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Names of God: Yahweh Tsuri

Seven Active Names: 3. Yahweh Tsuri (יהוה צורי) The LORD is My Rock

This is an oft-repeated name for God, especially in the books of the prophets and in Psalms. There are many prophets in the Bible. And there are many, many references to God as our rock.

What is a rock; what does it signify?

It has a sense of permanency. It is immovable. It has a weight and a power. It is a landmark – seen from afar and enabling us to be guided in our journeys (but only when we remember to reference and look to the rock). It is something which is only known properly when we are up close, when we spend time exploring – it has so many surfaces, angles and ledges to be explored and become known to us, and this requires us to explore for ourselves, not just to rely on a description – no matter how good a description – provided by someone else. It is something which provides all the shelter we need: from the wind, the rain and even from the sun.

Does that start to describe God to you, as you know Him? A rock can be a safe place to retreat, a familiar sanctuary and a known boundary. A rock can be precious, to be cherished and loved.

The Bible has much to say of the rock and of God.

“I will proclaim the name of the LORD.
    Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
    and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
    upright and just is he.”
(Deuteronomy 32:3,4)

And we are reminded that the LORD is unique. He is not ‘a’ god; he is THE God:

“There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you, there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2)

We have safety in the Lord, our rock.

He said, “Yahweh-Tsuri: the LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.” (2 Samuel 22:3)

We have Jesus, our rock:

“and all of them drank the same spiritual drink. They drank from the spiritual rock that went with them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4)

We have – always – the Lord, our God, in whom we can trust, whom we love.

“Trust in the LORD forever for in Yahweh-Tsuri we have an everlasting Rock.” (Isaiah 26:4)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Be a Star – and donate a toy

Cat R-W normally helps the Salvation Army with their Christmas toy appeal. They collect and distribute new toys, gifts and food parcels to people who would otherwise go without. This year she is extending the net encouraging us to get involved as much as we can.

The Salvation Army need our help in giving Christmas presents to vulnerable children. Every year they spread the message of God’s love at Christmas, giving gifts and cheer to families who would otherwise go without. Last year they distributed food hampers and toys to over 800 children in Gorgie alone.  

SSCB will be acting as a donation centre and we are seeking gifts of new, unwrapped toys and gifts for children who might not otherwise receive a Christmas present. 

Deadline for donations is Sunday 5th December. The gifts will then be wrapped and distributed to those in need.

Suggested Gift List

We believe every child deserves a new gift at Christmas so we are unable to take used items for the Christmas Present Appeal.

  • 0-3 years:  dolls, teddy bears, cot mobiles, baby clothes, bath toys, CDs of suitable music and nursery rhymes, puzzles.
  • 3-5: dolls and action figures, cars, lorries, DVDs and CDs (music and nursery rhymes), colouring sets, pencils, crayons, books, puzzles
  • 5-9: educational games & toys, stationery (colouring sets, pencils, crayons, school sets), CDs & family friendly DVDs, books, puzzles, wordsearch, crosswords.
  • 9-12: games and toys, stationery, DVDs, books, t-shirts, hair accessories, gloves, scarves, hats.
  • 13-16: books, make-up and toiletries (please try to ensure non-allergic ingredients if possible), gloves, scarves, hats, t-shirts, hair accessories and gift vouchers.

Over the years, millions of children and young people have benefited from gifts donated to The Salvation Army. By giving a gift to their Christmas Present Appeal you can make a real difference in someone’s life at Christmas.

For more information please consult the Salvation Army’s dedicated website.

[from Cat R-W and GV]

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Remembrance Day Reflection

A wee cross stands on my desk. It is not much, really. It is not elaborate, or artistic. In fact, it is very simple. But I like it. It is special.

It is made out of copper; in fact, it is made out of a bullet shell. The bullet was fired somewhere in Sierra Leon. Did it injure a soldier? Did it mutilate a man or a woman? Did it take the life of a child? Who fired it? I haven’t got any answers to these questions.

What I know is that someone picked up the shell and made it into a cross. Its message to me is this: Peace does not just happen! It is not like you draw the curtain one morning and hey presto, there it is, PEACE, right on the front lawn. No, you need to work for peace.

It is not enough to have a desire for peace, one needs to be moved to action, using one’s heart, mind, and skills, to do something, and everything for peace, to serve others, to sweat, even to make a sacrifice for peace.

The person that created the cross out of the bullet shell was motivated to action. Stopping doing what he or she was doing, which can mean stop making war, or bullets, and start making something else, making peace.

I believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world to make peace between man and man, between man and God.

The prophet Isaiah had a vibrant vision of the Kingdom of God (Isaiah 2:1-5), a kingdom of righteousness and universal peace., when and where God’s love, compassion, His justice and righteousness will guide and move the human hearts and minds of every nation. It is a powerful read in the NLT (New Living Translation) version:

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.
(Isaiah 2:1-5; NLT)

Peace will be not just a notion, a hope, or a dream. It will be a reality, because people embraced God’s forgiveness, renewing grace, and will be moved to act as God’s Spirit leads them. He will transform their lives and the life of the world. Weapons will be destroyed, they will have no more purpose, and will be made into tools. The skill of war will be superfluous and pointless. They will walk in the light of God!

On Remembrance Day our remembering will be meaningful only if we are not just remembering the pain, turmoil, and destruction of war, but look forward purposefully to the Kingdom of God, the universal rule of the Prince of Peace, where there will be no more wars, no more tears.

You know what? Jesus called us to be peace makers here and now. It is not enough to long for peace. We need to get down to it to stop making war and begin creating ‘tools’ that nurture and support life!

[from GV]

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The Climate Change We All Need – Part 2

and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” 
(Isaiah 35:10)

We need a Climate Change! The present climate of sinfulness does not nurture life in abundance! (Jesus said he came that we may have life in abundance! John 10:10)

Changing the present climate is more than recycling or saving energy responsibly! It means to ‘recycle’ our lives, return to God in repentance, seeking His salvation through Jesus Christ. That will change the ‘climate’ of our thinking, acting, behaving, living. That will affect how we relate to God, to each other, and to his creation too!

That will mean we will walk on a new highway, the Way of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8). Following God’s way in Jesus we have a straight highway even in the most difficult conditions. A Highway that leads to safety, abundance, and life!

“No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it” writes Isaiah (Isaiah 35:9) – the people of God will be in safety under God’s cover, on his highway. There is safety there from the devil that prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

God’s Climate Change in Jesus is not temporary, transient. We have God’s faithful promise that the ransomed of the LORD will enter Zion with singing, everlasting joy will crown their heads that will not fade or wear out! (Isaiah 35:10). Jesus’ salvation affects the whole of creation!

God’s promises will be fulfilled. God will not only help us through hardships and difficulties here and now but will carry us into His eternal Kingdom of joy and glory.

I love this picture of Isaiah here in chapter 35. Read it again from beginning to end, to encourage you and fill you with home. We struggle through a desert land, in adverse climate conditions. But those who choose the way of the Lord, those who come to Jesus, experience the climate change the Lord works out in their hearts. Their sorrow and sighing is taken over by the gladness and joy of the Lord, which will be their strength.

[from GV]

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The Climate Change We All Need – Part 1

“The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling streams…” (Isaiah 35:7)

In recent times the alarm bells of Climate Change have been ringing louder and louder, and not without reason! We are receiving increasing number of reports of the devastating effect of climate change, how once life-giving, abundant, bubbling parts of the world now are becoming desert like, lifeless and barren. All this is causing economic and social problems too. Climate Change became a negative phrase, creating fear in our hearts.

The Prophet Isaiah in chapter 35 of his book speaks about Climate Change. A different kind of Climate Change that we should not be afraid of. A Climate Change that we all need. A Climate Change that can transform life in us and around us. The prophet uses vivid pictures describing this Climate Change transforming depravity to joyful life filled existence.

He gives a devastating picture of human life where the life-giving, and life sustaining God is not present! It is like the desert, a wasteland, barren, dry, lifeless, hopeless, joyless. But when God is present, His grace and love water and refresh the baren human soul, one’s life will become like a meadow. God changes the climate! His love and mercy create conditions for life that is flourishing, abundant, colourful, hopeful, and joyous. That life bears witness the glory of the LORD, and the splendour of God. (Isaiah 35:1-2)

Without God one loses their strength, they become powerless. The hands become feeble, the knees give way, the hearts become fearful. But when God redeems you, the fear is gone, your steps become steady, there is a purpose in life, and you are filled with the hope of the Almighty. (Isaiah 35:3-4)

Without God we can’t function as we are supposed to. We don’t see, hear, talk, or carry ourselves as we are meant to, for our heart is hardened. But when the climate changes, and God’s saving grace waters the soul, the blinded eyes see, the deafened ears hear, the lame leap in gladness, and the mute shout for joy. (Isaiah 35:5-6)

Without God the desert-like life continues to struggle. If that describes your life, you need a Climate Change! You need God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ to revive your life, heart, soul, and mind. Jesus offers you life-giving water (John 4:10) that will make your life grow, flourish, and bear fruit. (Isaiah 35:6-7) [To Be Continued]

[from GV]

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Names of God: Yahweh Tseva’ot

Seven Active Names: 2. Yahweh Tseva’ot (יהוה צבאות) The LORD OF HOSTS

The population of the world is currently estimated at 7.9 billion people.

In a 1995 paper (C Haub. Popul Today: National Library of Medicine, National Centre for Biotechnology Information), acknowledging assumptions as to when humankind came to be and birth rates over the passing millennia etc., it was estimated that 105 billion people have lived on earth, of whom some 5.5% per cent were then still alive. In 2020, the World Atlas updated this estimate to 108 billion, with those who have lived outnumbering those who are alive by some 15 to 1.

That’s a lot of people – and we haven’t even started to account for angels.

The LORD our God is Lord of everything, and of everyone. Yahweh tseva’ot means ‘LORD of Hosts’ and hosts means hordes – lots and lots of people, both angels and human beings. God is LORD of all the hosts of heaven and earth. Christian, Jewish, no faith; powerful, weak; able, requiring support: He is LORD of all.

And it is more than a simple statistic. God is more than ruler of the most people; the biggest number. Yahweh tseva’ot, the Lord of Hosts, gives us an insight into the type of lord He is, of His majesty, power and authority. Sometimes this is translated as the “LORD Almighty” – that certainly speaks of His power and authority, and the Message translation emphasises this by translating the name as “God-of-Angel-Armies.”

This invites us to consider the power of an ‘Angel Army’ and then the fact that He is not just the commander in chief of that army – He is GOD of that army. The Hebrew word tseva’ot references God in dedication; of Holy things, set aside reverently.

The Greek Old Testament uses the Greek equivalent – Kyrios sabaōth, but with Greek linguistic precision, it also references Kyrios pantokratōr which has more of an emphasis of ‘all-powerful.’ So in many modern English translations of the Bible we find simply “LORD Almighty.” It is actually a good way to settle with both, because it supports the emphasis in the Hebrew of the resources available to God (God of His hosts) and it also supports the emphasis in Greek of the Lord’s own might (His godly strength). So we are looking at two aspects of God in this one name.

We do well to remember God’s almighty power, even as we shelter in God’s arms for safety, for He is indeed the LORD of Hosts. Treasure the feeling, the tingle of power reaching out for you (and only for you in that instant); the frisson of this mightiness that is an outpouring of God’s love for you. 

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)

David knew. When he encountered Goliath at the head of the army of the Philistines, David expressed both the mighty power of the holiness and reverence of God on the one hand and also the mighty power of the resources and armies available to God on the other. David was not afraid for he knew the LORD was almighty, LORD of Hosts:

David told the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Yahweh tseva’ot, the LORD of the Army of Israel, whom you have insulted.” (1 Samuel 17:45)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Names of God: Yahweh M’Kaddesh

Seven Active Names: 1. Yahweh M’Kaddesh (יהוה מקדשׁכם) The Lord Who Sanctifies

We come now to a series of what are called ‘active’ names of God. These help show us that God does not sit back, at a distance – aloof and uninvolved. He seeks to be invited into our lives, to participate in and through us. He actually leads us on the path of salvation and does not juts point us in the general direction, sending us off with an encouraging pat on the back.

And we must remember that God is not just a chum on the journey, but the LORD Almighty – to be respected and feared in reverence, in holy worship, for He is the one who sanctifies us; He makes us holy – set apart in His righteousness.

And that is the name we are looking at now: Yahew-M’Kaddesh – the LORD Who Sanctifies and Makes Holy. 

This is an aspect of God’s mighty work: sanctifying us. And it reveals an aspect of what our heart attitude should be; of yearning for righteousness in our souls. Indeed, it reveals the respect and reverence in which we are to hold God and with which we are to approach Him. We can find guidance in this when we look at Proverbs, 

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7)

The LORD makes it clear that He is the active one, and that our sanctification and salvation is not anything that we have earned. The law is important, and we are called to obey it, but God makes it clear that He makes His people holy – not the law.

We are told this clearly:

Obey my laws, and live by them. I am Yahweh-MKaddesh who sets you apart as holy. (Leviticus 20:8)

There is immense value in knowing that God sanctifies us, not any understanding of the law that we may have. Paul knew the worth of that when he wrote:

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:8-9)

So, in reverence, fear and holy love, we may draw nearer to God thanks to the actions that God has taken – thanks to the fact that God sanctifies us. Think of it this way: we are his church; his body. Through the Holy Spirit, He dwells within us. And God is righteous. So He will make His dwelling place to be Holy, to be sanctified.

‘Then the nations will know that I, Yahweh-M’Kaddesh, have set Israel apart as holy, because my holy place will be among them permanently.’ (Ezekiel 37:28)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Reformation vs. Performation

I know there is no such word in English as ‘performation’. The reason for such a clumsy coining of a word is that for many people being a Christian means to perform. To perform that I am righteous, pure, holy, fulfilling all God’s commands. What we all need is Refor4mation, not ‘performation’.

Martin Luther as a young monk was desperate to be right with God. He put all his energy into fulfilling God’s law. And when he failed, he went to confession and did penance. In fact, he was so often at confession that his confessor was fed up with him. Luther was distressed because of his sinful nature. The leader of the monastery, Johan Staupitz, wisely and pastorally suggested to Luther to set aside his theological books and rather read his Bible.

Luther began studying the New Testament in the original Greek, and when he got to Paul’s letter to the Romans he made an amazing discovery.

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

Luther realised this means that it is not we who make ourselves righteous, but someone else, God, declares us righteous. This he found confirmed when he read on in Romans 5:1 “we have been justified through faith.” Justification, becoming just and righteous, has nothing to do being made righteous, without fault, but it means God has declared us righteous because we believe in His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. God sees us through the ‘lens’ of Jesus Christ, our righteousness. Jesus took upon himself all our sins and performed the sacrifice, paid the penalty for each one of them! Believing in Jesus and trusting in his redeeming sacrifice we are saved, and God declares us righteous.

When I was young, we did not have a colour television, it was black and white. Some might remember this, or you might find it in a museum. Often people took a coloured cellophane sheet and stuck it in front of the TV. And hey, presto the TV was colour!

Being righteous is a bit like that. God looks upon us through the colour of righteousness of the ‘lens’ of Jesus Christ, and He declares us righteous.

By reading his Bible, Luther found the grace of God, found peace for his troubled soul, and was totally reformed. It reformed his understanding of God, Jesus, salvation, and faith which in turn lead him to reform the church.

At the anniversary of the Reformation (31 October 1517) we need to pray for more people like Luther! People who read their Bibles, grow in their faith and relationship with God and stop performing and begin reforming – not just their own lives but life, people and community around them too!

Will you be one of them?!

[from GV]

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Reflections on National Giving Day – Part 4

SSCB Facts and Figures

Sunday 31st October is National Giving Sunday – a Church of Scotland pledge day made necessary due to the significant loss of income during lockdown. This Autumn is therefore a great season for us to prayerfully consider what we do with the resources that God has entrusted to us. In the previous E-pistles I have waxed lyrical about why giving is so good for us, I have shared some passages that you may want to read and reflect upon. Here I will share some facts and figures as you prayerfully consider your giving over the next few weeks.

All gifts given on the pledge day by Sunday 31st October will go entirely to SSCB!  Gifts are normally shared across Church of Scotland churches to ensure that all areas are equally able to spread the good news of Jesus. However, this giving day is different because every church has suffered significant financial loss during the Covid restrictions. Financially, things are difficult for all churches – we are no different. 

We give thanks to God for the recent building works, a decision made in pre-Covid days. The changes to the toilets, kitchen and office were desperately needed and means that we are now in line with modern building regulations. We are thrilled that we can now provide for those in wheelchairs. However, we were not able to undertake everything that was in the original plans as there was not enough money. The building project currently has a shortfall of approx £5,000. Please prayerfully consider if you could help to meet these costs. 

Regular income has been severely impacted by Covid restrictions, our usual income from hall lets being the most obvious example. Cash collection have also been impacted due to the lack of in-person services and the need to no longer pass the collection plate around.  We are currently spending £1,600 per month more than is being taken in. We’ve been eating into our reserves since March 2020 in order to keep everything going but are now below the threshold for safe reserves. Please prayerfully consider if you could start to give a regular gift or increase your regular gift. 

Pray – What has God laid on your heart? Listen carefully for an answer. You can use the Bible references in Part One of this series for guidance. 

Plan – Carefully consider what you can give. Pocket change that requires no thought is not the Biblical example that we are set. As Christians we are called to genuinely considered sacrificial giving – this could be to the church and to other charities and missions. Be wise and think about regular gifts, they add up.  Remember Gift Aid and any other ways of increasing the value of your giving. 

Remember – Resources vary for each person, and often vary throughout our lives. This is not a competition. Don’t be embarrassed if you have less to give than you would like. Please do not put yourself into debt. God knows your heart. 

Pledge – Please decide what you wish to pledge before the service on 31st October. This can be a combination of regular giving, one off gifts and pledges to do something like a fundraising event. Some may wish to plan for the longer term and pledge gifts for the future such as in their wills.  

If you want 100% of your gift to be used solely by SSCB, then please donate to the church between now and the last National Giving Day, Sunday 31st October. 

National Giving Day – 31st October 

Please start praying and planning now.

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

[from Cat Rawlinson-Watkins]

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A Youth Pastor’s Inner Musings – Whilst Litter Picking

On Sunday 10 October at 9:30, just before our second Eco service, a good number of us joined in together to clean up the area around the church. It was a very pertinent and enjoyable way to lead into Caring for Creation.

One of the unexpected highlights of my morning was just how many members of the public stopped to say thank you. My face does not tend to invite conversation on the best of days, so it was good to hear so many grateful remarks. And I was delighted to reply with a smile that it was the church on the corner responsible for the initiative.

Somewhere along East Fettes Avenue with my Litter Picker Pro™ in my right hand and an increasingly heavier bin bag in my left, my mind drifted off to the topic of, well…rubbish. That word, specifically.

Soon after I became a Christian, the version of the Bible that I became most accustomed to was the English Standard Version. I remember when I first studied Philippians (3:8), the word “rubbish” provoked thought simply because it wasn’t a word I used back then and doesn’t appear elsewhere in the New Testament. Funnily enough, the NIV which I now use daily renders the same word as “garbage” to which I would never have blinked an eye.

The Apostle Paul who wrote the word did so with strong feelings (σκύβαλα for those interested). He says that all of the things that he formerly put his confidence in; his background, his class status, his affiliations, his nationality, his zeal and ability in obeying the law – those things are rubbish in comparison to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”.

Paul continued to be an advocate for and an example of holy living but he was keen for everyone to know that there was only one source of salvation and nothing else: faith in Christ. Likewise, we should certainly keep doing collective good in our church neighbourhood such as picking up litter but imagine the rejoicing in heaven if our efforts led to someone meeting their Saviour!

It made me think more deeply about those compliments and messages of gratitude I received from those who passed by, and what they might think about our church because of that morning. I hope they see us as people with conscience, people who care about others, and people who care enough about creation to act. I hope they see us as people who care about them, too. There’s an addition to the old quote: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care…about them.” We just want them to know and experience just how much God loves them.

I share your prayers that God will use these collective actions in his people as salt and light and that it will bring others to Jesus. Let’s pray that God will give us more great opportunities like this which allow us to show (and tell!) people that we love them and we serve a God who loves them too.

[from Kenny McCartney, Youth Pastor]

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Spirit Soaking

“Streams in the desert” – SSCB refresh evenings

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Sometimes, especially over the past year or so, we might have felt we’ve been “running on empty”, spiritually dry, or just tired.  If that’s been your experience, how do you like the idea of meeting together to allow God to refresh and encourage us and for us to encourage and build up each other?
We’re planning to start quarterly “refreshing and soaking” sessions in the sanctuary. The first is planned for the evening of Friday November 5th. We’ll begin with a time of worship and a short, guided reflection to help us settle in and focus on God. We’ll then spend time in small groups, sitting quietly, listening to what Holy Spirit may be saying to encourage us and praying for each other. We may feel a little out of our comfort zones, but the aim is for the evening to be relaxed, so numbers will be small – a maximum of 15 – and there’ll be a break for beverages and cake.
If you’re reading this and thinking that you have to be “super-spiritual” to take part, I’d like to assure you this is not the case! If you want to find out more, just speak to Pauline Dalrymple or Jacqueline Young, or email the church office.

‘Spirit Soaking’ – Streams in the Desert – SSCB refresh evening will take place at 19:00 on Friday, 5 November at SSCB

Register your place here:

[from Pauline Dalrymple]

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Names of God: Yahweh Nissi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Amending Our COVID Regulations at SSCB

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Church of Scotland Guidelines are available on their website.

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

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Reflections on National Giving Day – Part 3

The Generosity Muscle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Giving Day – 31st October 

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

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

[from Cat Rawlinson-Watkins]

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Holy Spirit in the Balance – Workshop with Adam Stadtmiller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Spirit Workshop Intro and Greetings from Pastor Adam Stadtmiller

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Christian Response to Climate Emergency

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

Gus Speth, climate scientist, advisor to US Government

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

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

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

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

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

(Written by Elspeth Pitt)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[from GV]

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Names of God: Yahweh Shammah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he follows it up with:

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

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

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

[from Timothy Pitt]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please join the Facebook event

And register for free –

Thank you.

[from Kirsty Thomson and GV]

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living more sustainably

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Written by Elspeth Pitt)

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

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Reflections on National Giving Day – Part 1

Biblical Reflections on Giving

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

I’ve written a mini-series on ‘Reflections on Giving’ which will be published over the next 4 weeks as we approach the day. I thought I’d start by sharing some Bible passages that you may want to read and reflect upon as you prayerfully consider your giving during this period. They can help us to understand God’s purposes for the resources he has entrusted to us. 

  • Luke 12:13-21. In this passage Jesus tells a story of a rich man who stored up all his wealth for his own use. When he died he could not take it with him.  Have a think about how this person could become rich in the sight of God.
  • Luke 18:18-25. Jesus realises that the rich young man’s possessions stand in the way of him becoming a disciple. Jesus challenges the rich young man to give up his possessions. Why do you think that Jesus demanded so much from this man?
  • Luke 19:1-10. Jesus visits Jericho and encounters Zacchaeus. This tax collector had cheated the h people by collecting more taxes that were required by the Roman authorities. When Zacchaeus experienced the grace of God in Jesus, this affected his lifestyle. How did God’s grace change Zacchaeus?
  • Luke 21:1-4. Jesus watches the people presenting their gifts at the temple. Some rich people gave large sums of money. A poor widow offers one small coin. What was Jesus praising when he commended the widow’s offering?
  • Acts 2:43-47 and Acts 4:32-37. The the early church a characteristic was surrendering individual possessions for the common good. What made the first Christians adopt this lifestyle?
  • 2 Corinthians 8:1-15. Paul appeals to the Christians in Corinth by reminding them of the examples shown by the Macedonian Christians. Why did Paul commend their example?

National Giving Day – 31st October 

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

[from Cat Rawlinson-Watkins]

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Names of God: Yahweh Shalom

Seven Redemptive Names: 5. Yahweh Shalom (יהוה שׁלום) The LORD of Peace

The LORD has always been, is and will always be. He is eternal. This can actually be quite scary for us for we have of our lives here on earth and can only look forward (but ‘in sure and certain hope) to eternity in heaven. We will be with the LORD, and face to face with His awesome power (and how overwhelming tenderness) and in that, in our raw human state, there is a well-grounded fear, for we cannot look on perfection through sinful eyes and survive. As the LORD said to Moses:

But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)

And so, it is so encouraging to know that the LORD is concerned for how we feel, how we react. He does not want fear, trembling and bondage. He offers us peace, love and fellowship.

And the name Yahweh-Shalom embodies just that – the LORD of peace. Gideon actually gave this name to an altar to the LORD. He had seen a messenger of the LORD – an angel – and he was convinced he would therefore die, having looked upon a messenger of God’s perfection. The angel assured him that he would not die and in gratitude to the LORD providing, protecting and sustaining:

So Gideon built an altar there to the LORD. He called it Yahweh Shalom. To this day it is still in Ophrah, which belongs to Abiezer’s family. (Judges 6:24)

No matter what is thrown against us, no matter how dangerous a path we are forced to take, we know that God is with us and where our true home is. And therefore, we need not fear, whatever evil is ranged against us.

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

This gives us an example of the all-powerful peace that comes only from the LORD. Yahweh-Shalom is the LORD of peace, and so we need never fear evil; we know that God has triumphed.

Jesus gave us the same message of not just any peace, but of HIS holy peace; of Him:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Even though this is not expressly a name of Jesus, Isaiah prophesied that Jesus the Son would share names with God the Father – including the Prince of peace. So do not worry. Be at peace. Pray and seek God. Take for yourself that deep and overwhelming sense of true peace, where you accept that you are safe, you are known, you are loved and you are forgiven.

Now may the Yahweh-Shalom Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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National Giving Day

We have all come through unprecedented times in the last 18 months or so, and we can’t even say that we are completely through it yet. The effects of the pandemic have been life altering and will continue to influence our lives in the future.

We have all felt powerless, even helpless, and certainly vulnerable in this time. Philip Yancey said: “vulnerability is the landing strip for grace”. Feeling weak and vulnerable is not a pleasant experience, but in moments like that we are more perceptive of God’s grace, and more grateful for his gifts and blessings.

The Church of Scotland is encouraging congregations to participate in a National Giving Day during this season of Harvest (September – October) with exactly this in mind. So we will take a moment to reflect on God’s presence with us through these challenging times and offer gifts of thanksgiving back to God.

Money received through this initiative will remain with participating congregations. This money may be used to fund specific work, to launch a new project or simply to offset deficits considering the challenging financial circumstances faced by many of our churches over the last year. 

We at SSCB want to acknowledge and give thanks to our church family and supporters for their faithful giving during these challenging times. Without your support and encouragement our ministry could have not continued, and progress of the Vision 2020 building project could not have been achieved!

The Church of Scotland’s encouragement to us is most welcome as we want to be well prepared, moving forward with our ministry at SSCB. Your gifts will make that possible, they will contribute towards our Youth Ministry and the building fund.

So, we want to encourage you, our church family, and supporters to consider prayerfully a special offering to SSCB for Youth Ministry, or the building fund or just for the general fund of the church, as our reserves need restoring. All money raised will remain here at SSCB and used for the purpose you choose.

The only criteria are these:

  • Please make the giving by 31 October (it does not have to be on 31 October, you can make your giving any time until then).
  • Indicate that it is for the National Giving Day and, if you wish, please indicate whether your giving is for Youth Ministry; Vision 2020 Fund; or General Fund.

We will hold a thanksgiving for the generous gifts on the 31 October. Please follow the future articles for more information.

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

Please indicate the purpose of your gift: i.e. National Giving Day

Thank you,

George Vidits, minister, on behalf of the Kirk Session

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Our Treasure

I’ve been asking the workmen at the church every week if they came across any hidden treasures during their work. The response was consistent: a resounding NO, none whatsoever.

So, I was delighted when Tim showed me the ‘treasure’ he found buried in the church. It is a ha’ penny from 1971. Perhaps not a huge value in monetary terms. But what is some people’s junk, is other’s treasure.

This is so true of the Gospel as well. Some people hear it, have it for a while and then they drop it and don’t miss it. Like the ha’ penny that was dropped in the West Transept, perhaps it fell through the cracks and laid hidden for decades. I wonder if the owner of it missed it at all!

Jesus said about the Kingdom of God that it is “like treasure hidden in a field; when a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44). That ha’ penny is a parable to me.

The man who found the treasure in the field, deemed it extremely valuable, in fact so precious that he sold everything he had, everything for he worked for up to that point, everything that was important and precious to him, for the treasure was even more valuable than all he had, or he could ever get. He did that not with a grudge, or complaints but with joy! There is no such thing as half-hearted discipleship! Jesus warns us: “No-one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

The kingdom of God is of such great value that you should be willing to give up all you have in order to gain it!

If you have it, don’t drop it! Make sure you will not lose it! Rather share it with others, it will not get smaller doing that!

[from GV]

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Names of God: Yahweh Tsidkenu

Seven Redemptive Names: 4. Yahweh Tsidkenu (יהוה צדקנו) The LORD Our Righteousness

You may recall that Jehovah derives from Yahweh, an anglicised version of YHWH, for the ancient Hebrew language did not have vowels, YHWH being Yodh Heh Waw Heh in Canaanite-Hebrew. In the same way, Tsidkenu was originally, “tsdq’ and has been extended into Tsidkenu. It means ‘straight’ or ‘a state of justice’ or ‘righteousness.’

Combining the two, Yahweh-Tsidkenu means The LORD Our Righteousness and points us to the righteousness that comes from God. It is generally used to describe Jesus – even in the Jewish Talmud (the body of Jewish ceremonial and civil law), it is viewed as a name of the Messiah (Christ). It is found in Jeremiah:

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will grow a righteous branch for David.
He will be a king who will rule wisely.
He will do what is fair and right in the land.
In his lifetime, Judah will be saved,
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name that he will be given:
Yahweh-Tsidkenu. (Jeremiah 23: 5-6)

We are made ‘right’ with God through Jesus. This is done in the manner of righteousness and of justice. God forgives us through His justice, and invites us to walk in His righteousness so that we remain right; redeemed once and for all. Jesus paid the price for our sins but did not just leave us there, for:

He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

If you think you are a failure, that you will never be good enough to earn the name Christian; if you think that you cannot be at peace until all the wrongs you have committed have been put right (and you just don’t have the power to put them right); if you think that YOU do not have the righteousness that is necessary for all this, then relax. It’s not you. None of us has this righteousness that we can earn our way in. But Jesus gave us the righteousness. His is the righteousness that allows for the justice that secures our forgiveness. A free gift for us and all we have to do is to accept it. As ever, Scripture sets it out best:

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:22-26)

In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live securely. Jerusalem will be called Yahweh-Tsidkenu. (Jeremiah 33:16)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Encouragement for the Day of Prayer

I was reading the Bible and praying the other morning (14 September) and as I sat in silence afterwards, these words came to me.

‘Like a rushing wind, I will blow through St. Stephen’s, displacing the stagnant air. Who is with me on this journey? Don’t give up hope, “Joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5)!’

These words did not come out of my own thought processes! I know that it is God speaking to me as it has happened many times before. His words are always so encouraging!

Have you had this experience and if not, would you like to?
I would encourage you to sign up for a slot in our Day of Prayer on Saturday 25th September.

Our loving Heavenly Father will be delighted to spend some time with you and you may just hear His voice as you wait in his presence.

[from Jacqueline Young]

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Names of God: Yahweh Rapha

Seven Redemptive Names: 3. Yahweh Rapha (יהוה רפא) (The LORD Who Heals)

For those of a certain sporting persuasion, this does not refer to the Lord providing all our upmarket cycling clothing – although I can confidently say that God loves cyclists.

We find reference to Yahweh-Rapha – the LORD who heals – in the Book of Exodus, just after the LORD (continuing to provide for His people) enables the bitter waters of Marah to be drinkable after three days without water.

He said, “If you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am Yahweh-Rapha.” (Exodus 15:26)

There is healing in that – this was straight after the Red Sea had parted to allow the people to cross, escaping from the pursuing Egyptian army. The people had been slaves for some 400 years. Moses, assisted by his brother Aaron and their sister Miriam, had followed the LORD’s commands and gained freedom for the Israelites. But it did not end there. Generations had known only slavery and an entire people and culture cannot simply come into their freedom, be wished a happy life and be left to get on with it. They needed to learn how to live in freedom, and they needed to heal. There were many things the LORD did for then in their ensuring 40 years in the wilderness, and healing was but one of them.

Again, Psalm 23 maps this out for us:

He refreshes my soul. (Psalm 23:3)

Ultimate healing is soul healing, leading to true wellbeing. Being healed like this involves doing what is right – you cannot embrace healing whilst still embracing and actively carrying out the harmful behaviour. And the LORD does this not for some personal gain, but because of who He is – He is love. He loves us, has compassion on us, and will take the time and effort to teach us the right ways (discipline, justice) but to refresh our souls (forgiveness, mercy) because of His love for us. All that is true healing, but it is not healing that we have done or earned – He refreshes us; He guides us.

Rapha is not simply ‘healing’ though – it is restoration.

If we have grief, trouble, injury, sin and harm, we give that to Jesus (I have had a picture in my prayers of Jesus on the cross and each sin given, each nail driven further into Him, is met by Him lifting His head, smiling in love at us and saying, simply, “Thank you.”). And having given Jesus our sin, we receive the healing; we are restored and made whole with God. It’s the most one-sided, unfair and yet compassionate and brilliant trade-off ever, and leaves us wanting this complete healing, this encounter with Yahweh-Rapha, for everyone else:

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (3 John 2)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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9/11 – remembering in the shadow and the light

It was a shocking realisation this morning that already today (11 September 2021) is the 20th anniversary of the twin towers terrorist attacks. 9/11, as it became known, changed life and the world for ever. Changed it for the worse, filling hearts and souls with fear, suspicion, doubt, hatred, and anger. Its shadow is still looming over many hearts, households, even nations and countries.

It is unavoidable to remember and share in the pain and sorrow of those who lost loved ones in the attacks, or since then because of it, as with those who were injured in the attacks and their lives were changed. We remember the heroic sacrifice of all who rushed to rescue and save others. So, we remember, share, and pray with them and for them all.

But as Christians we cannot avoid remembering that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary also changed the world for ever! It brought hope, life, restoration, forgiveness, reconciliation! Remember the hope that is in the cross of Christ! Jesus brought light that cannot be overcome by darkness, even by the darkest, most evil deeds! We can live in the light of Christ instead of the shadow of fear, suspicion, or hatred.

I invite you to remember today – and every day of your life, especially when the day seems particularly dark, and fearful – the light and hope that Christ brought, which drives out fear. Yet don’t just remember it, share it too with others, and pray for all who are in darkness that the light of Christ will shine on them! Don’t just remember, share, and pray, but live in the light of Christ, for He promised:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”(John 8:12)

[from GV]

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Introducing Our New Youth Pastor

Kenny McCartney, Youth Pastor, SSCB and his trusted friend

What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been: saying a bittersweet “goodbye for now” at Liberton Kirk to being inducted and welcomed into the St. Stephen’s family. Here’s but a few adjectives of how I can describe it: exciting, affirming, humbling, absorbing, worshipping. I’m delighted to add another one: FUN!

There is an enjoyable sense of purpose within the family – to honour, exalt, and experience the Lord and help others to do the same. It is therefore such a privilege to lead and to worship alongside you. I shared some of my testimony this past Sunday, so I hope you don’t mind if I share a bit more.

I mentioned a fella named Lenny who played an important role in the formation of my faith. Thankfully, Lenny didn’t hang up his boots and call it job done. He warmly welcomed me into his friend group: a handful of misfits but all of whom were eager to know more about God. He was intentional – gathering us weekly to eat, laugh, and most importantly: open the Bible together.

Rest assured, we certainly wouldn’t have met every week if it wasn’t loads of fun. But it was more than that: we prayed together, we studied the Bible together, and we dreamt about God’s plans for us together and how we could serve him. The Lord was faithful. When we explored his Word all doubts faded away and when we saw him answer prayer we knew something of his goodness and power.

Though they are far away, that motley crew all still love and follow the Lord and I am still in contact with them today. One of our friends once brought along her sister to our Bible study (exact date: 21/02/2003), who is now my wife and best friend Ashley. That’s a fun story for another day, along with dozens more!

All of the gracious gifts that God gave which stem from that time is a reminder to me of James 1:17-18: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

It is because of that formative time in my faith that I wish to “be a Lenny” to the teenagers of SSCB and introduce them to the fullness of life that God has designed for them. Through fun and fellowship, yes – but also through a focus in God’s Word, prayer, and worship.

I covet your prayers for the friendships forming in the present, for the adjustment to the rhythm of life in your fellowship, and for keen awareness where pastoral care is due. It is an honour to serve the Lord among you and I look forward to witnessing the fruits of what the Lord will do and to praising his name together with you!

God bless,

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Names of God: Yahweh Yireh

Seven Redemptive Names: 2. Yahweh Yireh (יהוה יראה) (The LORD will Provide)

Back in the Book of Genesis, in chapter 22, we read of Abraham being tested by God, commanded to take Isaac for sacrifice on the mountainside. The Lord sees Abraham’s faith. Importantly, Abraham sees his own faith in the Lord and can take ‘ownership’ of it. Isaac is spared and the Lord provides a ram for the sacrifice. And that’s it, right there … Abraham calls the place Yahweh-Yireh (or Jehovah-Jireh) – the LORD will provide.

This theme is picked up in verse 1 of Psalm 23, with the simple statement that “I shall not want.” The Lord provides and the Lord continues to provide. And what is being provided for us is not just the basic logistics of food and drink – of material needs, but our spiritual needs in Him: 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (Yahweh-Yireh). (Psalm 23:1)

God continues to provide, for we find Jesus saying in the New Testament:

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6: 31-33)

Jesus not only knows that God will provide; he has faith that God will provide – a deep-seated knowledge that is more than mere hope and yearning. It is a knowledge that demonstrates the trust as between a sheep and shepherd; a Son and Father.

And this in turn leads us into a deeper understanding and a deeper relationship. When Jesus bridged the gap that we had created with God, He shared His riches and majesty with us even though we were sinful and not worthy. We were adopted into God’s family with God not just as ‘the’ Father but, as the Lord’s Prayer says, as ‘our Father.’ A Father who provides for us in everything we need, out of His love for us:

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 19)

We can look at these needs through the perspective of our bodily lives – providing us with what we need (more than mere ‘want’) in food, fellowship and the like. But we must also remember that our Lord provides us with what we need for eternal life in the spirit with Him. What was it that Abraham said to Isaac on that mountainside – God Himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice. Sometimes the things we say carry more resonance than even we can imagine.

The name is not the Lord DID provide or ONCE provided: The Lord WILL provide. Present and future, now and forever; through a godly sacrifice on a cross on a hill.

Abraham named that place Yahweh-Yireh. It is still said today, “On the mountain of Yahweh it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Inspire at Loch Monzievaird

Nestled among the Perthshire hills, almost hidden out of sight, yet only 2 miles from Crieff, lies the tranquil Loch Monzievaird, a true Highland gem. With secluded log cabins dotted around its wooded shores, it has, for the last seven years, been the home of Young Life International in Scotland. Founded in 1941 in the United States, Young Life International believes that every young person has the right to hear the good news of God’s love. It does this by going out to where young people are, building personal relationships with them and providing fun, adventurous life-changing experiences, often in a camp setting or clubs in local secondary schools where the Christian gospel is explained through short talks.

On a warm, sparkling day in mid – August, 17 of us from SSCB arrived at Loch Monzievaird where we spent the morning enjoying an array of water sports, including paddle boarding, kayaking and, for the less adventurous, letting the world drift by from the more sturdy safety of a pedalo. Despite occasional, unintended and intended dips into the loch, a great time was had by all. Following a delicious and very generous lunch, served by volunteers, in a marquee, we experienced the adrenaline rush of the zipline suspended 50 feet above Loch Monzievaird, something few of us will forget. For the last hour, the young people participated in the YLI club where they heard an inspiring Gospel message from the youth leaders and took part in a range of interactive games. This was a fabulous, memorable day out, one which we hope to repeat in subsequent years. Our special thanks go to Andy Chittick, one of the YLI directors, who made us feel so welcome and made the whole day possible.

[from Michael Chittleburgh]

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Names of God: Yahweh Rô’eh

Seven Redemptive Names: 1. Yahweh Rô’eh (יהוה רעי) (The LORD is My Shepherd)

As we continue our look at the names of God, seeking through this to draw closer to God, we come to the seven ‘redemptive’ names. These names show us not only who God is but what He does for us. Particularly, they show us that the LORD our God fills every need we can have (His love for us); and the names lead us directly to Jesus, His redemptive sacrifice and ultimate victory on our behalf (His compassion for us).

And, beautifully, Psalm 23 incorporates these redemptive names.

The first of the redemptive names is Yahweh-Rô’eh. We know that Yahweh (this series uses Yahweh, but we could as easily say Jehovah) means ‘Eternal; the Existing One” or, simply, ‘LORD.’ And Rô’eh (sometimes expressed as Roeh or Raah) means ‘shepherd.’ So quite simply and yet completely, Yahweh-Rô’eh: the LORD is my Shepherd.

We know that a shepherd knows, leads, protects and looks after his flock. We know that a flock look to the shepherd for that leadership, that care, provision and protection. This is a relationship based on trust and love through knowing each other. The shepherd, knowing his flock, loves his flock and trusts his flock to follow him – trusts the flock to recognise that he is leading them to good pasture fields; trusts the flock to feel secure and know that he will protect and defend them.

The flock knows the shepherd – trusts that he will take them to good pasture, that he will protect them and care for them; providing everything they need. And out of that trust, the flock learns to love the shepherd.

It is an interesting dynamic – the shepherd loves first; the flock learns to trust, accepts the shepherd amongst them and comes to love him.

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

True ‘Rô’eh’ – true shepherding – reveals a close relationship. It is not just farm worker and animals; aloof employer and workforce. It is a friendship. Yahweh-Rô’eh can be translated as ‘the LORD my friend’ and we see this in:

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

So when you come to God, acknowledge the intimacy of the relationship He is offering to have with you. The LORD – the Almighty, the Eternal One. He leads you, providing for all your needs. But amazingly, He is not distant. He knows you so well and He seeks deep friendship with you.

Yahweh is my Rô’eh. I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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citius, altius, fortius – Olympian Portrait

SSCB Olympian – Olympian Spirit

Timothy Pitt (fencing, men’s sabre, silver: 1987 Wenlock Olympian Games)

There are three weapon disciplines in the sport of fencing – sabre, epee and foil. Traditionally, Hungary is the leading nation in sabre and indeed this summer Áron Szilágyi (no relation to the minister’s wife) became the first person to win gold at three Olympics in a row.

A little closer to home, one member of our church family used to be a fencer and his Olympian effort secured a silver medal.

At university, there was a dedicated fencing club (it’s a wonder most of them ended up with a degree and a career) and the coach had his own minibus, so throughout their university time in the mid / late 1980s, they would travel to as many competitions as they could. One year the call went out that they were going down to Shropshire for an Open Competition. The minibus was packed up with kit, food and athletes, and off they went. Truth be told, they thought it was just another competition.

The competition was at Much Wenlock, and slowly the word came round that competition here was special – unique in fact. For Dr William Penny Brookes had introduced the Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850. Baron Pierre de Cubertin visited in 1890 and in 1896 he introduced the modern Olympic Games that we know today.

It was truly inspiring to be there at Much Wenlock, part of the Olympic story.

Our fencer even made it to the final which ended in a rare 3-way tie for 1st place. There was a three-way repechage (a ‘fence off’) for the places, and our fencer came away happy with a medal, although he had not won outright.

But he took with him not just the bronze medal, but the knowledge of the Wenlock Olympian Games, Dr Brookes and the sleepy town of Much Wenlock. He found himself sharing the extraordinary tale of the ‘original’ revived Games with anyone who would listen (and quite a few others who were subjected to ‘tales from the fencing minibus’ over the years.

There was a wry smile (and an opportunity to share more of the story) when the London 2012 Olympic Committee named one of their mascots “Wenlock.”

When our minister announced he was going to do a series on the Olympics, it was shared again. ’Nice story. Prove it,’ smiled the minister. The medal had been lost many years before by the fencer’s late mother, but the internet soon guided him to the Wenlock Olympian Society where their archivist found a new newspaper cutting that showed that he had been there, but that he had not won the bronze. He had in fact been placed 2nd equal. The three-way repechage was purely to find the gold medal winner, and as they did not have a spare silver medal someone had to be awarded the bronze even though it was equal-silver. The fencer now has a replacement medal, free membership of the Wenlock Olympian Society and yet another excuse to continue to spread the word. That’s pretty much how the Holy Spirit tends to work: to be active for someone, be with them in their story and then help them to spread the message. Timothy Pitt: Silver medal in the Men’s Sabre, 1987. Holy Spirit: Overall victory.

(Logo of Wenlock Olympian Society Bby, Fair use,

[from GV after Timothy Pitt]

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Names of God: Yahweh Elohim

Seven Prime Names: 7. Yahweh Elohim (יהוה אלהים)

We come now to the last of the seven prime names for God, and this is a combination of two names we looked at earlier. Yahweh-Elohim takes LORD (as in, the Eternal One – a name of power) and joins it with Elohim (creator, mighty, strong and supreme judge). Combined, it conveys a sense of God as mighty Lord – always there, full of power, creating and judging – but in relationship, not aloof.

We find Yahweh-Elohim first in Genesis:

This is the account of heaven and earth when they were created, at the time when Yahweh Elohim made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4)

This is a second telling of the creation. Genesis 1 is more chronological and almost academic; Genesis 2 is more poetic – but both tell the same story. And in Genesis 1, as God creates, He pronounces His judgement: “And God saw that it was good.”

The name used in Genesis 1 is ‘Elohim’ (God, Creator, Mighty, Strong and Supreme Judge) and this is appropriate for a straight recording of the events. In Genesis 1, God announces His intentions and actions (“Let the earth swarm with …” and “Let the earth produce …” etc), but the narrative does not record the interaction and conversation between God and the first humans. Genesis 2, however, is more poetic and records God addressing Adam:

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”(Genesis 2:16-17)

And it records the words of Adam, inspired by the delight of being with Eve:

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”(Genesis 2:23)

So, Genesis 2 being more personal, it is appropriate that a more personal name be used – Yahweh. But also still showing the absolute power, absolute authority of the creator, we have Elohim. Together, the Eternal nature of the One who created and, in relationship, loves His creation we have: Yahweh-Elohim – often translated as “Lord of Lords.”

God maintains this relationship with us, even as we turn away and try to do things on our own. Indeed, even turning back to God (so often calling on Him when we want Him to do something, to punish all those whom we deem to be wrong), we reflect the maintenance of that relationship. In a sense, that is why even though we must leave it to God, still we have the temerity to ask for judgement to be pronounced. If we were not in relationship with the Eternal One, the mighty power, creator and supreme judge, then would you even dare to ask Him, seeking His protection?

“You, Yahweh-Elohim, you who are the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
   show no mercy to wicked traitors.” (Psalm 59:5)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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citius, altius, fortius – Paralympic Portrait

Lilo Ljubisic – The Choice Is Yours

Lilo Ljubisic (Canada) [Athlete & Goalball Player] (Goalball, 1984 Los Angeles: Silver) (Discus, 1992 Barcelona: Gold; 1996 Atlanta: Bronze; 2000 Sydney: participant) (Shot Put, 1988 Seoul: Bronze; 1992 Barcelona: Silver; 1996 Atlanta: Bronze; 2000 Sydney: participant)

(illustration by Simon Smith, © Simon Smith 2011, used with permission

Lilo (Ljiljana) Ljubisic was born sighted in Yugoslavia, but a childhood illness and the wrong medical treatment led to increasing blindness and pain. At PE lessons she normally did not participate, rather she remained in the library. So, it was a massive surprise to her when her PE teacher, Mrs Henderson suggested to her to play volleyball. ‘But I hardly can see to hit the ball.’ Lilo replied. ‘Don’t rule yourself out because of that! You got the physique, and I noticed you are estimating distances well.’ Replied her teacher.

It seemed a crazy idea. Two weeks later, after a quick crash course in volleyball and diligent practicing, Lilo played her first game. She was serving, and only heard a thud, and then silence. ‘What happened? Where did it go?’ Lilo asked. The referee shouted: “One nothing. An ace!” Lilo continued serving, sending fifteen straight serves sailing over the net to win the game for her team!

A new life began for the teenager. Lilo’s mother always told her that God had a special plan for her life, and sport began opening doors for her. At university she took up goalball, a team sport designed for blind people, winning silver with the Canadian Paralympic team in 1984. Later she turned her attention to field athletics, to discus and shotput. Lilo was determined that her disability will not get in the way of doing her best. With coaching, guidance and support she won gold, silver, and bronze medals at various Paralympic Games, setting new world records.

Lilo rediscovered her Christian faith of her early years and was baptised.

“Faith is the basis of my life, the sustaining power to overcome adversity. In the shadowy, cold valleys, we realise we aren’t self-sustaining – and need to lean on God’s love and mercy.” (Lilo Ljubisic)

Lilo learnt through her life by the aid of sport and the grace of God that we can make a choice. We can either accept the circumstances to dominate and control our lives or we can face our challenges and overcome them with God’s grace. Lilo made the choice not to accept the limitations put upon her by her disability or by others but dream big and set gaols: “visualising your dream brings you closer to your achievement – especially in my case since I’m blind.” I wouldn’t be surprised if her approach to life is based on Hebrews 11:1:

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and being certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I personally love her advice for young people, indeed to all of us:

Frist, challenge yourself to do the best you can with the talents with which you are blessed. Second, grasp the power and strength in teamwork. No one stands alone. Find people who will support your dream and help you to make it a reality. Third, focus on what you can do, and not on what you can’t.”

So let us walk in faith not in sight, and make to choice of leaning on God’s love and mercy through Jesus Christ.

[from GV; based on ‘Who Comes First?’ by Chris Hudson]

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A Banner from Scraps

Are you a hoarder? Do you keep things, even if they are broken, or viewed by others as useless rubbish? Do you hold on to them saying the words: ‘This will be good for something later on.’ I suppose many of us are hoarders to some degree like that.

Last Sunday a new banner, or pulpit fall – if you prefer – greeted us in church. It is the handywork of Sheila. It is simple, colourful, and powerful. It is a cross, and it simply says JESUS. During early summer Sheila cleared the storage area at the balcony in the church. She came across some scrap textile materials. What Sheila saw was not rubbish that are a nuisance and should be thrown out but resource, raw material. And She envisaged a banner, the one we all can enjoy now. Something that is colourful, eye-catching, and proclaims that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.

When God looked at His creation and humanity broken and ruined by sin and evil did not say all this is good for nothing, I should get rid of them all. No, he rather came in Jesus Christ gathered the broken, the sinful, the marred, the ones who were regarded by the self-righteous as scrap, good for nothing and created something beautiful out of them! He saved them and filled His house with them and made them His people, His church to proclaim in colourful ways the victory of the cross and the saving love and power of Jesus Christ.

You cannot be so bad, so sinful, so broken that Jesus would not come and pick you up and create something beautiful, a masterpiece out of you! To me that banner proclaims not just the Lordship and saving grace of Jesus Christ, but also that there are no hopeless people or cases that God would throw away as useless scrap! He cares for all, for they are equally precious to Him. I give thanks to God that He is a hoarder, and he picked me up too! I hope the banner proclaims that message to you as well.

[from GV]

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Back to Church

The coronavirus pandemic hit us all suddenly, deeply and for such a long time. We realise that COVID-19 will not go away completely and in the last 18 months or so we have gradually learned how to live with it. This does not mean we accept it, but that we have adapted our lifestyle to protect ourselves and others from infection.

As part of nation-wide measures protecting our church family and the wider community we closed our church doors during lockdowns, and we are prepared to do so again if necessary. However, as restrictions have eased and the vaccination programme has progressed, we are delighted that our doors are open and we can welcome people in person to the church for prayer and worship.

As Scotland moved beyond Level 0 we have seen how people are making most of the opportunity to meet up with family, go out with friends to restaurants, spend time together outdoors and even support their sports team in person in a stadium. It is good to see ‘normality’ returning.

At Kirk Session, we discussed the implications of being beyond Level 0 and the possible further easing of restrictions at the end of August. We are grateful that technology was such a great help to keep us connected and enable us to share in worship. With more safe space available in church, we now approach the time when we can end our zoom services and encourage our church family to return to church.

The church, by definition, is the people whom God called out, gathered, and assembled as His people. So we want to encourage you to return to church. We very much long to see everybody back to worship, sing, share, and laugh together. Last weekend I watched the Match of the Day programme and saw thousands of football fans returning to the stadiums cheering on their teams, singing together and (at least those whose teams won) having fun. They were no longer satisfied watching the games online or on TV; they wanted to be back to feel the atmosphere, to sing the chants, to be part of it, even if that is more expensive than watching on TV! I pray we have the same longing and desire to be back together sharing in our experience of Jesus, His love – sensing and feeling the Holy Spirit moving among us.

The measures we retain in place ensure that our church building is a safe place for all of us to meet and to enjoy fellowship with each other.

On Sunday 5 September we will stop the zoom sharing of our services. It will be our Back to Church Sunday, if you like. It will be a significant Sunday with, we pray and hope, our praise band resuming their music and worship ministry. It will be the induction service of our new Youth Pastor, Kenny McCartney. We encourage you and invite you to come back to church to celebrate and worship together.

“Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”” (Isaiah 2:3)

[from GV, minister, & Timothy Pitt, session clerk]

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The Feast of St Stephen and New Bread

The 20th of August might not be a significant date in Scotland, or in the UK but for Hungarians it is a very important date. Here it is why.

The 20th of August is St Stephen’s Day in Hungary, the feast of the nation’s first Christian king. Traditionally the first baking from the freshly harvested wheat happened on or after St Stephen’s Day. Throughout the centuries the date became strongly associated with the establishing of the Christian Kingdom of Hungary and New Bread, and harvest thanksgiving.

We don’t know details of the circumstances of his conversion, but it seems that King Stephen firmly believed that if there is going to be survival for his nation and state in Europe that is possible only under the cross of Jesus Christ. One might say that he tasted and saw that the LORD was good and blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8). Jesus was the bread of life for him, and he offered that bread to his nation. He personally took refuge in the Lord and brought his people to Him to seek refuge and life eternal in Jesus Christ. Jesus said that His is the living bread that came down from heaven, and whoever eats of this bread will live for ever (John 6:51).

We might take it for granted that we have bread on our table, new or old, we might find it normal that we personally have a Christian heritage, confessing ourselves Christians and are part of the church. However, take a moment and give thanks for those who introduced you to Jesus as Saviour and Lord, who offered you a taste of the living bread He is. And while you are it, give thanks for those who brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these shores! Give thanks to the living Lord Jesus that he is the Bread of Life, and He freely offers himself and his forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who come to him and believe in him.

I’m not inviting you to celebrate St Stephen’s Day, or New Bread, but I am inviting you to come to taste and see that the Lord is good and give thanks to Him for the forgiveness and the life he offers you. And I am inviting you to share the Living Bread with others, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, forgiveness and hope!

[from GV]

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back to school

A brief reflection on Psalm 121

The new school year just begun for most of our children, their families, teachers, and school staff. I don’t know how you fell about it. Is it with excitement, trepidation, or maybe indifference?

As a child, I wasn’t keen on going back to school, I preferred the holidays. But as we were back in the classroom, I enjoyed seeing my friends and made peace with being back to school.

What will the new school year bring? Will it be “back to normal” I suppose is the question in our minds. Is it going to be classroom learning, online, or a hybrid of them, or maybe home schooling? Will it bring more stress and uncertainty to children, teachers, and families? How will it affect their wellbeing? Will we be able to cope with it all?

I don’t know the answers to those questions either. I can’t see into the future either. But I want to offer you this encouragement I read this morning in my quiet time. It was Psalm 121. It is one of my favourite psalms – it is short, concise, and powerful.

It is a song of ascents – a song sang by the pilgrims as they were going up (ascdending) to the temple in Jerusalem, often on treacherous paths. The psalmist couldn’t see what is awaiting him ahead, or in the future either, but he knew where his help will come from! His help comes from the LORD (notice the present tense – the ever-present God is always ready and willing)! He knew and trusted God’s faithfulness that He is watching over him day and night, indeed over his whole life.

As we don’t know what is ahead of us during the day, or the night, never mind a school year, put your trust in God who is faithful watching over you. He cares for you that you will complete the journey of life safely: “He will not let your foot slip.” This reminds me how comforting and secure it was to know my dad was holding my hand all the way when I went to school for the first time! I didn’t know the way to the school, or what it is going to be like, large or small, how many classrooms, who will be my teacher, or how many teachers and pupils will be there. So many uncertainties. But one thing was sure, my dad was there beside me, and I felt really safe and happy in my dad’s hand!

God demonstrated His love for us by giving His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for our salvation. Entrust into His unfailing love yourself, your family and children, their teachers, and school staff that the Lord, for Jesus’ sake, will watch over you all, will keep you from all harm. He will hold you all the way, making sure you will complete this part of your lives’ journey we call school year 2021-2022 safely and well. May His life assuring blessing be upon you!

[from GV]

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Names of God: El Gibbor

Seven Prime Names: 6. El Gibbor (אל גּבּוֹר)

As we continue to look at the names of God and to draw closer to God through the process, we come now to a name that is both explosive and dramatic, filled with hope and promise. For through this Old Testament Hebrew name, we are introduced to Jesus.

Again, the name reminds us of God’s strength and might. Gibbor means just that: strong or mighty. And ‘El’ is Yahweh that we encountered earlier – Eternal God. So in El-Gibbor we have an Eternal God who is strong and mighty. In El-Gibbor we encounter Mighty God. Isaiah spoke directly and prophetically of this:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

We know this is Jesus – to us a child is born, and the reference is also clear that Jesus IS God because He is called Mighty God (El-Gibbor) and Everlasting Father (Yahweh, the Eternal One). In fact, Isaiah continues this in the succeeding verses, expanding on his reference to El-Gibbor, and writing of the final rescue of the Lord’s people, saying:

A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob
    will return to El-
Gibbor. (Isaiah 10:21)

This is God the Father and this is God the Son – one and (along with the Holy Spirit) the same. Jesus is described as having the same characteristics as God, the same Holy names as God. And God tells us that:

Remember the former things, those of long ago;
    I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me. (Isaiah 46:9)

So with Jesus having the same characteristics, being the same as God, and with God saying there is nobody else like Him … Jesus IS God: El-Gibbor, our Mighty God. He is our champion – quite simply, He wins. Always. Jeremiah understood this:

‘Ah, Sovereign LORD, you made heaven and earth by your great strength and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you. You show mercy to thousands of generations. However, you punish children for the wickedness of their parents. You, El-Gibbor, you are the LORD Almighty. (Jeremiah 32:17-18)

Jesus came amongst us and won the victory over the Enemy, death and sin. When He returns, Revelation tells us that:

A sharp sword comes out of his mouth to defeat the nations. He will rule them with an iron sceptre and tread the winepress of the fierce anger of El-Gibbor. (Revelation 19:15)

So give voice in praise to our God, strong and mighty, our Messiah. We see God the Father strong and mighty: triumphant. And in Him, we see Jesus mighty and strong: victorious.

Who is this King of glory? El-Gibbor strong and mighty! The LORD, heroic in battle! (Psalm 24:8)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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citius, altius, fortius – Paralympic Reflection

Paralympic Games

Dr Ludwig Guttmann – illustration by Simon Smith, © Simon Smith 2011, used with permission

The Tokyo Summer Olympic Games 2020 are over, but new competitions and excitements are still ahead of us, the Paralympic Games will begin next week in Tokyo.

To my shame, I must confess, for many years I did not know that there were Paralympic Games! It was about fifteen years ago when I became aware of it. The grandparents of one of the Scottish Paralympians were very active members of the church I ministered to in Helensburgh. I got to know about Paralympics through them. Their grandson, Gordon Reid, is a wheelchair tennis player, British Number One, multiple Grand Slam champion in singles and doubles and Paralympic Gold medallist (Rio 2016), a lovely, genuine lad.

But Paralympics have been around for quite a while! In 1948, as London was getting ready to host the first Summer Olympics after the war, Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who was working at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, helping people with spinal injuries, had an idea. Many of his patients were seriously injured ex-servicemen. Many doctors thought there was nothing more that could be done for them. Dr Guttmann did not share their thinking!

He saw sports and games as an excellent encouragement to help people regain their self-confidence after suffering terrible injuries – so why should they not have their own sports competitions as part of the treatment? They tried wheelchair polo, basketball, archery … and it worked! Competition was fun, exciting, smiles reappeared on many faces, and patients were looking forward with hope and purpose to life ahead! Sports gave them a new zest for life!

So, Dr Guttmann arranged for Stoke Mandeville to host its own Olympics with other hospitals at the same time as the London Games – with sports designed for wheelchair users. Four years later (1952) they did it again, with more than 130 competitors, a Dutch team being among them. The idea grew with every Olympic Games. By 1960 it was called the Paralympics (Parallel Olympics), and it was held in Rome with 400 athletes from 23 countries. By 1976 there was a Winter Paralympic competition too! The number of events just grew involving more and more people with various disabilities. On 24th August 3492 athletes representing 133 National Paralympic Committees will begin competing in Tokyo!

The Paralympics are a little like the great feast, Jesus talked about in his parable describing the Kingdom of God (Luke 14:15-24). God invites all with their strengths and weaknesses, their abilities of different levels to come into his Kingdom through Jesus Christ, where they all can shine and be victorious over sin, evil, temptations and darkness, because it is not their merits, or the level of abilities that make them qualify for the feast, it is their personal faith in Jesus Christ, who died to redeem them from their sins! He is inviting you into His Kingdom to share in His feast! You can come, qualify, through Christ. Have you accepted Him as your Saviour?

[from GV – based on ‘Who Comes First?’ by Chris Hudson]

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Names of God: El Elohim

Seven Prime Names: 5. El Elohim (אל אלהים)

In our look at the different names of God (what they mean, how they can draw us closer to Him in relationship) we come now to El Elohim (or just ‘Elohim’) – God the creator (but more than that, as we shall see). Elohim is the first name for God used in the Bible and in fact is the fourth word:

In the beginning Elohim created heaven and earth. (Genesis 1:1)

Elohim means ‘creator, mighty, strong and supreme judge’ which is appropriate when talking about the One who made everything. We cannot imagine the effort required, but for God it was not an effort as He is ‘mighty and strong.’ And He made it ‘right’ – correct and just.

Elohim is linked to Eloha (mighty, strong, prominent, with compassion and integrity), that we looked at last time. It is the plural of Eloha and this has been seen as an early (the fourth word of the Bible, remember!) acknowledgement of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. After all, both Jesus and the Holy Spirit were there:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:1 and 1:14)

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:2)

Elohim is a collective plural and ranges alongside Eloah, Elohi and then Elohim itself. It is similar to flower, flowers and (for Elohim) bouquet of flowers – we talk of a bouquet as ‘singular, but it refers to the plural because when there is only one flower there cannot be a ‘bouquet.’ In the same way, Elohim is singular but referring to the plural: Father, Son and Holy Spirit is ‘God’ – three in one. And as ‘judge’ He has power to dispense justice and make it part of our very being:

“But this is the promise that I will make to Israel after those days,” declares God: “I will put my teachings inside them, and I will write those teachings on their hearts. I will be their Elohim, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

When Jesus was on the cross, crying out to His Father, he could have chosen so many ways of addressing Him: Yahweh as the Eternal One; Adonai as Lord or El Shaddai as God Almighty, to name but three. We miss a lot reading the English:

And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’) (Mark 15:34) 

Eloi (‘My God’) is the vocative of Elohim and shows Jesus calling upon His personal God and recognising God for who God is: ‘My God, Creator, Mighty, Strong and Supreme Judge.’ Jesus, dying for our sins, received judgement (the wages of sin is death) which in turn showed compassion on us.

Help me, O LORD my Elohim. Save me because of your mercy. (Psalm 109:26)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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Is it Getting Hot Under the Collar?

– An Eco Reflection –

The publication this week of the UN IPCC report  on global warming and climate change will have caused many of us to stop and think. The conclusions make it clear that human behaviour has caused global warming and urgent action is needed. Issues of caring for God’s creation and climate justice were starkly brought to light through the contents of the report.

Like me, you may be thinking, what can we as Christians, do to respond to the findings? Here are some thoughts:


Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
We know that the Lord hears and responds to prayer.

Keep the climate crisis in your prayers every week- pray for global action and a willingness among nations to work together to tackle this problem. Also pray for a desire to take individual and local action in the UK, in Scotland and in our church family.

If you find yourself suffering from eco anxiety or find the climate crisis overwhelming, put it to the Lord. He knows what you need and will faithfully listen. No prayer is too small and no cry for help ignored.

Pray for COP26 taking place in Glasgow in November and join churches and Christians around the world uplifting that conference in prayer. 

Educate yourself

Investigate responses from well-known environmental and Christian organisations and do not lose heart- there is still time to take action and that time is now.
Have a look at a summary of the IPCC report’s findings (like this one) and Christian environmental resources such as TearfundOperation Noah Less Waste Laura or Ruth Valerio.

Consider your own actions

Calculate your carbon footprint, buy less, shop locally, invest in and use green energy, turn your heating down, buy second hand – there are lots of things individuals can do to respond to the climate crisis!

Over the next few weeks and months, the new environmental group at SSCB (All things Eco) will be signposting small actions individuals can take to make a difference.

Participate in wider action

Climate change is a national and global issue and ultimately will need a global response to fully tackle it.

Join a campaign run by Christian Aid or Tearfund or write to your MP/MSP.
At a church level, our eco group would love your support – come along to our next meeting on 23 August, join our email list or pray for us.

As a church, we will be hosting two environment services on 3rd and 10th October where the Christian response to these global issues will be covered.

Do not lose hope

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2). As Christians, our hope is not in this world but in Jesus Christ. Keep focused on the big picture whilst still using your time and talents to care for God’s creation and those suffering due to climate injustice.

[from Emma D]

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citius, altius, fortius – Olympic Reflection 6.


Olympic Volunteers, London Olympics 2012

If you were fortunate to be at one of the Olympic Games that is a real privilege. The whole experience to share with thousands of others the successes of athletes, cheering them on, or sharing your sorrows with others over those that lost is indeed once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I had that privilege in 2012, in London!

Besides the thousands of athletes the success of the Games is due to the very sizable (over 70,000 general, and some 16,000 specialist) volunteers, the Game Makers!

A cheery lot of all ages, ethnic groups, genders, and nationalities. They were the ones that greeted you with a huge smile as soon as you got off the train in London and guided you along the way to the Olympic venues.  They were on duty for eight hours a day, and many of them have done much longer shifts than that.  They were always cheerful, and helpful, although sometimes not necessarily knowledgeable, but there was always someone around that actually knew the answer to your enquiry.  They were just as happy looking, although exhausted at 11:00pm at night as they were at the beginning of the day, thanking you for your visit and wishing you a safe journey home.  They were happy to pose for a photograph and share a song or a joke.  They were fantastic!  I imagine they are the same at each Olympic Games. They deserve to have an Olympic Portrait, for they were the ones that hold the Games together, sustaine the carnival feel of the events.

The legacy of the Games is often mentioned around the Olympics, and many are wondering what that legacy might be.  I hope that part of that legacy will be the spirit of the Volunteers.  Not all of us are athletic, competitive, or outstanding. But we all can be kind, helpful, and supportive. Whatever we might do we should do it with a cheerful spirit, with a smile, with an effort to make someone else’s day.  After all Christians have the Good News to share with others to make their day, even beyond that, to make their LIFE.  Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…” (Colossians 3:23)

In the church, by the way, we are all volunteers!  We all are Game Makers, Church Makers! I want to thank you all that are volunteering, participating in the life of the church.  Often your activities are not in the limelight, sometimes you must be there early, well before everyone else arrives to set things up; and now and then you have to stay behind after everyone else has gone home to clean up; or assemble, deliver, meet, lead, plan, remind, teach, pray, support, and organise.  And perhaps someone else gets the praise, while behind the scenes your work and smile were essential for that achievement, or success! The amazing thing is that I can’t remember the races, the scores of the games I have attended at the London Olympics nine years ago, but I remember how the volunteers made me feel, welcomed, safe and happy! For many who come to church your smile, kind word, the fact that you listened to them, spoke to them, or prayed with them will mean far more than the sermon! For they met Jesus in a very real way in you!

I want to thank you all members, volunteers, Church Makers of SSCB for your smiles, helpfulness, dedication, and patience in everything that you do to make this church a friendly place, a happy place, a family of God’s people. As we are slowly moving out of the COVID Pandemic this is particularly important.

THANK YOU!  Without you it is not possible!  And we know the Games for us as Christians are not over, we need to keep on smiling, helping, caring, loving, and volunteering doing God’s work for His glory and for His people.  So take the legacy, and make this church His church, and our church!

[from GV]

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citius, altius, fortius – Olympic Reflection 5

Closing Ceremony

“All is well when ends well” – they say. There is much truth in it. If an event or project ends well, all the effort, all the hard work, and discipline were worthwhile, and we all can celebrate.

The 32nd Olympic Games will end on Sunday, 8 August in Tokyo. It was a strange event in strange times, but it was a great event, it is worth to be celebrated.

Pierre de Coubertin reinvented the Olympic games in the 19th century with the purpose to increase friendly understanding among nations. Sadly, it did not work out that way, due to human sinfulness, cheating, and arguments.

The 16th Olympic Games took place in Melbourne, Australia in 1956. Although it was a very successful event, at the end there were quite a number of people and nations who were left with much bitterness, anger, and resentment.

The water polo final between Hungary and the Soviet Union was later renamed ‘Bloodbath of Melbourne’. It was a hostile match because a few months earlier in 1956 the Soviet Army quenched the Hungarian Revolution, killing some 2000 people, and imprisoning many more! Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon refused to compete because Egypt had been invaded by Britain, France, and Israel (The Suez Canal Crisis). The Chinese government were unhappy about Taiwan taking part. It looked like not all will be well at the end.

But something that was not planned by the organisers, has happened. A seventeen-year-old Chinese boy, living in Australia, John Ian Wing, wrote a letter to one of the organisers.

He did not sign the letter, for being afraid getting his parents into trouble. His suggestion impressed the organisers, and they rearranged the closing ceremony. John suggested that the athletes should not march in their national teams with their flags at the closing ceremony, continuing to highlight division, rather they should just walk mixing together as fellow athletes, becoming ONE NATION. “War, politics, and nationality will be all forgotten. What more could anybody want…” wrote John.

So that’s what happened and happens since at closing ceremonies.

However, this hasn’t stopped countries and nations from fighting each other. But the closing ceremony gives a hint of how things should really be.

The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians:

“You are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ… There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Paul testifies to the power of God’s love that can drive out pride, anger, and hatred. Through Christ people can reconcile to each other and live a new life in union with Christ and one another. We are all children of our Heavenly Father. We need to begin to behave and act like that!

[from GV, based on ‘Who Comes First?’ by Chris Hudson]

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COVID-19 Update

The First Minister has announced that COVID-19 restrictions in Scotland will move beyond Level 0 on Monday 9th August. She emphasised that the virus is still a threat and that care still needs to be taken. What does the statement mean to us regarding our worship and use of the church building?

Physical Distancing

While the law will not stipulate physical distancing, from 9th August the public is advised to maintain a safe distance from people of other households, particularly indoors, to minimise risk. It would therefore be possible to offer seating arrangements without restrictions, but it seems more reassuring to keep to the present 1 metre distancing in the church. We are also therefore following the guidelines of the Church of Scotland.

Face Coverings

Wearing face coverings indoors will continue to be the law, subject to existing exemptions, as is the case now. This means we need to wear our face coverings in church, even during singing. At coffee time, though, we can remove them.

Continuing Good Practice

We offer re-assurance to everyone that we will continue to manage the high standard of cleaning and disinfecting regimes, hand hygiene, and good ventilation. We will also continue maintaining our Risk Assessments, and Track and Trace procedures.

Looking Ahead

We understand that there are due to be further changes in Government regulations and guidance published on 30th August. In our response to those changes, we will continue to comply with Government guidelines and the advice from both the Church of Scotland and Edinburgh Presbytery.

In Short:

  • We are open as usual and welcome all (if you have any of the COVID symptoms please stay in isolation though!);
  • Physical distancing in church remains 1 metre between households;
  • Face coverings must be worn in church;
  • Hand hygiene, high standard of cleaning, and ventilation continues to be the norm;
  • Please continue to uphold these standards for the safety of everyone, even if it is not required by the law.

We very much appreciate your understanding and patience in these matters. We know how tiring this is for everyone. We continue asking you for your support and prayers not just for us as a church family but for all in the land, leaders, front line workers, young and old.

Lord, by such things people live;
    and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
    and let me live.
(Isaiah 38:16)

[from GV, minister, and Timothy Pitt, Session Clerk]

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REVIVAL – Think Small!

Revival /rɪˈvʌɪv(ə)l/ – a reawakening of religious fervour, especially by means of evangelistic meetings.

When we hear about revival, we usually think of it as the definition above describes it. We think big! Some powerful big meetings with good enthusiastic speakers, and convincing evangelistic message. To suggest otherwise seems defeatist. Or is it?

The story is told about Gypsy Smith (Rodney “Gipsy” Smith MBE (1860 – 1947), British evangelist, active for over 70 years in the USA and UK.) that he was asked how to start a revival, how to pray for it. Gypsy Smith answered, “take a piece of chalk, and draw a circle on the ground around yourself and start praying for revival for everything that is within the circle!”

Think small, rather than big. Start revival with yourself! Ask the Lord Jesus to send His Holy Spirit to you, so He, the Holy Spirit, will begin His transforming ministry in your life, shaping your thinking, your attitude, your actions to be like that of Christ’s, so Christ will shine through everything you say, do, or think.

That’s exactly how Jesus began the revival that became the church! On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit c