During the current cessation of regular Sunday Morning Worship Our Minister, Rev Rae Clark will prepare on each Sunday an act of worship which can be followed on this web-page.
This will continue for the foreseeable future
Clackmannan Parish Church of Scotland
Sunday 28th June 2020
Into a New Land
Week 3 of 4:
It feels so different!
Welcome, to all who are longing for change.
Welcome, to all who are searching for more.
Welcome, to all who are only just holding on.
to all who are resting in the knowledge that they have found
a place of peace and sanctuary;
a place of healing and hope;
a place of wonder and awe;
a place of love.
A place where God already is.
For God is here:
in the moment that you are in, right now,
and in the place where you are, right now.
Come, draw near to God,
for He is waiting for you, right here, right now.
Eternal and almighty God,
Your beauty, goodness, grace and mercy are all beyond our grasp,
yet we know the delight and peace of being welcome in your presence.
Your holiness tells powerfully of your inability to tolerate sin,
yet we find you choosing to love us unconditionally.
even though our lives are steeped in sin - the very thing that offends you so deeply.
We wonder at the welcome we receive from you, Father God.
We wonder at reality of hands that felt the pain of crucifixion
being tenderly stretched out towards us, in an act of love and healing.
We wonder at the tension between your holiness and our sinfulness,
and we hear you say we are not only welcome, but precious to you.
And we can do nothing but bow humbly before you,
declare our need of you and our desire for you,
and confess all that would keep us from you,
if you had not promised to forgive us
because of Jesus and all he did for us.
Lord, today I ask you to forgive me for …
Thank you for your mercy and grace, Lord.
As I worship today,
along with the church that is scattered far and wide,
please help me to recognise your voice and your guidance,
for I ask this in the name of Jesus,
who taught us to pray in this way:
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the glory,
From God’s word …
We have the real privilege of reading God’s word as we worship. Take plenty of time here – time to read; to reflect; to wait and see how Holy Spirit prompts you to notice something; to let yourself explore how God might be revealing Himself and His mission….
Let’s do that together as we turn now to our bible passage for today and read Joshua, chapter 13, from verses 1-7.
When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, ‘You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.
2 ‘This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, 3 from the River Shihor on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites 4 on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; 5 the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath.
6 ‘As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, 7 and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.’
(Joshua 13:1-7, NIVUK translation)
For our current series, we have been reading in the Old testament Book of Joshua. We started out by recognising that God was leading His people into the new reality that He had promised to their ancestors. After the exodus from Egypt, and a long time in the wilderness God’s chosen people were now ready to enter the Promised Land. They were about to have their hopes and dreams fulfilled. Or so they thought. Moses had stood on top of Mount Nebo and the Lord had shown him the whole of the Promised Land, before telling him “I have let you see it with your eyes, but I will not let you cross over into it” (Deut. 34:1-4). Joshua, who had been with Moses, the great leader and servant of God, was appointed by God to assume that role after Moses died.
We can only try to guess what was going on in Joshua’s mind at that point but, as we continued our readings, what we saw for sure is that Joshua obeyed God. Joshua took up the mantle and led God’s people across the Jordan and into the land of milk and honey that they had been promised by God and had longed for. Yet, the first twelve chapters of Joshua have shown us that Joshua did more than act as a navigator, for he also led God’s people in carrying out God’s instructions, even when those instructions seemed to be very strange. Who would guess that an army marching around a city, trumpets blasting and loud cries from the army would be enough to cause that city’s walls to crumble? Yet Joshua and the people carried out God’s instructions precisely – and the walls gave way. God’s strange methods achieved the exact result that He desired. The city fell, and God’s people were triumphant.
That victory seemed right, somehow, but then we read on, and we saw that the victors completed their take-over of the city by destroying every living thing in the fallen city, except the family of Rahab who had previously protected and assisted the spies who had been sent by Joshua to assess it ahead of the attack. That act of destroying life within the captured city certainly raised questions for us, but perhaps God’s strange methods took more of our attention. But then we read on again, and as the territories of this Promised Land lands were taken one by one, it became clear that the complete annihilation of life to make way for God’s people was done on God’s instructions.
That was much harder to read, let alone understand. For it seems to go against the grain of everything that we know and believe about God, for our God is love – John tells us that in his first epistle (1 John 4:8). With our view and understanding of God firmly rooted in this truth we struggle to even contemplate how God could demand the destruction of life. We find ourselves asking, if God is love how can it be loving to destroy life, particularly innocent life? How can God, who is love, inflict such violence? Is he actually just a vengeful old tyrant who cares nothing for people? We ask these sorts of questions because we are suddenly confronted with realities about God that take us way out of our comfort zone. Love, compassion, grace and mercy – yes, we get and value those attributes. But how do those fit with the violence we read of in the book of Joshua? How do they fit with a God who instructs his people to destroy other living things?
Perhaps one of the things that can help us with those sorts of questions is to take time to explore some of the reasons why God gave such instructions to Joshua and His chosen people. A very brief, and incomplete summary, might go something like this:
God wanted His people to receive and experience all that He had promised them.
God’s people were being led into a new environment where they could live and flourish.
There were things in that new environment that did not honour and submit to God.
God cannot tolerate or ignore sin.
God was not prepared to allow those things to survive and inflict damage on His people.
God acted to destroy all that could damage His people.
God did all of this because of His love for His people.
God did not separate Himself from the pain and suffering caused by sin.
That is by no means an exhaustive list, but it offers some helpful statements to guide us as we wrestle with our responses. Exploring these statements can help us to recognise the faithful continuity between the God we see in Joshua and the God we worship today. We begin to recognise that there is no disconnect, especially when we are able to consider what God was doing for His people in light of what we know He has done for us through the Cross.
Let’s read that list of statements again.
God wants us to receive the forgiveness and new life He has promised.
God’s forgiveness transforms us and makes us new – we can flourish in our new environment.
There is an ongoing struggle for each of us regarding temptation and sin.
God cannot tolerate or ignore sin.
Holy Spirit continually works to challenge us and enable us to grow as disciples of Jesus.
God acted to destroy, once and for all, everything that would separate us from Him.
God revealed His love through Jesus.
God was fully present in the suffering and pain that was involved in defeating sin through the Cross.
When we begin to read and explore the book of Joshua, and many other biblical texts, in light of what God has done and made possible through Jesus’ sacrifice, then we need to pause and take what might be called ‘baby steps’ towards gaining a fuller understanding and experience of God. In taking those baby steps our initial reactions may well be challenged and shaped in new ways as we begin to see connections between what God did then and what He does now. Our struggles may well take on new intensity as we begin to explore the continuity and faithfulness of how God always works for the good of His people. We may well begin to grow as disciples, because we start to ask what God needs to conquer in our lives right now.
As we take those baby steps – steps which often make us feel uneasy or even vulnerable – we can be sure of a great deal. We can be sure that God is with us, and that His instruction to Joshua not to be afraid but courageous is applicable to us also. We can be sure that just as the Lord fought for His people then his declaration in Joshua 13:6 that He Himself “will drive them out before the Israelites” is a promise that He still goes before us to prepare the way for us to know and draw close to Him. We can be sure that John, who told us God is love, is also correct in saying that “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). With those truths guiding our questions, struggles and responses we can face the complexities of life, no matter what those involve, by holding fast to a faithful, eternally unchanging God.
We can see that the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. We can see that the God of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament. A loving, Mighty Warrior who will do all that is required to annihilate the sin and evil that attempts to destroy His people.
Even to the point of death, so that complete victory is assured.
Please pray with me.
Faithful, loving God,
We sometimes forget that you are a Mighty Warrior.
A Warrior who will go to any length necessary
to save your people from the evil of sin.
Expand the limited understanding we have of you right now,
so that we may discover in you
the full reality of pure love and justice and mercy.
For we ask this in Jesus’ name,
Let’s now take time to pause and think about what we will offer God today.
Will we make our offering of money only because we feel we have plenty?
God provided all that we need and all that creates our ‘plenty’!
Will we work out how much we have in excess of our basic needs – then only give a very small portion of that excess?
God knows our needs and our motivations for giving!
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:24)
When we know the overflowing blessing of God, we are rich beyond measure. Whatever we decide to give, whether that is money or time or other resources and gifts, we give we can do it knowing that our generosity will itself be blessed and used by God.
So, let’s pray together:
bless and use all that we give, so that your kingdom may come!
And our prayers…
We want others to know God’s blessing and we want them to know God’s love, compassion, grace and mercy. We may not be able to change their reality and meet all of their needs… but God can! We may not know exactly how all things work for good or evil…but God does!
So, as those who declare that we trust and follow Jesus, let’s humbly come to our Heavenly Father and pray about the people and situations that make us feel joy or concern or sorrow, trusting that He will answer our prayers according to His will and wisdom.
You are a good God all the time,
and all the time You are good!
Your goodness, grace and mercy,
bring us faith, hope and life,
and we praise you Lord!
We praise you, and we thank you!
In our hearts and minds
there are things that drive us to our knees in prayer today, Lord.
Things that bring joy and wonder to our lives and the lives of others,
and things that bring concern, uncertainty or even fear.
Jesus tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God,
so we choose to pray now with that as our focus.
We give thanks for the many ways you bless your people,
and we choose to trust you will meet our needs.
Lord, I am especially thankful for…
When we cannot understand your ways,
we choose to trust that you are working to fulfil your plan.
Lord, hear the prayers that arise from our struggles.
When we are confronted by suffering,
we choose to trust that you are present, active and bringing hope.
Lord, hear the prayers that arise from our concerns for others.
I am concerned about…
When we consider the mission and purpose of the church,
we choose to trust that you are at work in and through her.
Lord, hear the prayers that arise from our awareness of the church.
I pray about…
This week, Lord, we have seen yet more tension and violence in our world.
Sometimes far away, sometimes much closer to home.
People pleading to be seen and valued.
People subjected to harm as they do their job.
People ignoring advice that would keep them and others safe.
hear the prayers that arise from our desire for your justice and compassion to be known
in this world…
in our communities…
in my heart…
for we ask this in Jesus’ name,
Gathered in a building or scattered to our various homes, we worship together as one church – because Holy Spirit draws us into relationship with God and holds us together in His love.
We may not always recognise or understand God’s ways.
But there is one truth that we never need to question.
Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose to life for our sakes.
So as one church,
go into all of the encounters that will be found in the week ahead
choosing to share that truth,
in word and in deed.
The blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Be with you and those you love,
Now and always,
Remember that you are welcome to get in touch with me at any time, either just to chat and share concerns or good news, or to ask for help. Call me on 01259 211255 or 07824 505211, or if you prefer you can email me (RClark@churchofscotland.org.uk). If I am not available, please leave a message and I will contact you as soon as I can.
Many of you have been in touch with me to say how helpful it is for you to be able to worship in this way just now. Thank you for your encouragement and kind comments.
Some people have also asked for copies of ‘Sunday Worship’ to be emailed to them so that they can share it with others who do not have access to our church website.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to be added to the distribution list.
Follow previous weeks services