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On Sunday morning at Stonehaven Baptist Church, our pastor, Nathan, continued his series on the early chapters of the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible. The focus this week was on the author, the apostle John. His visionary encounter with the risen Lord, Jesus Christ was presented to his readers to help them realise more fully who it was that they had come to know, when they believed and trusted in the one who once died, rose again and now lives for evermore. He is the Son of Man – one of us...and the Lamb of God – who takes away the sins of the world... and the Lion of the tribe of Judah – the sovereign King of Kings.

John had known much suffering for his witness to Jesus Christ. Both he and his brother James had left all at the Sea of Galilee to follow Jesus. They had prayed with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, before His crucifixion. John’s brother had been killed by Herod, in the first wave of persecution of the Church. Now, years later he was exiled to the prison island of Patmos by the Roman authorities, for his faithful witness to Jesus and his determination to worship Him in accordance with the pattern of the New Testament, whatever men might say. His life was re-ordered by the Resurrection. So to John, the spiritual discipline of centring his life on Jesus was his “reasonable service”. It was while he was in the Spirit that he received the images of this visionary book of Revelation, and its existence is a testimony to John’s faithful witness of all that he saw.

John’s vision and testimony can help Christians and warn the world of the reality of Christ’s rule in heaven and on earth.

Stonehaven Baptist Church Sunday services are at 11 am at Carronhill School. For more details visit stonehavenbaptist.org, email stonehavenbaptist@gmail.com or call 01569 765097. The Friday night zone club recommences on Friday, April 22, 7.15pm - 8.30pm at Carronhill School.

Stonehaven South Church linked with Dunnottar

It was a great Sunday for well-known hymns, and guest organist Dr Albert Bil surprised everyone with a wonderful rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ to celebrate the monarch’s upcoming birthday. A flock of sheep, featuring Aggie and her family of eight, kept Kids’ Praise busy this week, as the children helped Aggie to find all her missing lambs.

This effective pastoral metaphor depicted to the children that they, like the lambs are all unique, and yet are all known individually to their father, our God in heaven.Sheep continued to play a significant part in the service in our sermon based on the text of John, Ch 10, vs 22-30. It is so important that we listen for the word of God without imposing our own interpretation. Likewise, when He asks that His sheep be fed, he does not mean merely physically but, more essentially, spiritually nourished. What matters most of all, is our own relationship with Him, respecting and honouring His belief in us.

So, whether we are in a church, at home or out and about, through good times and hard times, we can maintain a strong and loving relationship.

It’s Communion on Sunday, with three options: Morning 10.30am at Dunnottar; afternoon 2.30pm at St Bridget’s; evening 6.30pm at the South. Take your pick or try all three. April 20: Rainbow Whist at St Bridget’s; April 21, fellowship coffee at St Bridget’s am; craft group 2-4pm South Conservatory.

Kilwhang Ringers coffee morning and performance at St Bridget’s Hall on Saturday, May 7, 10am-12pm. Tickets £3 and £1. Granite City Brass is giving an evening concert at Dunnottar Church on Saturday, May 14. Tickets £5, £2.

St James

Anne began the 10.30am service with the announcements about forthcoming events. Next Sunday (April 24) Bishop Nigel will be visiting to lead and preach at the 10.30am service. The Bishop has asked us to announce that there will be a special Ascension Day Service for the north of the diocese on Thursday, May 5, at Brechin Cathedral. The service will be led by the Bishop and the preacher will be the Rev Roderick Grahame, Minister of Brechin Cathedral.

A further announcement is about our celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday on June 12. We are planning to celebrate this with Songs of Praise at 10.30am, and to this end there is a box on the table at the west end of the church for folk to list their favourite hymns or songs that they would like to be included on this special day.

Meanwhile, Anne and David Fleming will be meeting to plan a suitable service that is intended to be a joyful occasion – and of course, there will be a cake and all the trimmings afterwards!

In her address, Anne preached on the reading from the Gospel of John.

This is just a snippet from a chapter that swings from the words of Jesus – describing Himself as the Good Shepherd and what the characteristics are that make Him a good shepherd, to the out-and-out row with the folk described as ‘the Jews’ – probably the members of the ruling party, the Sanhedrin – as they utterly reject Jesus’s claims – and Jesus has to cross the Jordan to the place where He was baptised – Beth-a-bara – to escape his persecutors and go to where he was accepted and believed. But the reading is special. It contrasts what the Jews believe about the Temple – and what they show forth in their lives. It’s like this: “It was winter.” Now we all have winters we can point to as a terrible time – either because of the weather, or shortages, or power outages or whatever.

Or, in some cases, events that make a particular winter particularly awful – floods, isolation because of storms – or the death of a beloved family member. But John says simply “It was winter”. At that time it was the Festival of the Dedication.

This was an annual festival that took place – and still takes place in Jewish families – in winter. The festival of Hannukah. It celebrates the liberation of Jerusalem and the temple from the Syrian king Antiochus. This king had desecrated the temple and built an altar to Zeus and sacrificed pigs on the temple altar. This became known as the desolating sacrilege. Anne would have liked to go on with the whole story about the re-dedication after the defeat of Antiochus and how it came about. But, she said: “Suffice it to say that Hannukah celebrates the day that Israel regained control of the temple and re-consecrated it to the one true God, and – perhaps more importantly – rededicated themselves to the worship of the one true God.”

At the time of Jesus for nearly 200 years – year after year they gathered, they remembered, they celebrated the day the temple was re-consecrated to God.

But the problem was that Israel had failed to give themselves back to God. They stand frozen in the past.

Their hardened hearts do not respond to the words of Jesus – they do not understand what He is saying, they do not recognise His works or who He is. They fail to experience the eternal life of God in the here and now – in the water into wine, the feeding of the 5000, in the healings of the lame and sick, in the raising of Lazarus, in the commandments to love God and to love one another.

Jesus said: “...but my sheep know me.”

But this is not just a problem for the Jews of 2000 years ago – it is a problem for us, now. This is the human problem in relationship with God.

We have to ask ourselves, what is the point of consecrating, setting aside, the external temples of our lives – but keeping our hearts enclosed, concealed within – for ourselves. So doctrine becomes a means of exclusion rather than a path to God. Scripture becomes an intellectual weapon rather than the revelation of God’s life with God’s people. What we need to do, said Anne, is to make the whole of our life sacramental.

How does it work? We consecrate our exterior temples – keeping our buildings, our homes, our selves clean and tidy and pure – when what we need to do is to consecrate our hearts, our interior temples, to God. This would change how we see, know, believe and live. Are we afraid that this would be just too uncomfortable?

The Jewish leaders in our reading said “Tell me plainly, are you the Messiah or are you just another foreigner that needs to be thrown out of our temple?”

Jesus will always reply: “I have told you and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.”

“Tell us plainly” are the words of a frozen people. It is winter in our hearts. It is winter in our spirit.

It is winter in our seeing and hearing. It is winter in our believing and knowing. It is the worst winter we can experience. “Tell us plainly” reveals that we have become too comfortable in our faith, too comfortable in consecrating only our exterior temples, too afraid to listen.

Indeed, the faith to which Jesus calls us should make us uncomfortable.

Just read the Beatitudes: blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

Listen to some of the hard sayings of Jesus: “Love God, your neighbour and your enemy; do not worry about your life or about tomorrow; turn the other cheek; do not judge; sell your possessions and give to the poor; take up your cross; show mercy like the Good Samaritan; forgive 70 times seven; wash each other’s feet, follow me.”

The uncomfortable faith to which Jesus calls us is nothing less than God’s own life, eternal life, right here, right now, in this world, in your life and in my life. It is a quality of life that never perishes. If we are welded to God – then who can snatch us away?