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On Sunday morning Stonehaven Baptist Church met with a group of Christians from another part of the world, from Asia Minor. We discovered that these followers of Jesus Christ faced many of the same challenges we face in Stonehaven, and also enjoyed the same comforts as we do. What are these challenges we face? And what are these comforts we can enjoy? Nathan explained these to us from the first chapter of the book of Revelation, which John wrote to the churches of Asia Minor 20 centuries ago.
The main challenge is the pressure from the world around to conform to its values. For the first century churches in Asia Minor, the pressure came from the Roman Empire’s insistence on conformity and the worship of the Emperor.
The tiny Christian Church claimed to worship another king, Jesus Christ, and so was considered disloyal and rebellious.
In Stonehaven today, Christians who know what it is to be free from sin, through repentance and faith in Jesus, want to share this freedom with others.
However, we are under pressure to sign up to the world’s view of freedom, which is in fact slavery to lust and greed and selfish behaviour. A second challenge is that of living in a loving community – the church. As with any family, there is a temptation to bicker and this dishonours Jesus, our head, as well as being self-destructive.
The comforts we enjoy can only come when we keep our gaze firmly on Jesus Christ. John gave his readers in Asia Minor an awesome vision of Jesus Christ as the Son of Man, the Alpha and Omega, the loving King over the whole creation. It is a great comfort to know that Jesus is Lord of all, but we need to keep our eyes on Him.
There is no other comfort for the church, but the Holy Spirit helps us by His presence in our hearts, helping us to see Jesus. Stonehaven Baptist Church Sunday services are at 11 am at Carronhill School. All welcome. For more details visit stonehavenbaptist.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01569 765097.
Dunnottar linked with South Church
On Sunday, April 10, our Minister, the Rev Rosslyn Duncan, took the theme of her first reflection from the text in John’s Gospel, Chapter 21, where Jesus appeared to the disciples saying ‘Cast your nets to the right side of the boat’. The disciples had returned to their comfortable known ways after Jesus had left them at Easter. As they struggled in vain to catch anything, Jesus appeared to them and told them to place their nets to the right side of the boat. They obeyed him and were amazed to find a heavy net of fish, more than they could haul.
Rosslyn explained that by listening and concentrating on God’s word, by trusting and obeying Him, we will be able to do all the things God has in store for us.
We too, are called ‘to cast our nets’, according to what God commands. He will enable us to do all He has planned for us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rosslyn continued her reflection with the second reading which came from the same chapter of John’s Gospel, at verse 15, read by Alasdair MacCallum. Peter was asked three times by Jesus, ‘Do you love me?’ Peter was hurt that Jesus asked him three times, but Jesus followed this by saying ‘Feed my sheep’.
The Bible tells of the many times meals were shared, often when Jesus was performing miracles.
However, Jesus feeding is not simply by bread alone, but is the spiritual feeding of our souls. Like Peter and the disciples, we all have a pastoral responsibility.
We are called together to care for and nurture one another and this means listening, reading the scriptures, discussing them with others, reflecting and praying, asking God to show us the way ahead. As we look toward the next five years in our linked charge, our focus must be feeding and nurturing all people, in and beyond our community, listening to God and concentrating on who we are called to serve and to love.
Singing the greatly loved hymn, ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’, following these reflections reminded us that God is always beside us. We just need to put our trust in Him.
On Saturday, April 16, there will be a spring coffee morning in South Church Hall, 10am-12noon. Various stalls. Tickets adult £2.50, child £1.
St James and St Philips
Saturday saw another successful coffee morning, despite the foul weather. Funds raised will go towards maintaining the church. Prior to her address at 10.30 at St James, Anne congratulated and thanked all those who had contributed so much in time, effort and gifts of good things. There were a few slices of Lynn’s delicious fruit loaf left over to consume after the Communion service – but they didn’t last long! In her address, Anne began with a story about gnomes – this being the All Age Service. This led into an account of a medieval ‘fool’ who had so wanted to be a brother at a monastery but was refused because of his background.
One day he was fooling around in the gardens, and went into the crypt where he saw a statue of our Lady with the babe in her arms. The fool began to caper for the infant – until he realised he was being observed by the Abbott and two other brothers.
The brothers saw this as a good reason to get ‘the fool’ out of the monastery for good, but the Abbott declined: “Look,’ he said, ‘see, the Babe is smiling”. Needless to say the fool was soon admitted to the fraternity as ‘Brother Fool’.
Anne then quoted from a poem by Edward Rowland Sill called ‘The Fool’s Prayer’ where the refrain at the end of each verse is “God, be merciful to me, a fool”.
She related this to herself and to all present, as she concluded that for us, perhaps the greatest folly is to believe that the Lord, God Almighty, that great Architect of the Universe, could enter into this world of ours and give himself – for us. “For me – just one individual in the great mass of humanity since the beginning of time.
Folly to believe that through the pain, the degradation, the humiliation of the cross – I am redeemed. Lord, be merciful to me, a fool.” In the afternoon a service of Communion from the reserved Sacrament was held at St Philip’s, Catterline, where the small congregation sang well-known hymns and had a short sermon on the life of St Paul, following the reading from Acts 9 which describes the conversion of St Paul.
She drew on evidence from the New Testament – the book of Acts for historical information, and Paul’s own writings that show his own character.
She drew attention in particular to the epistle to the Philippians. He had founded the church there, and had been beaten and imprisoned there, too. It seems the church he most suffered for, he loved most specially.
Even the Christians at Corinth, whom he found to be a turbulent lot, called forth his greatest hymn to love.
Though we have no description of Paul, the very name means ‘little’ so we may assume he was short of stature. He occasionally mentions physical disability, yet he was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and suffered many other hazards for the sake of the Gospel.
So, Anne concluded, she imagined him as a small, dark, wiry individual, with a powerful and attractive personality. The sort of man one can admire and respect – even love – while at the same time feeling hostile and angry with some of the things he is saying. For Paul would be the first to admit he didn’t always get things right.
Paul preaches through his epistles the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “It is not myself I preach, but Jesus Christ as Lord.”
He gave up his promising future as a Doctor of Law and left the school of Gamaliel to give his future to Christ, and to go out among the people who, as a Jew, he had despised as ‘outside the chosen race’. He went travelling at his own expense, or living on the contributions of some of the wealthy women who supported the early church – the Mother’s Union of the first century. It is largely through this one man that the worldwide Christian church was founded. In his letters to Timothy we have examples of how to set up and run a congregation, the values and standards that are to be expected of ministers.
But it is in the epistle to the Philippians, particularly chapter 3, that we find his most powerful words. He looks back on his life, despite all he had, his Jewish education, his faultless observance of the Torah – yet despite all the advantages he had, he regarded this as just so much rubbish if they came between himself and Christ.
He said: “I press on towards the goal and the prize is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” and this is the call of Paul to his friends at Philippi and to us.
His words reverberate down through the centuries, that we should all press onward in this great race of life, to gain the prize which is Christ as our Lord.