Buildings Review

Hi Everyone,
Please find copied below a letter going out to all members in the coming days. However these meetings are open to all who are interested in potential changes to the physical structure of our buildings.

As you may be aware the Kirk Session has been exploring the future of Forth St Paul’s and in particular with regards to its buildings. Maintaining our buildings in such a way that they are an asset rather than a burden is an important element of stewardship. We are sure you are aware that we have had a number of issues with our buildings over recent years and our maintenance costs are steadily rising.

Therefore the Kirk Session, with funding from the General Trustees, undertook an Options Study where an Architect, Raymond Angus, drew up plans and ideas on how we could best utilise our buildings and the land we have available. The Kirk Session have settled on a broad outline design that they feel is appropriate. And therefore the Session want to let all members and interested people know that they are now working on a feasibility study (working out the finer details including internal and external designs, funding and costs).

Therefore you are warmly invited to attend any or all of the following presentations.

Sunday 18th August and Sunday 25th August immediately following morning worship and Wednesday 21st August at 7:30pm when Raymond, the architect will also be available to answer questions.
All these presentations will take place in the church.

Questions and discussions will take place after the presentations and there will also be an opportunity for feedback using feedback forms. You are welcome at more than one presentation because having time to reflect and think about potential change can be beneficial and generate other questions.

Please remember this isn’t just about having a church or church building in Forth in 2013 but the intention for there to still be a viable church and buildings in 2113 and beyond.

God bless.

Sent on behalf of Forth St Paul’s Kirk Session
co-ordinated by the buildings organising committee

Supermodel Faith?

(This is an edited version of Sunday’s sermon)
We all know the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover” but how many of us are guilty of doing just that?
There is a wee story doing the rounds at the moment which is a hoax but a challenging story nonetheless.
Pastor Jeremiah Steepek (pictured below) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

A powerful story I’m sure you will agree but I don’t think you would appreciate it if I did that to you. And it wouldn’t be fair if I did because I don’t think it is a kind way to get a message across even if it is dramatic. And yet this story highlights something that we have mentioned before that people out with the church automatically expect us to judge them.

Judging a book by its cover has long been in existence. The story we heard from Matthew’s Gospel today highlights that –

18 John came and did not eat or drink like other people. So people say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and people say, ‘Look at him! He eats too much and drinks too much wine, and he is a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved to be right by what she does.”
Jesus was known as a drunkard – found too often in the pub and hanging out with the wrong sort of people. Not an image we think of when we think of Jesus – meek and mild, with blue eyes and long flowing hair.
Yet what about that little phrase at the end –
But wisdom is proved right by what she does.
The best way to challenge the prejudice that the cover of the book plants is to tell the story.
Our challenge today is to persuade people that God’s story is worth knowing. It is a huge challenge because there is much that competes for our attention. How then do we, as God’s people, start engaging with the spiritual chasm that has opened up? John’s followers wanted to know if Jesus was the one and this was his response:-
Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you hear and see: 5 The blind can see, the crippled can walk, and people with skin diseases are healed. The deaf can hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor.6 Those who do not stumble in their faith because of me are blessed.”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t talk about how many people are following him or who comes to listen to his sermons or listens to his podcasts or likes him on Facebook or whether attendance at the Synagogue is up – he talks about physical, practical change.

And the passage from Peter gives us the building blocks so that we too can change the perspective of those around us.

5 Because you have these blessings, do your best to add these things to your lives: to your faith, add goodness; and to your goodness, add knowledge; 6 and to your knowledge, add self-control; and to your self-control, add patience; and to your patience, add service for God; 7 and to your service for God, add kindness for your brothers and sisters in Christ; and to this kindness, add love.

This isn’t an overnight transformation although that can be a part of the process. We are called to strive for moral growth. We develop and grow, maturing in our ability to love others. We start with faith, even faith as small as a mustard seed and add to it. Like a baby starts with milk and then is weaned onto slushy food, before adding chunks and before you know they are eating you out of house and home. Interesting that we start with faith and end with love.

Now these three things remain – faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.

If we want to change the perspective, the prejudice, the stereotype – call it what you will then we must move from a perceived story of judgement to a story of love.

Faith the size of a mustard seed can grow the biggest tree but only if we continue to nurture it and look after it.

This isn’t about supermodel faith – hey everyone look at me – how perfect am I? But it is about being disciples of Christ and that means being willing to lay down everything including reputation and riches to follow in his footsteps.
Let’s start with faith, end up with love and show that wisdom is proved right by what she does.

Celebrating Disciples past and present

Jesus called us to be disciples – that’s what the Great Commission says. “Go and make disciples.” Make disciples – makes me think of playing with playdough – being moulded and made into disciples. Jesus also says that we have to give up our lives in order to receive true life. Discipleship is kinda hard work and it is no wonder we want to run away and let someone else do all the hard work. Perhaps that is why we got Ministers – let them be made into disciples and lead us or perhaps it was control the Ministers and slow down the disciple making????

However discipleship is a great adventure and I would fully recommend it (though getting a dog collar and Reverend added to your name is not compulsory!). This Sunday we celebrate a saint, a disciple who journeyed in the family of Forth St Paul’s and went to be with Jesus this time last year. And we welcome two new members by profession of faith and promises that will shape them and make them disciples. Three promises – the UP focussing on developing their relationship with God just as Jesus did; the IN focussing on developing their relationship within the Christian family just as Jesus did with his disciples and the OUT focussing on developing their calling in the mission field of God’s world.

As the summer rest period continues take time on the UP to listen again to God, to abide in his presence whilst the IN element slows down and the OUT element continues to wrestle with the problems of the economy and welfare state. Listen for God’s healing words, feel his gentle touch and be aware of how he is making you grow and thrive in the environment he has placed you. You have a purpose. You are here for a reason. God is making you more of a disciple with every moment that passes. You are unique. You are loved. And God believes in you.

Dare you be made into a disciple today? And what will you do to make more disciples?

God bless your faith journey today and grant you answers.
Love Sarah

Saved for what?

Many of us see Easter as a time when we are saved. Saved perhaps from an angry God. Saved from eternal damnation. Saved from death itself. But have you ever wondered what you were saved for? Most of us know what we are saved from but few ever contemplate fully what we were saved for. The disciples didn’t get set free from their mission and sent home when Jesus rose again. If anything their workload increased.

We have been saved from eternal damnation but in the process we have been saved for a purpose. We all have a common purpose but not the same calling. Some of us are apostles, some evangelists, some prophets, some teachers, some pastors, some deacons, some elders – all working towards to the great commission.

We have been saved but not for selfish gain. For God so loved the world he sent his one and only son…you know the rest.

As we ride the joy of Easter lets have the confidence to find out what we have been saved for not just from…

God bless,
Love Sarah

The Easter Cross

The road to the cross was long and bleak yet with sparks of light bursting through. Jesus spoke of his death often yet always with a promise of something spectacular to come. In the story of betrayal by Judas a moment of beautiful worship is also recorded balancing the positive with the negative. At a point in time when Jesus must have felt so alone along comes Mary with her jar of expensive perfume. Peter denies Jesus three times in the courtyard yet he was there – his attempt, however flawed, to be there with Jesus. Even in the face of fear and certain death Jesus gathered with his friends around a table in Jerusalem – the heart of the lion’s den.
Imagine for a moment if Pilate had listened to his wife who told him to have nothing to do with Jesus. Imagine if Pilate had said no to the crucifixion…there would be no cross. Even Pilate had to carry a cross for God.
Sometimes we must pass through the valley of the shadow of death before we can witness God’s awesome power and love. For when we hit rock bottom and allof the world appears at least to have turned its back on us, God is still there. To know joy we must know suffering. To know love we must know hate. To know life we must know death.
Yet even in death God is there. He never leaves us nor abandons us. Jesus may have felt abandoned by God on the cross for there is only so much the human form can take. Jesus understands the absence of God – those times when we wonder if God is even present.
Yet even in death God was there – as creation herself mourned the death of her creator in the earthquake and the sky. Human religion – a structure built upon the premise of God was torn in two as the curtain split. All mourned the death of Jesus on the cross as did we on Friday night.
Yet the cross is the heart of the story – an important part without a doubt. We cannot follow Christ without taking up our cross and following the plan God has for each and every one of us. But we are not called to carry our cross alone…
Jesus needed the help of others with his cross and he too helps us carry ours. Mary helped to carry Jesus’ cross with her perfume. Simon of Cyrene carried the physical cross. Peter help to carry the cross with his loyalty for with his sword and in his tears was the gift of loyalty. We too helped Jesus to carry his cross as we remembered that fateful day.
However if we believe that we must carry the cross we must also believe in the resurrection for why else would we even contemplate carrying the cross.
The cross is a promise fulfilled
– a gift of redemption offered willingly and without prejudice to the whole world.
A gift of life – not earned with good works, martyrdom or money but a gift given to all who would recognise that God is the one true God and there are no others like him.
A gift of hope – that this is not all there is. Yes like Jesus we are called to make better what we have through sharing the gifts of the spirit, healing the sick, bringing good news to the poor, reaching out with hands of justice and love. This world is not to be left to go to rack and ruin but rather to be enhanced by all who have witnessed God’s great love for us.
We hold onto the cross as the symbol of our faith because the cross reminds us that the path we are called to walk, the narrow way is a path that may be littered with suffering, stress, frustration and betrayal but it is also scattered along this path is light, peace and life.
We celebrate an empty tomb with an empty cross. We look to Jesus and know that the marks are still on his hands and feet – an eternal reminder of his gift of life.
Will people see the nail marks in our hands and feet and know that we too have received the gift of life, and that we too carry our cross?
Without the resurrection there is no hope, no peace, no life. Without the resurrection all is for nowt and there is no point to any of this. Without the resurrection there is no eternal refuge for any of us.
But with the resurrection there is hope, peace and life. The Fall as we understand it separated us from God and there was nothing we could do by ourselves to fix it. God himself rewrote the rule book in our favour and made it possible for us – creatures made from dust to once again experience the fullness of the divine relationship.
Jesus was able to lay down his cross as he left the tomb. We too will lay down our cross when we leave the tomb. But until then we live confidently as Jesus did knowing that it will be worth every heartache, every struggle, every moment of joy to walk once again in the garden with God.

Expecting the unexpected

Is it possible to expect the unexpected? It does strike me as somewhat of a conundrum. How can you expect the unexpected? Yet within the Christian faith it is something of a given.  God, it appears to me, rarely works within the confines of human boundaries.  He seems to excel at bending, if not breaking rules, protocol, cultural norms, whatever kind of boxes we build for him.

Today my car (in a manner of speaking) went on fire.  The air conditioning system seized up and may cost several hundred pounds to repair, (praying warranty covers it). The up side was we got a sneaky dinner out as a family after husband rescued his family from the garage.  I didn’t expect my car to break, though there is always the expectation it might.

We don’t expect God to use us – what have I got to offer him? We know we should expect him too, but unless something major happens like being asked to be the mother of His Son or to smuggle bibles into China we don’t often see ourselves as God’s tools.

When you least expect God to use you for good, he will come knocking on your door. What will you say to him? He can be very persuasive as Moses found out or we can simply say “may it be as you have said. I am your servant” (Mary)

God bless and may you expect the unexpected from God.

Love Sarah

The link in the chain

Last night after posting a blog feeling oh so positive I received a call to say the water tank had been stolen again.  This water tank is an important link in our heating system and without it we cannot heat our halls.  It is worthless to the average joe because it was stainless steel and therefore not worth much.  To me it is worth an absolute fortune because in early December it is rather cold up here in the high hills of Forth.

It is strange how something so innocuous can be the very thing we can’t live without.

God has a habit of using the unlikeliest of people to provide the link in a series of events.  Mary never expected to become the mother of the Messiah.  When the angel visited she was cleaning the house, looking forward to her wedding and planning the rest of her life with Joseph.

Luke 1:38 Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!” Then the angel went away.

You may be far more important in God’s chain of events than you ever thought possible.   As advent continues ponder your link and how might you be the one to hold it altogether.

God bless

Love Sarah

Pantomime Season!

He’s behind you – oh no he isn’t!

Today has been all about Christmas.  I know that it is also World Aids Day and probably a few other things as well.  But for my family and I it has all been about Christmas.  The annual Christmas Fayre took place this morning with cakes, stalls and much chatter and squashing and squeezing.  This was followed by a trip with friends to New Lanark for the Christmas Experience.  We met Santa, the Snow Queen and the Wicked Witch Grizelda.  Christmas lights twinkled and Christmas songs sang merrily in the background.  We learnt about a time when Christmas Day was just another day.

For the church though this is actually the season of Advent and Christmas Day is the culmination of this period.  Christians need times of preparation – whether it is Lent leading up to Easter or Advent leading up to Christmas.  Time for preparation is so important that we make sure we have plenty of it!  The time for preparation is meant for our spiritual well being rather than making sure the cards are written, the turkey is ordered and the presents wrapped.  This time of preparation is to ready ourselves for his coming – celebrating his birth but looking forward to his return.  We celebrate the past but always facing forward – looking for his return.

Mark 13:32 “No one knows when that day or time will be, not the angels in heaven, not even the Son. Only the Father knows. 33 Be careful! Always be ready, because you don’t know when that time will be.

Oh yes he is!

One of these days that will be what happens.  But until then we must continue to prepare ourselves.

May Advent be a time of preparation, not just of the house but of our hearts.

God bless

Love Sarah