Contemplations During Holy Week

The following excerpts are taken from the Contemplative Services taking place during Holy Week:

Holy Monday

‘Those who choose to do my will will receive from me a memorial and a name in my own house and within my walls; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ – Isaiah 56:4-5,7

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ cleared the temple of those who desecrated the holy place. Cleanse our hearts from greed and selfishness, that we may become the temple of the living God, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Holy Tuesday

‘Let the gospel of Christ dwell among you in all its richness: teach and instruct one another with all the wisdom it gives you.’ – Colossians 3:16

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life. May our lives be so transformed by his passion that we may witness to his grace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Holy Wednesday

‘God, hear my cry; listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to you with fainting heart; lift me up and set me high on a rock.’ – Psalm 61:1-2

Lord God, your Son our Saviour gave his body to be whipped and turned his face for men to spit upon. Give your servants grace to accept suffering for his sake, confident of the glory that will be revealed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

God’s Love – a Sermon by Rev. Charles MacKinnon

It’s been said that the ‘love of God is the deepest expression of his character and Jesus Christ’s total giving of himself, shown supremely in his obedient suffering and death on the cross, reveals God’s amazing love for sinners’(Thematic Study Bible).

Love requires a relationship to blossom and mature; it cannot thrive in a vacuum. God has always been in a relationship, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit together, yet one God. God’s love is eternal; it did not begin when we appeared on the scene. God said to Israel, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah.31:3). Our love is time-limited: the seeds of our love are planted when we get to know one another. Our love is so small compared to God’s everlasting love.

Now God in his wisdom chose to create human beings who are capable of a love relationship with him and it must have broken his heart when Adam and Eve chose to disobey him. We know how it hurts when our love is either rejected or spurned; our heart aches and often that’s it, end of relationship. Could God have done that? Yes, I believe he could, but his love is strong and resilient and he keeps on loving even when his love is rejected. There may be times when we are given the strength and grace to keep on loving against the odds.

Now, if our friends knew us as God knows us, how many friends would we have, if any? God, who knew us before we were even born (Psalm 139), knows us and yet loves us. Moses tells Israel. “The Lord did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! It was simply because the Lord loves you” (Deuteronomy7:7,8 nlt). It’s not the size of our bank balance, or our talents, job or personality, or because we live in this Parish – it’s nothing to do with that, God just loves us. He loves us and can’t help it. He loves us and does not deny it and he’s not ashamed of it. Have you ever been ashamed of loving somebody? Have we ever been ashamed of acknowledging our love for Jesus? How often have we hurt God, yet he’s never been ashamed of loving us.

Time and again, God had to lovingly discipline Israel. God’s love does not make him blind to our sin– God, the bible tells us, is a consuming fire, he loathes sin for it tears at our relationship with him.

Mum and dad cry from the depths about how they loathe drugs for stealing their child from them. The distraught wife sobs as she loathes the drink that robbed her of her husband and his love. As they weep, Jesus weeps with them.

Now, it is possible for us to believe that Jesus’ love is solely for the ‘good folk’ who attend church when, in fact, God’s love is offered to all people. “For God so loved the world” (John.3:16), we are told and the Bible also tells us that we are ALL sinners who have fallen far short of God’s set standard and glory as seen in Jesus(Romans 13:23,24). It’s not how we match up against so and so that matters, it’s how we match up to Jesus and that’s where we fail miserably.

It’s always good to give to those whom we love. God gives and gives and his love is expressed in many practical ways but, as we know, he revealed it in the most awesome way by giving the most awesome gift. Only God could ever do this and Jesus is God’s unique act of love. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John.4:9,10).Jesus is the visible expression of God’s everlasting love for you, for me and for all. God put on humanity and came to us in Jesus to speak to us, to live with us and to die for us, for our sin on Calvary. ‘How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure’ (CMP988). It hurts when a love gift is declined, doesn’t it? Think of how much it hurts God when we choose to reject Jesus. In rejecting Jesus, we embrace a lost eternity. ‘You don’t have to go to hell’, says Jesus, ‘for I have gone there for you and all you have to do is believe in me and be saved’.

Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love and in he lived and died for that love. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we crave to be loved, we were created to know love and it’s wonderful when we can express our love for one another but deep down, we crave to know the love of God, the one who created us for a love relationship with himself.

In an African village there was a fire one night in one of the small straw huts and the family perished except for a baby boy. In the darkness a person rushed into the blazing hut and pulled the baby out and the child emerged unscathed. In the morning the elders of the village had a problem as the child had just been left lying on the ground and the rescuer had disappeared. The elders had to decide what was to be done with the child – they thought it was a sign of almost divine providence and a dispute arose – the wealthy thought they should have the privilege and honour of raising the child, others who had wives who were particularly good mothers thought they should be privileged to raise the child. Many had different reasons as to why they should raise the child. Suddenly a seemingly insignificant man spoke up and claimed to have a superior claim to all the others – and he showed them his hands and they were burnt for he was the one who rescued the child. Who could possibly have a superior claim? Friends, only Jesus has scars on his hands because of his love for us – the love of Jesus is the love we look for, the love we need – the love of the One who gave himself for us.

To know that the ‘love of God is the deepest expression of his character’ is one thing but it’s another thing to know his love. We need to allow God’s sacrificial love to penetrate beyond the crust of what we believe, to renew our lives, to enable us to love one another as Christ has loved us and to empower us to practical expressions of his love in the world about us. Amen.

Sermon Snippets: Teresa of Ávila

Teresa of Ávila was a 16th century Carmelite nun, author of the “Counter Reformation” and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She wrote, “Every problem we could possibly have can be solved by doing one thing: believing that the real God is really present as we pray.”

Sermon Snippets

Welcome to Sermon Snippets – a brand new section of our website! From time to time a passage or prayer from one of our weekly church services will be featured.  The aim is to encourage the reader to spend some quiet time thinking about a particular aspect of faith. To start us off, below is a prayer written by Elsie Black:

Stay nigh me Lord Jesus

The years take their toll
Stay close to me Lord to the end
Forgive my transgressions
Replenish my soul
My Saviour, Redeemer and Friend

When the call comes for me
I shall wake at your touch
We shall both take that pathway divine
Down by the still waters, green pastures and lush,
With my old hand clasped firmly in Thine

The pathway to heaven is paved with God’s love
Doors are open for loved ones to call
Be it saint, be it sinner
Does not matter one bit
There is room in God’s Heaven for all

So I’ll walk with my Saviour
We move slowly on
My long life is nearing its end
With a prayer in each heart-beat
I’ll welcome the New
With Lord Jesus, our Saviour and Friend.



A Moment’s Reflection (April)

Surprise surprise!!

Many of you will remember the TV series with this title, which was presented by Cilla Black and which restarted last year with Holly Willoughby as presenter.

I have always loved a surprise, and one day recently when I was rather down, and the weather was wild, a small package arrived in the post. It contained a lovely surprise, and a card saying “Smile. You’ve just been tagged!”. This was part of something started by a group of students (see, and on the back of the card it says “Someone reached out to you with an anonymous act of kindness. Now it’s your chance to do the same. Do something nice for someone, leave this card behind, and keep the spirit going!”

I recall a sermon years ago encouraging us to do just this, to do anonymous acts of kindness for those in our community. It can be surprisingly difficult to keep those acts anonymous in a small community, but that’s half the fun!

And as I enjoyed the warm feeling brought by receiving my small surprise, I was reminded that Jesus was the expert as surprising people. No-one expected Him to change water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11); or to feed five thousand families with five loaves and two fish (John 6:1-14); or to heal a man born blind (John 9:1-34). And of course the greatest surprise ever was what we celebrate at Easter, that Jesus was raised from the dead, and is alive! When His disciples saw Him, they were overjoyed. Jesus’ Resurrection is the best surprise ever, and fills us with joy.

How about sharing that joy, that warm feeling, by doing an anonymous act of kindness this week? It doesn’t need to be anything big, a card with some kind words, a bunch of flowers or a few sweets left anonymously in a porch. These little things just might lift someone’s spirits as much as my small package lifted mine.

And what fun we can all have, trying to be creative in our anonymous acts of kindness.

If you would like to know more about the many ways in which Jesus surprises us, do come and join us at any of our services, you might be surprised by the welcome you receive, and by the Good News you hear.

May God’s joy and peace be with any readers of An Tirisdeach who welcome it, Elspeth. (Rev Elspeth MacLean, Tiree Parish Church, tel 220377.)

A Moment’s Reflection (March)

“I am thankful”

A recent article suggested this as an alternative answer to our daily polite question “How are you?” We tend to answer “I’m fine thanks”, even when we’re in the doctor’s waiting room, so perhaps it would be good to think of a more honest answer.

“I am thankful” would need to be said with thought as to what we are thankful for, and who we are thankful to. The answer to the”what” question will be different for everyone. I personally would start with being thankful for life and health, for living in such a stunningly beautiful place, in such a friendly supportive community, for having a ‘job’ that I love and the privileges it brings, of getting to know people in happy and sad times. My list would go on for pages, what would your list include? A scientific study in 2003 (Emmons and McCullough) demonstrated that “a significant positive affect” was found by simply writing down a list of things we are grateful for each day, and they even speculated that “simply enumerating things you are grateful for might be a treatment for mild forms of depression”.

My second question, ‘who are we grateful to?’ is easy for me to answer as I believe in a gracious, loving and generous God. But I know many people who live happy, grateful lives yet do not believe in God. Who are they grateful to? Is it necessary to address our gratitude to someone or something, or can we simply be grateful?

As Easter approaches, I invite everyone to come and join us in one or more of our services, maybe we can help answer some of these questions. At Easter we celebrate the new life that faith offers, as we recall again the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, proving that God’s love is so powerful, even death cannot overcome it. And that really is THE source of thankfulness!

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

May God’s light and life be with any readers of An Tirisdeach who welcome it, Elspeth. (Rev Elspeth MacLean, Tiree Parish Church, tel 220377.)

A Moment’s Reflection (January)

As a child I was always made to write thank you letters for Christmas and birthday presents. I recall the struggle I had to encourage my own children to do so, not always successfully I confess. Yet I am sure many of us know the joy of receiving a hand written thank you note, it really gives a warm glow. And equally I know the pleasure of having written short notes of gratitude.

Scientists have tried to measure the benefits of gratitude. At a university in America, psychologist David DeSteno, in a piece of work designed to measure the impact of being thankful, discovered that gratitude leads directly to acts of kindness and generosity! So not only does the recipient of the thank you note benefit, but also the writer of the note becomes more positive and hopeful.

The Bible is full of ‘Give thanks’, I am particularly fond of a passage in Philippians,

”Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

The benefit to us of prayer, with thanksgiving, is the priceless protection given by the peace of God.

So the next time someone does something kind for us, or gives us a gift, let’s remember to say, or write, ‘thank you’, because gratitude benefits us as well as others.

In the words of a song by Don Moen:

“Give thanks with a grateful heart”

Gratitude is an attitude worth cultivating this year.

May God’s light and life, and the joy and peace of the New Year, be with any readers of An Tirisdeach who welcome it, Elspeth. (Rev Elspeth MacLean, Tiree Parish Church, tel 220377.)

A Moment’s Reflection (December)

(See the Gallery for accompanying pictures)

There are a couple of foreign visitors on Tiree just now, would you welcome them into your home?

The man is considerably older than his partner (they’re not married), she is heavily pregnant, and he is not the father of her child. Would you welcome them into your home?

Who are they? They are Mary and Joseph! Jesus’ parents, who found there was no room at the inn.

In fact the ‘couple’ in Tiree this Advent are wooden characters representing Mary and Joseph, following a Latin American tradition called Posada. They are moving from home to home and we are inviting families to treat them as if they were real visitors, although they need no food, and there are no extra beds to change when they leave. But the idea is to encourage us all to look at ourselves, how welcoming are we? Do we hold prejudices without being aware of it? And I pray and hope that it will encourage families to think about what it would be like if Jesus came to stay in our home, even for one night. The amazing thing about God is that He chose to come into the world, that is what we celebrate at Christmas. And He came, not in pomp and ceremony, but as a helpless baby, born to unmarried parents, in a stable, not a palace. God knows what it is like to live in the midst of the broken messiness of life, and He invites us to share all our joys and our sorrows with Him, secure in the knowledge that He understands and He cares!

I’d like to share this poem, by Lois Blanchard Eades, with you all this Christmas,

If Jesus Came to your House to Spend a Day or Two….

If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two,

If He came unexpectedly, I wonder what you’d do?

Oh, I know you’d give your nicest room to such an honoured Guest,

And all the food you’d serve to Him would be the very best,

And you would keep assuring Him you’re glad to have Him there,

That serving Him in your own home is joy beyond compare.

But, when you saw Him coming, would you meet Him at the door?

With arms outstretched in welcome to your Heavenly Visitor?

Or would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in?

Or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they’d been?

Would you turn off the radio and hope He hadn’t heard?

And wish you hadn’t uttered that last loud hasty word?

Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out?

Could you let Jesus right in, or would you rush about?

And I wonder if the Saviour spent a day or two with you,

Would you go right on doing the things you always do?

Would you go right on saying the things you always say?

Would life for you continue as it does from day to day?

Would your family conversation keep up its usual pace?

And would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace?

Would you sing the songs you always sing and read the books you read?

And let Him know the things on which your mind and spirit feed?

Would you take Jesus with you everywhere you plan to go?

Or would you maybe change your plans for just a day or so?

Would you be glad to have Him meet your very closest friends?

Or would you hope they’d stay away until His visit ends?

Would you be glad to have Him stay forever on and on?

Or would you sigh with great relief when He at last was gone?

It might be interesting to know the things that you would do,

If Jesus Christ in person came to spend some time with you.

May God’s light and life, and the joy and peace of Christmas, be with any readers of An Tirisdeach who welcome it, Elspeth.

(Rev Elspeth MacLean, Tiree Parish Church, tel 220377.)

A Moment’s Reflection (November)

‘Remember, remember the fifth of November…’. The bonfire and fireworks are barely over when we arrive at Remembrance Day. This is the day when throughout the commonwealth people stop and stand in silence for 2 minutes to remember the millions killed, injured and affected, originally by WWI. Now this is extended to include all conflicts since WWI. Silence is a rare commodity these days, and maybe this increases its power. For as we stand together in silence, memories flood our minds. And as we stand in silence we are united in our grief and compassion, as we know that

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).

And also in November, the month for remembering, we will celebrate Holy Communion. As we eat the broken bread and drink the wine, we do so, remembering what Jesus Christ did for us.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

We all have memories, both good and bad, but if we allow silence to unite us, rather than using words which tend to divide, maybe we can all learn to, in the words of John Lennon’s song “Give peace a chance”. When we learn to live at peace within ourselves, we will be better able to live at peace with our neighbours. If peace is allowed to grow, maybe one day November will be a month to remember life and not death.

May God’s light and life be with any readers of An Tirisdeach who welcome it, Elspeth. (Rev Elspeth MacLean, Tiree Parish Church, tel 220377.)

A Moment’s Reflection (September)

“The night’s fair drawin’ in” seems to be the topic of conversation this week, and even of a special N.I.F.D.I. menu at a local hotel. And it is so noticeable that the evenings are becoming shorter, as darkness falls earlier each day.

But dark nights mean more opportunities to see the amazing array of stars on a clear night, and to see the moonlight reflected on a dark sea, just two of the awe inspiring sights we are so fortunate to be able to see.

And dark nights mean we can light our fires, draw the curtains and cuddle down with a good book, a DVD or our favourite TV show.

But for some people these dark nights can bring on the downward spiral from feeling ‘a bit down’ to the depths of depression. The Bible tells us that “God said ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) and John’s Gospel speaks of Jesus as “the light [that] shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it”. We understand so little about depression, but by being open about it, speaking about it, perhaps we can shed some light on it.

So as the night’s fair drawin’ in, can we reflect some of God’s light, the light of Jesus? Can we all try to ‘brighten up’ someone’s day, by saying a kind word, smiling or giving a helping hand? Can we ‘be a star’ for someone in need? Or shine like the light of the moon, bringing joy into other people’s lives. Remember that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, just pray that it’s not a train coming!

May God’s light and life be with any readers of An Tirisdeach who welcome it, Elspeth.

(Rev Elspeth MacLean, Tiree Parish Church, tel 220377.)