The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
(Major Steven Turner)
Song Life is great, so sing about it
Life is great! So sing about it,
As we can and as we should:
Shops and buses, towns and people,
Village, farmland, field and wood.
Life is great and life is given;
Life is lovely, free and good.
Life is great! Whatever happens,
Snow or sunshine, joy or pain,
Hardship, grief, or disillusion,
Suff’ring that I can’t explain.
Life is great if someone loves me,
Holds my hands and calls my name.
Love is giving and receiving:
Boy and girl, and friend with friend.
Love is bearing and forgiving
All the hurts that hate can send.
Love’s the greatest way of living,
Hoping, trusting to the end.
God is great! In Christ he loved us,
As we should but never can.
Love that suffered, hoped and trusted,
When disciples turned and ran,
Love that broke through death for ever:
Praise that loving, living Man!
Pray the Lord’s Prayer
Bible Reading Luke 15:11-32
The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Song 576 God of comfort and compassion
(Tune: South Shields)
God of comfort and compassion,
God of wisdom, grace and power,
Hear our earnest intercession
In this quiet morning hour.
Strengthen all who fight thy battles
In this land and lands afar,
Be companion, friend and shepherd
Whereso’er thy children are.
Some we love bear heavy burdens,
Some have wandered from the way;
Be their guide, and their Deliverer,
Heavenly Father, now we pray.
O’er our world so filled with sorrow,
Fear and hunger, pain and strife,
Shed thy light of hope and mercy,
Gift of love, eternal life.
Sovereign Lord, we bow before thee,
Thou art merciful and kind;
Our petitions now presenting,
All we need in thee we find.
Lord, we seek thy strength, thy guidance,
And the Holy Spirit’s dower;
Grant thy fortitude and courage
In temptation’s threatening hour.
May thy grace and peace o’ershadow
Those for whom we pray today;
May thy mighty arm uphold them;
Precious in thy sight are they.
Lord, for answered prayer we thank thee,
Thou art good in all thy ways;
With thanksgiving we adore thee,
Fill our hearts with love and praise.
Doris N. Rendell
(alt. E Turner, for morning)
I need a hero!
We’ve recently been watching old episodes of DIY-SOS. A team of skilled builders gathers local tradesmen to perform a DIY miracle on a semi-derelict house to rescue a family from disaster and give them the perfect home.
About 10 years ago, the team took on the massive challenge of renovating a whole street in Manchester, to include homes and support facilities for military veterans. Among them was a man who had lost both legs and an arm due to an Improvised Explosive Device. One of the most moving moments in the film was when the eldest son, aged about 11, said to the presenter, “My Dad is my hero!”
I’ve never considered my Dad as a hero. But when I notice how much of my officership has been modelled on his, I realise that I unconsciously hold him up as a positive example. This is how it should be, particularly in Christian homes. Many children do look up to their Dads. But, sadly, there are examples of Dads who are too busy to care, Dads who have left the family for a host of reasons, and even some who harm their children. These Dads are not heroes.
None of this should really surprise us. Whilst the Bible contains some excellent examples of Godly fathers, most fall short, often leading to seriously dysfunctional relationships.
Noah built an ark to God’s design and saved his family to create a new world (Genesis 6-8). Then he got drunk, exposed himself, and cursed one of his sons for laughing at him (Genesis 9:20-25).
David was “a man after God’s heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), but he was attracted to another man’s wife (2 Samuel 11), and it eventually destroyed his family (Much of 1 Kings).
The Bible is clear that, on our own, we human beings cannot live an upright life as God intended. Recent Black Lives Matters demonstrations have brought to light the failings, and sometimes outright wickedness, of some of our most famous heroes, most notably those whose philanthropy derived from wealth earned either in trading slaves or building plantations worked by slave labour.
When things get really bad, we look for a superhero, one with powers or abilities beyond the normal, whose life is dedicated to fighting evil and doing good. Yet even these heroes have physical or character flaws that render them vulnerable. Peter Parker becomes Spiderman after being bitten by a radioactive specimen. But he is tormented that he was not able to save his uncle Ben from a burglar. During the course of his life, he is fired, finds and loses several girlfriends and has to battle a “symbiote” which tries to make him evil. Alongside this, he is trying to save the world.
Those of us who are disappointed with human heroes need look no further than the God of the Bible for someone who can genuinely rescue us from the evils of the world. Here we find:
A loving Father
In the parable of the Lost Son, the younger son demands his inheritance while his father is still alive, wastes it on wild living (hence the usual title, the “prodigal son”), humiliates himself by feeding pigs, and finally comes home seeking a job. The Father immediately throws a party because his son’s return is more important than his mistakes.
In contrast, the older son gets the hump because this “wastrel” has now got some of his inheritance for a knees up. The Father points out that he could have had all of this at any time, if only he had asked.
One son had recognised the generosity of his father, whilst the other only saw the duty. But the Father loved both equally and wished the best for each.
David had reason to be glad of God’s mercy:
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbour his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him; (Psalm 103)
And so we, too, can come to him, with whatever we have done, knowing that when we honestly confess our sin, in his love “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
A Faithful Friend
It’s often been said that the twelve apostles would all have failed an official selection process, with the possible exception of Judas. Several of them present rather badly in the gospels, their tactlessness, lack of understanding and intolerance of others should surely disqualify them from being disciples of any rabbi, let alone the Son of God. Yet once called, none of them turns back (at least, not until Jesus is arrested). And Jesus persists with them, despite occasional expressions of frustration at their slow progress.
And if Jesus was faithful to his (sometimes faithless) disciples, we can be sure that he will remain faithful to us also. As the writer to the Hebrews says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
A Constant guide
Once we accept Jesus as friend and Saviour, his Holy Spirit enters us, to guide us into the truth (John 16:13), to purify us (Titus 3:5), and to empower us to witness (Acts 1:8). He gives us words to say when we are tongue-tied (Luke 12:12) and leads us in God’s plan for us (see the description of Paul’s journeys in Acts 16).
Our earthly heroes may fail us, and superheroes do not exist. But a Loving, Faithful, Constant God is waiting to envelope us in his arms, if only we will come to him in humility and desperation.
Have you made that choice for yourself? Are you assured of the love and forgiveness of the Father, the friendship of the Son and the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit? If not, now would be a good time to turn your life over to God.
Song God’s love to me is wonderful
1. God’s love to me is wonderful,
That he should deign to hear
The faintest whisper of my heart,
Wipe from mine eyes the tear;
And though I cannot comprehend
Such love, so great, so deep,
In his strong hands my soul I trust,
He will not fail to keep.
God’s love is wonderful,
God’s love is wonderful,
Wonderful that he should give his Son to die for me;
God’s love is wonderful!
2. God’s love to me is wonderful!
My very steps are planned;
When mists of doubt encompass me,
I hold my Father’s hand.
His love has banished every fear,
In freedom I rejoice,
And with my quickened ears I hear
The music of his voice.
3. God’s love to me is wonderful!
He lights the darkest way;
I now enjoy his fellowship,
‘Twill last through endless day.
My Father doth not ask that I
Great gifts on him bestow,
But only that I love him too,
And serve him here below.
Sidney Edward Cox (1887-1975)
May God’s blessing surround you each day,
As you trust Him and walk in His way.
May His presence within guard and keep you from sin.
Go in peace, go in joy, go in love.