Enrolment Sunday

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Our Enrolment Service, when we welcome the young members of our uniformed organisations and Junior Church and ask God to bless them in this session, takes place on Sunday 26th October at 10.30. We welcome all parents, family members and friends to join with us in worship!

‘Rock the Kirk’ Music Festival

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There’s top-notch Christian music at St Kentigern’s on the last weekend in October. On the Friday, Steph Macleod will return to play a gig in The Charleston lounge.

Saturday 1st November sees the very popular Ian White performing a concert for all the family. Ian’s music has travelled the world and he’ll be live with us at lunchtime. After that there will be  free music workshops during the afternoon for young budding song writers, composers, musicians, etc. The Royal Foundlings play a concert in St Kentigerns in the evening when they’ll be joined by Scott Nicol and the Limitless Sky and introducing Russell Steele.

Then on Sunday 2nd November we’re holding ‘St Kentigerns HAS Talent!’ Singers, musicians, magicians and anyone else with talent is welcome along! All you need is some religious content to your act and you’re off!

There’s loads going on! Book your tickets now: contact stkentigern.org.uk for details.

Christians Against Poverty

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We want to help people in our community deal well with issues surrounding debt. We think we can do this better by working together, and by working with others. Join us at St Kentigern’s on Sunday 19th October when Alison Paton, Scottish Manager of Christians Against Poverty, will share with us the difference we can help bring about. Stay for an hour after the service to learn more from Alison and explore what it might take for you to be involved.

Golden Age Project

No strangers here, only friends who haven’t met!’

We meet in the Lounge on a Tuesday afternoon from 1 – 3 pm for a time of friendship and fun. All those who are aging or aged are most welcome to come along for a cuppa and a blether.

We next meet on 21st October when Jim will entertain us on the organ and we’ll have some Halloween fun.

What kind of people? A people of justice

Introduction

Isn’t it surprising how things change? A month ago we were in the grip of Referendum fever; now, we do our best to miss the same politicians when they speak at their party conferences. For Christians, the issues about the kind of nation we want to live in were not settled on 18th September. Faith inspires us to work for a more godly society, but we need to know what we are working for. God has not left us in the dark. Centuries ago, God’s spokesmen, the Prophets, painted a pretty clear picture of what we should be aiming for. These pictures are about how societies might work under God. In the coming weeks, from these same Prophets, I’d like us to be inspired about the kind of society God says is good. Of course, I want you to work for it. But first I want you to catch the dream of it.

And it starts with God. God wants people to be, in some measure, like him. It sounds an impossible idea: how can humans be like God? That’s not the point. By holding out a vision, a glorious picture of possibility, even if it cannot be attained, God invites us to aspire, to be ambitious, to reach beyond ourselves. Traditional Christianity has sometimes shunned this. Where it has preferred us to know and stay in our place, or not to get above our station, or to keep things as they are, I believe that it has been mistaken. The world is changing fast, and we need as Christians to be ambitious, courageous and faithful so that we might influence some of this change in ways we understand to be godly. Of course we can also sit on the sidelines and do nothing; but God doesn’t ask us to be subs on the bench. God invites us to be players for God’s kingdom.

For I, the Lord, love justice;

I hate robbery and wrongdoing.

In my faithfulness I will reward my people

and make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their descendants will be known among the nations

and their offspring among the peoples.

All who see them will acknowledge

that they are a people the Lord has blessed.’ Isaiah 61:8-9

This is our God. A God who loves justice; a God who is faithful for ever; a God who blesses all people and who wishes blessing to be shared generously among all. This is the God in whom we believe. This is the God we are to imitate. Of course we are not naturally like that. Isaiah speaks about human society generally when he says:

2 But your iniquities have separated

you from your God;

4 No one calls for justice;

no one pleads a case with integrity.

They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies;

they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.

6b Their deeds are evil deeds,

and acts of violence are in their hands.

7 Their feet rush into sin;

they are swift to shed innocent blood.

They pursue evil schemes;

acts of violence mark their ways.

9 So justice is far from us,

and righteousness does not reach us.

We look for light, but all is darkness;

for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.

10 Like the blind we grope along the wall,

feeling our way like people without eyes.

At midday we stumble as if it were twilight;

among the strong, we are like the dead. Isaiah 59:2,4,6b-7, 9-10

Justice, here, is not some fancy philosophical idea. It’s about how people really treat one another; and that flows from how they relate to God. Separated from God by sin (or iniquities), Isaiah says people look out for themselves rather than for justice or the common good. People don’t argue for truth, but debate purely to win. Appearance trumps substance and it’s the show that matters, not what is real or true. Left unchecked, humankind has a worrying bias towards violence and we have seen recently all to graphically how there is an eagerness not only to shed innocent blood but to broadcast that to the world. The Prophet is right: justice is far from us. Living in one of the richest, and most unequal, nations on earth there is a malaise, a dis-ease, a lack of satisfaction with out lot, a jealousy about what the rich, good-looking and famous have and an insatiable desire to know more and more about them so we might feel increasingly second-rate. Who will save us from our selves? Who will help us see? Who will give us life?

Listen to me, my people;

hear me, my nation:

instruction will go out from me;

my justice will become a light to the nations.

5 My righteousness draws near speedily,

my salvation is on the way,

and my arm will bring justice to the nations.

The islands will look to me

and wait in hope for my arm. Isaiah 51:4-5

We need to look to God to lead us, for on our own we cannot be people of faithfulness, justice and blessing – the three characteristics of God we considered at the start. And here’s the glorious promise God makes: he will do it. He will tell us how to live. Who knows – if we’re really desperate he might not only tell us, but show us. He will let his light shine on us so that we see clearly where we ought to go. And he’ll do it quickly, and comprehensively. God’s justice will go to all the nations, not only to a favoured few. If you are hoping for justice then hope in God, for God is your best hope. God’s strength is the strongest force for justice there is.

And God’s justice is shown to us, and anticipated by the prophet, in this way:

4 Surely he took up our pain

and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

stricken by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.

Yet who of his generation protested?

For he was cut off from the land of the living;

for the transgression of my people he was punished.

9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,

and with the rich in his death,

though he had done no violence,

nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,

and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. Isaiah 53:4-10

This is an astonishing step, one which is so radical it is hard to understand, far less to accept. God brings his justice to bear in this world pre-eminently by becoming not only human but by becoming a victim of injustice. However we understand Jesus to be the One who bears our sins and carries them away from us, this passage speaks about the apparent injustice of it all. It seems as though this servant, whom we recognize in Jesus, is punished by God. But if Jesus is God, as we believe, then in truth God must then become involved in the injustice of the world which God wants to save.

Jesus is condemned by a small group of influential Jewish religious leaders. Jesus suffers punishment at the hands of the imperial Roman authorities. Jesus cries out in front of an international crowd in Jerusalem at Passover; and he cries that ‘It is finished.’ Whatever the mechanics of it all, God in Christ was suffering injustice to reconcile the world to God. Through this unjust suffering of this God-man, it is as though God makes his life an offering for sin. And not simply the human life of Jesus of Nazareth; for if Jesus is God, then in some way the life of God is given up, even if only for a time, to defeat the injustice of the world.

Justice is realised, in this view, not by force or power but by apparent weakness which is really the strength of character which gives oneself as a servant to those who will oppress, who will act unjustly, who will commit acts of violence and who meet no resistance. And three days later this apparently weak response is vindicated in the greatest victory our world has seen.

All this goes against our human instinct for revenge, for destruction of the enemy, our desire to obliterate all who stand in the way of what we know to be right. It might seem crazy, almost a denial of justice itself. I’m not sure it is a model for humans to follow absolutely, for only at the Cross does the Son of God give his life for the salvation of the world. We cannot save the world.

But we can give ourselves and contribute towards God’s saving of the world. That will demand sacrifice from us. Every time we put what is right higher than what suits us, a small victory for justice is won and there is at the same time a mini-crucifixion. Every time we commit ourselves to action which promotes the good of others at our expense is a triumph of generosity that intends blessing. Every time we identify ourselves with those who have less than us, and when we do not aspire to be like the few who have very much, we are showing faithfulness in action.

Blessing, generosity and faithfulness are some of the traits of God. They can also be part of our character. When we give sacrificially to help others we are acting for justice – so your giving to TEAR Fund is part of that. When we deny ourselves something that will advance our career, our salary or our pension prospects and instead give of our time and skills to meeting the needs of others then we are part of the establishing of God’s rule of justice on earth – and the Church in Scotland has not in a hundred years been so desperate for women and men to hear God calling them to serve him, to down tools and pens and careers to serve in the name of Christ.

Every time you give an hour that’s not about what you want or need, but is about serving others – cleaning this place, preparing classes or crafts for groups and activities, opening up so others can gather here, practising your ability to play music or speak clearly to lead in worship, or helping in the Job Club or the Church Hub or whatever it might be, you are aspiring to be a bit like God.

May God bless, encourage and sustain your God-given desire for God’s justice; and let us never give up doing good in the name of Christ. For he has shown himself a servant, giving all that the world may know God’s faithfulness, God’s blessing and God’s great generosity. He is the Light of the world; so let us walk in the light of the Lord. Amen.