Sunday Worship 9 June 2024

Today’s service is led by the Revd Dr John McNeil Scott


Greetings from Glasgow! My name is John McNeil Scott and I serve as Principal of the Scottish College, one of the colleges that helps the United Reformed Church in the area of learning.  Ministers of Word and Sacrament train with us, elders and church members and preachers too gather to think and to learn together. It is my privilege to share from one of today’s lectionary passages in Mark chapter 3. I send prayers and blessings from the College, from those who learn with us and from the National Synod of Scotland. I send greetings also from Shawlands United Reformed Church, a picture of which is my background today.

Call to Worship

Give thanks to the Lord, with your whole heart;  in face of all that is sing God’s praise!
We bow down towards God’s temple  and give thanks to God’s name – for love, and for faithfulness;  for God’s name, and for God’s word of truth.
For though the Lord is high, God meets the lowly with a gaze of love;  but the haughty God can spot from far away.  Though I face troubles and difficulties, I am not overcome;  God stretches out a hand of help, & God’s own right hand delivers me.  
The Lord will accomplish God’s purpose for you;  God’s steadfast love, is here today and it endures forever. 

Hymn     Praise With Joy the World’s Creator
John Bell © 1985 WGRG c/o Iona Community, GIA Publications, Inc. Sung by members of Peninsula United Church.  OneLicence # A-734713  

Praise with joy the world’s creator,
God of justice, love and peace,
source and end of human knowledge,
God whose grace will never cease.
Celebrate the Maker’s glory,
power to rescue and release.

Praise to Christ who feeds the hungry,
frees the captive, finds the lost,
heals the sick, upsets religion,
fearless both of fate and cost.
Celebrate Christ’s constant presence –
Friend and Stranger, Guest and Host.

Praise the Spirit sent among us
liberating truth from pride,
forging bonds where race or gender,
age or nation dare divide.
Celebrate the Spirit’s treasure –
foolishness none dare deride.

Praise the Maker, Christ and Spirit,
one God in Community,
Calling Christians to embody
oneness and diversity.
This the world shall see reflected
God is One and One in Three.

Prayers of Approach and Confession

Spirit of God, at large in our world, blowing where you will, enlivening, strengthening, emboldening, comforting. Ruach of God, we celebrate you, you are the thirst and its quenching, the source and goal of our deepest longing. And it is you who reveals Jesus to us as Messiah and Lord. Spirit of Pentecost, and of today, true Spirit of our spirits, be at work among us and in us. Draw us close to Father and to Son, and to each other.

Spirit of Truth, crusher of lies, undoer of falsehood, dynamo of justice, and strengthener of the powerless…we do not always recognise you. And sometimes when we know your prompting we turn away, or distract ourselves, or seek in another voice a reason to live and speak as we wish. We tell ourselves that life is complex when in reality it is simple, and we tell ourselves it is simple when it is not. Forgive our disobedience, wilful and lazy by turn, build us up into those who will not grieve you, but live increasingly in your life and power.

Declaration of Forgiveness

It is God who forgives. It is God who is on your side. It is God who wills for you, life and all that makes you strong and makes you fully alive. The power at work in creation, and in Christ Jesus, is at work in you, completing your redemption. Thank be to God!

Hymn     Lord Jesus You Shall Be My Song as I Journey
© 1961 Les Petites Soeurs de Jésus Shenandoah Christian Music Camp OneLicence # A-734713  

Lord Jesus, you shall be my song as I journey;
I’ll tell ev’rybody about you wherever I go:
you alone are our life and our peace and our love.
Lord Jesus, you shall be my song as I journey.

Lord Jesus, I’ll praise you as long as I journey.
May all of my life be a faithful reflection of you.
May the earth and the sea and the sky join my song.
Lord Jesus, I’ll praise you as long as I journey.

As long as I live, Jesus, make me your servant,
to carry your cross and to share all your burdens and tears.
For you saved me by giving your body and blood.
As long as I live, Jesus, make me your servant.

I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey;
but courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side.
And with all of the family you saved by your love,
we’ll sing to your dawn at the end of our journey.
A Prayer for Illumination 

Amidst all the clamour within and without, the voices and pressures and claims upon us, the darknesses that pretend to illumine, and the true light of life that always prevails.  Help us, O God, to hear you speak, to discern and to bind and to loose as we should, ourselves and others. Make ancient words alive and useful  and turn us towards all is true. Amen.

Reading     St Mark 3:19b-35 

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.  ‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’  Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’ 


This is a sad story. It’s probably a common story, even a necessary story perhaps. It’s a story about growth and purpose and self-determination, about what’s most important. It’s a story about standing alone, standing against others, and about others standing alongside.

So Jesus – in Mark’s telling of the story – has just commissioned, appointed, ordained the Twelve. It’s barely chapter three in the tale and he’s crossed swords with religious authorities in ways they will have thought impertinent and dangerous. They ask him questions that come with an edge and he turns their logic back on them in ways they won’t have liked.

Gathering crowds and courting controversy is tiring work. And Mark’s account of it is breathless in its coiled and restless scene-setting.  Jesus is at the Jordan getting baptized, then in the wilderness, then Galilee, Capernaum, at Synagogue and then the desert. Capernaum again, the lake, the cornfields. Lake synagogue, lake, calling disciples, being followed by crowds. Then up a mountain. And then he went home, followed by a crowd so febrile that Jesus and his twelve could not even eat.

And this is where the action of our passage begins; with Mark’s Jesus coming up in turn against his family, and then against the scribes, whom we are told had come all the way from Jerusalem to deal with him.

Mark, I suspect, edited the story to show Jesus being resolutely authoritative as he swatted away his opponents and their ill-conceived pressures and accusations. Something too, maybe, about establishing a community of purpose and intimacy that trumped ties of blood. And Mark’s theological purpose is important. But I am left wondering if there is more. And if that ‘more’ might resonate with the lives that you and I live.

Because where is all this leading? And where does it all lead? It leads to a scene of pathos. Jesus and his friends, and the crowd that had followed pressing in as Jesus was sitting inside. Outside, Jesus’ family were trying to get in. And from Jesus no word of “let them in” or “make a way”.

Instead a question, or is it a rebuke? “Who is my mother? Who are my siblings?” “Who anyway?” (Not those outside it seemed.) “Only those who do God’s will.”  For Mark maybe a gospel-narrative set piece, put there to make a point. But to anyone with a heart it is as well a sad and instructive tale. And I wonder if we should not linger a little, and not move too quickly past the moment. So I am wondering if this is perhaps before (or as well as) anything else a sad story. Even if family breakdown isn’t unusual. Even if it is sometimes inevitable. 

It’s a story about growth and purpose and self-determination, about what’s most important and about a clash of important things.

It’s a story about standing alone, standing against others, and about others standing alongside. It speaks of the truth that all of our lives, Jesus’ life too, is worked out in the context of relationship.

The lectionary context of Pentecost encourages us to see a new community of spirituality and discipleship being inaugurated: “My mother and my brother and my sisters, my siblings, are those who do the will of God”.

There are moments that define us. Moments when who we are, what we will make of our lives. Who we will decide to be and where we will stand in relation to the world, when such things reach a point of definition. And it is usually a point of crisis. Sometimes it is a point of crisis from which there is no turning back. So it was for Jesus, and so it sometimes is for us.

But we see too that community is not a simple thing. We see Jesus navigate three communities in the passage – the community of his close family, the wider community of his village and beyond that stretching to the powers that be (that were) in Jerusalem… and finally the community of disciples gathered, the community that would become the Church.

There are times when the subtle pressures of community to fit in, or do the expected, thing, the safe thing… the subtle pressures become unsubtle, the powers show their hand… and deploy their forces. We are thrown into life. And thrown is a good word for it, I think, for there is a thrown-ness to life. Unchosen moments, when perhaps we surprise ourselves. Moments when we ‘come out’ and tell the truth of what and who we are – what we are about and what path we will choose. Most life isn’t like that, of course. Thank goodness. For the most part the rhythm of our dancing is able to approximate the tempo of the group. We are able to fit in, appear normal, avoid the hostile stare and the onslaught of the world.

But our lives, and our spiritual lives – I think – are lived in this dance with community and society. With church (our community of baptismal belonging) and with the intimate community of family. And it is the paradox of living and discipleship that ‘fitting in and following’ is a source of strength, and then – in a moment – can become obstacle and crisis.  So perhaps it is a chance for us to consider our lives. To think about the ways that we fit in and go with the flow, when the truth requires us to stand out. It may be a chance for us to consider that systems respond – sometimes violently – to challenge. There can be misrepresentation and slander, as there was with Jesus, where the ultimate cruel and appalling accusation of being in league with evil was made.

And we might find again in the balance of these things a call to be community. To be the community that God calls the church to be. That when other communities fail to nurture – family, society, friends – the community gathered in learning and devotion around Jesus becomes mothers and sisters and brothers to us. And we seek to be the same for each other.
“The Spirit blows where it wills”. But where the Spirit blows disturbance, she also blows community and love and gathering and support. And our role is to live up to this. To be among those gathered inside, metaphorically. Committed in love to the Master and to each other. Doing our best to be the community that supports and not the one that constrains and silences. To be the community that is open and adventurous, and not the one that is fearful and closed.

It is not easy, and it will not be. It is turbulent and partial and compromised – as all communities are – and we are not surprised by this.  But what a calling, and what a challenge. Brother, sister, let me serve you… let me be as Christ to you.

Hymn     Will You Let Me Be Your Servant 
Richard Gillard, © 1977 Universal Music. Sung by Sunday 7pm Choir St Francis De Sales Parish, Ajax, Ontario, used with their kind permission.  One Licence # A-734713  
Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant, too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
we are trav’lers on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh I’ll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
’til we’ve seen this journey through. 

When we sing to God in heaven 
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together 
of Christ’s love and agony.


God has not withheld any good gift from us, even God’s Son, Christ Jesus and God’s own life in the Spirit. It is this Spirit that prompts us to response. In whatever pattern and by whatever means – at home, in church, in hospital or elsewhere – we dedicate ourselves and a portion of our means for the signposting of God’s kingdom, through the fellowship of the church.

Accept our gifts, O God,
and let what we have, and are, be used in your service. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession 

The Spirit is restless.
The Spirit prompts and enlivens.
The Spirit sustains those who struggle against darkness in all its forms.
We pray for those who are ill in mind or body, 
and for those who care for them.
We pray for those who speak unwelcome truths 
and are maligned, imprisoned, attacked and murdered.
We pray for our lives in community, may it bring life and wholeness,
healing and hope
in place of control, suspicion and fear.
Let us be true family to each other, 
abandoning what is counterfeit and incomplete.
We pray for ourselves, may we be attuned to the mind of Christ,
and find ourselves counted among his true family.
May each one achieve the measure of authentic personhood 
they have been created for.

And for our world, where the kingdom story of hope that was in Christ Jesus is often assailed and obscured, misdirected and stunted, but is never overcome. Let us be among those who have caught this kingdom vision. And let those in whom this hope lives be stronger day by day and year by year than all that stands against. Let the judgement of righteousness, with peace and mercy, fall upon all who do evil and wage wars of injustice. Let powers and principalities and structures that make the lives of a few comfortable at cost to the many, let them be cast down. Let truth march on… and on… and on… Amen.

Hymn     Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord 
Julia Ward Howe (1862) Public Domain 250 Voice Mass Choir made up of various churches in South India.  Used with their kind permission.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
they have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read the righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on. 

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of all before his judgment seat;
O be swift, my soul, to answer him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on. 

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
as he died to make us holy, let us die that all be free!
While God is marching on. 

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.


May God bless you in your homes, in your church and at school, 
at work and at rest, in recreation and service.
May Christ be at the centre of your gathering, in intimacy and ease,
with challenge and purpose and comfort.
May the Spirit enliven and encourage you,
giving wisdom in all the decisions of life,
great and small, mundane and difficult,
so that you may be counted in the family of disciples.
And the blessing of God, be upon you and remain with you,
today and for every day to come. Amen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.