9TH JULY 2023

OPENING SENTENCE

Grace flows from your lips because God has blessed you for ever

HYMN

GREETING

Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

COLLECT FOR PURITY

Almighty God
to whom all hearts be open
all desires known
and from whom no secrets are hidden;
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you
and worthily magnify your holy name
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

SUMMARY OF THE LAW

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these. Amen. Lord, have mercy.

CONFESSION

God is love and we are God’s children.
There is no room for fear in love.
We love because God loved us first.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith.

God our Father, we confess to you
and to our fellow members in the Body of Christ
that we have sinned in thought, word and deed,
and in what we have failed to do.
We are truly sorry.
Forgive us our sins,
and deliver us from the power of evil,
for the sake of your Son who died for us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

ABSOLUTION

May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen.

GLORIA
sung by Billy Dewar Riddick

COLLECT

O God of power and might,
all good things belong to you:
sow in our hearts the love of your name,
and make us grow in the life of faith;
nurture the things that are good,
and tend them with your loving care;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen

FIRST READING
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
read by Robyn Brotherston

So, he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. And my master made me swear an oath, and said, ‘You must not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, but go to my father’s family and to my own clan and get a wife for my son.’

“When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’

“Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’

“She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.

“I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’

“She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’

“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms, and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.”

So, they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”

“I will go,” she said.

So, they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

“Our sister, may you increase
to thousands upon thousands;
may your offspring possess
the cities of their enemies.”

Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So, the servant took Rebekah and left.

Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So, she took her veil and covered herself.

Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So, she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

SECOND READING
Romans 7: 15-25a
read by Annabelle Guthrie

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells within me. For I know that the good does not dwell within me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do the good lies close at hand, but not the ability. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells within me.

So, I find it to be a law that, when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched person that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am enslaved to the law of God, but with my flesh I am enslaved to the law of sin.

HYMN

GOSPEL READING
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
read by Reverend Chris Wren

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Matthew chapter 11 beginning at verse 16

Glory to Christ our Saviour.

“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!

Jesus Thanks His Father

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel

Praise to Christ our Lord

SERMON

I read recently about a Muslim, who lived in LA and who went to Pakistan to visit his parents and to attend his brother’s wedding. His parents had a special surprise arranged for him – his own wedding. The bride was a neighbour girl that he knew a little bit from growing up. Just imagine that: he went “home” for his brother’s wedding and was informed that he would also be married and was given no say on either the bride or the wedding.

In some cultures, parents arrange this kind of marriage for their children. They will pick someone who is compatible for their son or daughter, and with whom they can build a lifelong relationship. We don’t do that in our culture. However, in the passage in front of us this morning we see one of those arranged marriages. Isaac got married at the age of 40 to Rebekah, a woman selected for him by one of his father’s servants! Isaac and Rebekah never laid eyes on each other until a day or so before they were married. And the Bible tells us that Isaac loved his wife a lot. So, we see that arranged marriages aren’t so bad after all.

On the other hand, many unarranged marriages – like the kind we have in our country – don’t do very well at all. In countries where young people meet someone, fall in love, and then get married, the statistics indicate that too many of them also fall out of love and split up. Because of this many people today are taking a second look at arranged marriages. No, young people are not asking their parents to arrange a marriage for them. What they are doing is hiring a professional search team to find them a prospective spouse or they are placing their trust in a dating app like Tinder.

Abraham did not use a professional search team, he chose a senior trusted servant.

Abraham was old and advanced in years. He reflected upon the promises of God. God had promised to bring forth a great nation through his son, and from that great nation, he would bless the whole earth. But in order for the promise to be fulfilled, not only must he have a son, but the son must necessarily be married, and out of the marriage must come forth children. So, Abraham, as he is approaching the end of his life, calls his servant, and says, “I want you to go find a bride for Isaac.” He gave the servant two very specific instructions. Number one, “You must find a bride for Isaac who does not come from the Canaanites.” Number two, “The bride you find must come from our people.” Abraham believed it was the will of God for his son to be married, and he believed that by sending his servant to search for the wife, he was actually doing the will of God.

So, the servant sets out on the long journey northeast to Nahor, and after a month’s journey, he arrives on the outskirts of Nahor in the evening, just about the time the women would come out to the well to get water for the camels. What’s his first step? Well, what he doesn’t do is to put an ad in the connections page of the newspaper. There was one farmer who put up an ad for a wife, it read: Farmer wishes to meet lady of 35 years age with tractor with a view to matrimony. Please enclose picture of tractor.” No, this servant does not rely on ads or beauty contests. Instead, he stops and asks God to give him specific guidance. He asked for specific, direct, unmistakable guidance from God. He even tells the Lord how he wants it to happen. “May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink. And I’ll water your camels, too,’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” “Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder.” He can’t even get the prayer out of his mouth and God is already answering him.

So, he asks Rebekah, “Would you give me a drink?” And she gladly gives him a drink. Then she says, “Please, let me water your camels also.” That’s exactly what the servant had asked for. He prayed and God answered precisely to the detail. Here’s an important background fact that will shed light on this passage. Camels drink a lot of water. These ten camels had travelled 500 miles from the Negev all the way up to Nahor. Scholars tell us that a camel at the end of a day might well drink 20 to 30 gallons of water. So, what she was volunteering to do was to take a bucket and get 200-300 gallons of water. That might take her two or three hours. No mean feat!

You might be wondering, why did the servant ask for this particular sign of watering the camels? First, it was specific—thus easy to determine whether or not it had happened. Second, it was appropriate in that his camels actually needed water. Third, it was an excellent test to discover the kind of woman who would make a good wife for Isaac. After all, his wife was going to become the mother of a great nation. Not only must she be kind and courteous and hospitable, she also must be generous, gracious, industrious, and willing to bear her share of the load. So, it wasn’t just a frivolous sign. It was a sign that fitted the need of the moment. For the servant these early signs were encouraging, but he needs further confirmation. When God is leading your life, other people will recognize it and confirm it. They will see it, they will believe it, and they will support you in what you are doing. So, the servant receives his confirmation from members of Rebekah’s family and from Rebekah herself- who says ‘I will go’ and she is rewarded by Isaac’s love for her.

The choice of a bride for Isaac was God’s choice. He is the One who is working behind the scenes. He never speaks. He never says anything. And yet clearly the whole point of Genesis 24 is to say that the search was not just a human search but that behind the affairs of man stood Almighty God. He was the One who was leading the servant step by step, and the servant was in touch with God so that when he found the right woman and brought her back home, he knew it would be successful because God had made the choice Himself. God himself chose a bride for Isaac!

So does this strategy work for us? Is this a model we can follow? It’s a model of forethought, preparation, prayer, sign, and confirmation. In many ways I believe that is a model for us. I think of my own experience in going to Ireland, when I was seeking God’s guidance. I had three real choices before me, one in Scotland, one in England and one in Ireland. Which was the right one to choose? I knew in my heart the Scottish one offered was not for me, but I was undecided between England and Ireland. I had applied for the English charge but I had not applied for Ireland.

The Bishop in Ireland phoned me and said that two people had recommended me to him for the post here in Ireland and would I come over for an interview. I was surprised- I had never even thought of Ireland. I didn’t know Ireland, I had no family or friends here- it would be a huge step for me but was it the right step? I visited Ireland twice, one for interview and one in order to meet different people. I have to admit that the thought of six churches was not what I had in mind- in my mind it was at least three too many! I expressed my concern to the Bishop, who promised me the help of a curate. I also said that I needed clear biblical guidance. I had been listening on my way to the airport to a tape by Michael Baughen, a Bishop in England, and I decided to re-read his book on 2nd Timothy. The book of the Bible the bishop recommended I read was, have you guessed, it was 2nd Timothy- the Bishop had no idea that I was already reading this!

This book was significant – it reminded me that if God calls, he will equip. If he calls me to six churches, he will equip me for six churches and give me all the support, wisdom and help I will need. For the first time I can recall I did ask God for a sign. When in England, in Surrey for the interview I asked God at the end of the interview, that if it was not England then would he please give me a clear sign that it was Ireland. The sign that I asked for was that someone would offer to drive me after the interview to the airport and that someone would be Irish and from the South of Ireland. To cut a long story short – I was driven to the airport by an Irish lady from Dublin- whom I had never met before! While the sign was helpful- to be honest I did not put too much emphasis on it. Really what worked deep within me was scripture, prayer, peace of mind and confirmation from people in Ireland and at home.

Sometimes we get too mysterious about the God’s will. We want dreams and visions and odd things to happen to us. Most often God doesn’t work that way. Most often God works through forethought, planning, preparation, and prayer and the ordinariness of our daily lives. So, whether you are looking for guidance in marriage, in work, in finance, in dealing with elderly parents, then adopt this strategy of forethought, planning, preparation and prayer. It works! All God is asking for is our faithfulness to him. With our focus on God, God will take the responsibility for the details of our lives. So don’t worry, relax, trust in God and he will guide you step by step. Amen.

NICENE CREED

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

God of wisdom, still our clamouring hearts,
that we may rest in your presence.
Give your church faith and gratitude
to sing your praises.
Help us to ensure our action
does not become a substitute
for our relationship with you.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

God of wisdom, give to all leaders and rulers
time to reflect on your purposes and will.
Draw near to them in the quiet
and create space for them to hear your whisper.
Restore in them a right vision and sense of priorities.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

God of all wisdom, in offering hospitality
some have entertained angels and met with you.
Open our hearts to share our food and resources
with friends and strangers in need.
Bless all agencies that offer food banks and food kitchens,
and that where hospitality is given,
your love might be known.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

God of all wisdom, we lift to you those
who are distracted by many worries and anxieties,
and ask that you will meet these people
with your wisdom and grace
so that your peace and compassion
might be experienced by them.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

God of all wisdom, we pray for those
who long for marriage,
and ask that they will be guided
to the right person at the right time.
For those seeking your face and will
grant divine providence and wisdom
in the choosing of a spouse.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

God of all wisdom, we lift to you all those
who call out to you in distress.
Hear their cry, strengthen them
in their pain and suffering,
and touch them with your healing.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

God of all wisdom, you hold before us
the promise of eternal life with you,
when the time comes,
bring us safe to the heavenly city
to share in the heavenly banquet with all your saints.

Lord in your mercy

Hear our prayer.

God of all wisdom, help us in our daily lives
to find the rhythms of grace,
that as we contemplate and rest in you,
our practical service will flow and bless others.
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Do not bring us to the time of trial
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

HYMN

BLESSING

The peace of God,
which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord:
and the blessing of God the Father,
the Son and Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen

DISMISSAL

Go or stay in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In the name of Christ.

Welcome

St John the Evangelist, Dumfries, is a parish of the Scottish Episcopal Church also serving Methodist parishioners locally.

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Notices

Contemporary Service

Contemporary Service

The Contemporary Service is at 6pm, on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, followed by refreshments in the hall.

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