June 20th, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

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The Faith Nurture Forum would like to thank the Sanctuary Sunday Writers Group for their thoughts on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

"We may not all be gathered in the same building, but at this time, when we need each other so much, we are invited to worship together, from where we are – knowing that God can hear us all and can blend even distant voices into one song of worship." - National Worship Team

As the restrictions on our ability to meet in groups continue, worship leaders continue to deliver their services both online and offline.

We can help to facilitate participation from the whole congregation by exploring imaginative approaches to inclusion, participation and our use of technology in the service in ways that suit both physical gatherings and video-conference style settings, such as:

  • Opening and closing moments of worship that help people mark out a time set apart with God
  • Introducing various parts of the worship service to help worshippers understand the character and purpose of each one (framing)
  • Enabling conversations or prayers in breakout groups
  • Holding spaces that allow people to go deeper in worship
  • Using the chat function and microphone settings to allow people to actively participate in prayer, e.g. saying the Lord's Prayer together unmuted, in a moment of ‘holy chaos'
  • Using music and the arts as part of the worship

Useful links

Up-to-date information for churches around COVID-19 can be found in our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) advice for churches section.

Useful tips for creating and leading worship online can be found on the Resourcing Mission website.

You can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship in our online hymnary.

Sanctuary Sunday Service Video

The video below is an ecumenical service with contributions from people who have personal, lived experience of having to flee their home country and finding refuge in Scotland; or of people with lived experience of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers in their congregations and communities. Please join us as we celebrate our diversity and cultural richness in our local communities of faith. We want offer a vision of hope, friendship and solidarity.

Further Sanctuary Sunday service ideas are available on the Church of Scotland's YouTube channel.

Contents

Introduction

Churches across the UK and world are encouraged to celebrate Sanctuary Sunday (also called Refugee Sunday) on 20 June, which this year also coincides with World Refugee Day. There are more displaced people in the world today than at any other point in history and the Bible is clear in its expression of God's loving concern for the stranger and refugee. And so, there is a scriptural mandate for Christians to act compassionately and humanely towards those who have had to flee their homes and seek safety elsewhere. Sanctuary Sunday is an opportunity to be reminded of the need to welcome the stranger, the alien and the sojourner and to see our common humanity, all created in the image of God, all deserving of dignity and worth.

Sanctuary Sunday is also a day where Christians are encouraged to pray for the situation facing refugees; commemorating those who have lost their lives on the journey to freedom as well as celebrating the contribution that refugees are making to our common life here in Scotland. Issues of migration and refugee protection are increasingly politically controversial. The rise of far-right populist movements and the response of politicians to migrant and refugee arrivals in Europe, or even the small numbers attempting to travel across the English Channel are generating headlines and disagreement. Sanctuary Sunday is therefore also an opportunity for Christians to come together and be salt and light also in this situation. Where our government is hostile, the church can stand out as being radically hospitable. Where society displays fear of the stranger, the Christian can show radical love and welcome. Where the refugee and asylum seeker are treated undignified, with hate, rejection or apathy, the Church can speak dignity and express care, warmth, compassion and inclusivity.

Celebrating Sanctuary Sunday is an opportunity to express our prayers and solidarity, but also to raise awareness again of our Christian calling to welcome the stranger and do this openly and proudly.

The contributions in this weekly worship material have all been written by people who have personal, lived experience of having to flee their home country and finding refuge in Scotland; or of people with lived experience of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers in their congregations and communities.

To start, Rev. Raheel Arif shares some of his own journey of refuge, but also about finding comfort and strength in God:

Remembering my story today, when I reflect on it again, I think when life gets tough, where do you run? In our lives, even as Christians, whenever we feel hurt, disappointed, confused – whenever life gets difficult, we often flee from God rather than running towards God. Yet the Bible tells us that God is our stronghold, our stability, our security. (Nahum 1:7)

I have personally experienced and lived the hardships and agony which many Christians in Pakistan suffer every day in various forms of persecution. When I looked at the title for this Sunday, I thought that it needs to be called "Asylum, Refuge, and Sanctuary" as it was in my case, because whenever somebody like me arrives to seek asylum in another country, it is the asylum process that he/she goes through first which itself is a very tough, challenging, and horrible. Once you are granted asylum, you are then called a refugee and find a refuge – the story can become one of sanctuary. I was warmly welcomed and started working as a support worker in a care home. When I responded to my call to become a minister to serve God and His people in Scotland, sanctuary (church) welcomed me and offered me all the support, resources, and training that I needed to fulfil God's plan for my life. And now I am God's servant, serving God's people in the west of Falkirk.

The Church celebrates Refugee Sunday once a year, but our call as Christians is to act every day. It is an opportunity for Christ's body to reflect on God's heart for refugees, and to pray and provide for the millions of struggling refugees and displaced people around the globe.

More information:

To find out more about the situation facing refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland download the Sanctuary in Scotland resource produced by Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees or order free hard copies.

‘God with us' is a new Christian worship resource on the theme of refugees, migration and sanctuary. You can download your copy or request free printed copies.

Job 38:1-11

Rev Barry Hughes – Minister of St Mark's Parish Church, Stirling

How many times, when we have an argument or a disagreement with someone, are we determined to have the last word? If anything, this has increased with the advent of social media. Seeing someone else's opinion online – especially when we don't know who they are – makes it so much easier for us to reply with our own counter opinion, and to keep this going until someone, eventually gives way. Let's face it, we have all done it. We have all made certain that it is us who get the final word.

But what about a disagreement with God? How wise is it for us to try to get the final word then? Here in Job's ongoing discussions with God we see the futility of trying to blame God for our predicament. God starts by reminding Job that there is indeed a plan for Job – and makes it perfectly clear in verse 1 that it is Job himself who is standing in the way of God's plans. And God issues the most extraordinary rebuke to Job in verse 3: "Brace yourself like a man".

Why does God say this? Knowing that Job is down – yet, almost like a fighter in the ring, God tells Job to get up off the floor, to face the music and then hits Job with question after question. At least six of them in the next eight verses – each one designed to demonstrate to Job what he, in his heart of hearts, already knows – that God is in charge, even when it suits us to pretend that we have been forsaken by God.

In 2015 I had the privilege of visiting the refugee Christians of Iraq, driven from their homes by the fighting with ISIS. It would have been convenient – and understandable – for them to blame God for their predicament. "God has forsaken us" or "We are no longer part of God's plans" would have been entirely understandable statements. Yet their faith increased in times of uncertainty. They did not attempt to second-guess God. They did not attempt to get the last word.

In our largely comfortable lives, does it suit us to bemoan our lot when things go badly, as Job sought to do? If so, God will be there to remind us, like Job, that God is in control. God does not explain to Job why he has encountered misfortune – but does remind him of God's power, creation – God's love for us, in good times and in bad. God does have the last word – and for that we should be truly thankful.

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

Rev Barry Hughes – Minister of St Mark's Parish Church, Stirling

What is the worst weather you have ever been caught in? Perhaps a storm or a sudden downpour. Some years ago whilst working in India, I was caught for the first time in a monsoon downpour. It was as if God had turned the taps on full and forgotten to turn them off again! I was soaked to the skin in seconds – whilst everyone else just carried on as of nothing was happening. Far worse is being caught in a storm at sea – the weather can change in an instant. Anyone taking the ferry to Northern Ireland, or to one of the Scottish isles, who has seen the weather turn suddenly will know what I mean.

Psalm 107 speaks – as do many of the Psalms – of those who cry out to the Lord in their distress. In this case, of those caught in the storm. "They reeled and staggered like drunkards, they were at their wits' end" (v.27). We are reminded of Jesus sleeping in the boat whilst His disciples feared for their lives as the storm raged around them – yet He calmed the storm with a command, just as the God of the Psalms does in v.29: "He stilled the storm to a whisper".

In the storms of our lives – of which there have been many since COVID-19 first struck – to whom do we turn? Do we cry out for help? Do we cower in fear, convinced nobody can help us? Do we raise our hands and our voices in prayer to the one who can still our storms, to the ‘still small voice' who speaks to us through the gales and the rain, through the earthquake, wind and fire?

Many are those who have been redeemed, who have been saved from the storms of life – indeed, Psalm 107 is their testimony. Many are those, this refugee Sunday, with tales to tell of being cast out because of their faith, their race, their sexuality, their political views – in the storms of life, God is with them just as God is with us. "They were glad when it grew calm, and He guided them to their desired haven." (v.30) Let us not fear the storm – let us allow the one who redeems to guide us, to, to our desired haven. And let us pause to consider those – fleeing from violence – who do not reach that safe haven; we pray that they find peace as they rest in the Lord's hands.

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Rev Raheel Arif – Minister of Denny Old Parish Church linked with Haggs Parish Church, Falkirk

The church at Corinth was weak as it was surrounded by idolatry and immorality. They struggled with their Christian faith and lifestyle and through personal visits and letters, Paul tried to instruct them in faith. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to defend his position and to denounce those who were twisting the truth. Paul's history shows that he always worked with God and he hoped that by calling them as fellow workers and appealing to them not to receive the grace of God in vain, those believers, within Corinth would co-operate.

When Paul contemplates that the Corinthians may have accepted God's grace in vain, he acknowledges that believers can fall out of faith. We may be aware of the expression, "Once saved, always saved", but this is not Paul's theology. Paul believed that we could turn away from God. I think it is a powerful testimony to how much God loves us that the grace in our lives frees us to say "No" to God. It is fullest and richest when it is most free and when all trappings of compulsion are gone. That is why many people in our world turn away from God; because we are not held captive, but rather God offers us free will.

Something like this is also true of grace. God's grace claims us – no mistake about that. It claims us in a way that enables us fully and freely to embrace it. Grace is perhaps better thought of as a stewardship rather than as a possession.

Paul's citation of Isaiah 49:8 provides a call to the Corinthians. "Now is the acceptable/favourable time" … now is the day of salvation. He highlights the eschatology and emphasises that they were near the time of fulfilment and must act accordingly. The Corinthians risk everything if they stray and if they receive God's grace in vain.

In verses 4-10, Paul launches into an elaborate hardship list. Its length is designed to overwhelm any remaining opposition. It can be no surprise that the list leads off with "patience, endurance, courage, perseverance, affliction, tribulations, distress and steadfastness". The entire hardship list shows that Paul is exposed to the ups and downs of life, to the extremes of shame and honour, from insult to good rapport, being understood and misunderstood – yet is steadfastly dependable through it all.

Paul's hardship list reminds me of the challenges I and many other Christians face daily in Pakistan and many other non-Christian countries throughout the world. Children at schools and colleges, adults in universities, in workplaces and in the community suffer discrimination, persecution and misuse of blasphemy laws.

I have personally experienced and lived the hardships and agony which many Christians in Pakistan suffer every day in various forms of persecution. In spite of all these troubles and persecution, Christianity in Pakistan is growing every day and people are deepening their faith and trust in God. This, I believe, is because they have weapons of righteousness – prayer, faith, hope, and love in their right hand, and weapons of defence – truth, peace, salvation, God's grace, God's word, the Holy Spirit and God's gift of eternal life in their left hand.

Mark 4:35-41

Rev Raheel Arif – Minister of Denny Old Parish Church linked with Haggs Parish Church, Falkirk

The Sea of Galilee is 600 feet below sea level and is surrounded by hills. People living near the coasts know well that when winds blow across the land they intensify close to the sea, causing violent and unexpected storms.

The way Jesus calmed the storm and spoke to the wind, "Quiet! Be still" looks like He is rebuking a demon, which may lead readers to view this story as an exorcism, because the use of exorcism language provides a cosmological context for the story. Just as a sea monster in ancient mythology represents the powers of evil, so also the raging storm here reflects all the powers of chaos and evil. In the Gospels Jesus' exorcisms provide evidence that He is strong and able to break up Satan's kingdom. Mark refocuses this impressive demonstration of Jesus' divine power by highlighting the disbelief shown by the disciples in this story. Many miracles that Jesus performed could have been performed by other miracle workers, exorcists, or magicians, but no one could have calmed or stilled the raging storm.

Given the fact that at least four of the disciples were fishermen by profession – and must have experienced such storms before – their terror indicates the severity of the storm.

Another thing we notice in this story is the Disciples' accusation that Jesus was not caring for them. The tone of this accusation parallels the story of Prophet Jonah, where the captain charges the prophet with not caring about the fate of those on the ship (Jonah 1:6). The panic of the Disciples indicates that they were still unaware of the power of Jesus and shows their lack of trust. However, Jesus completely calms the storm. He did not respond to the disciples' accusation first, he handled the situation.

The question of Jesus' identity appears repeatedly in Mark's Gospel. It challenges readers to examine their faith. Merely repeating the confession that Jesus is the Son of God means little to us if Jesus does not represent God for us. A doubt that God does not really care what happens to us can destroy our religious life and relationship with God. As we see in our lives, human relationships wither when we sense that others do not care when something happens to us.

Doubts about God certainly emerge in times of crisis, especially during persecution, in the asylum process, in illness and in the loss of loved ones. However, the weaknesses exhibited by Jesus' disciples encourage us to persist despite doubts about God's saving presence. Jesus has been with His people for more than 2000 years, and yet today, like His disciples, we underestimate His power. At a human level we often act like the disciples, expecting others to share our panic or distress. If they do not take an interest in our situation, we accuse them of not caring about our suffering. Panicked reactions can divide us from others who might help, just as they can cause us to doubt God's love for us.

Sermon ideas

Rev Jane Howitt – Minister at St Rollox Church, Glasgow

One of the themes that runs through all four of our readings today is of people in situations of hardship, suffering, threat or danger. Exactly the situation that so many refugees find themselves in, but also situations known to each one of us. Any of these passages could be taken as the main text as well as attempting to link across the readings.

Job

Very often, when we find ourselves in situations of suffering, threat, danger or hardship, we start to question God – rather like Job did. But what would it be like if the tables were turned and God began to question us, as in the story of Job? How might God counter our questioning of God? What are the questions we need to hear God asking us in order to come to the same realisation that Job did – that God is Sovereign and in control, even of the difficult situations we find ourselves in?

Psalm 107

There is a pattern running through each section of this psalm:

  • A situation of danger and threat
  • The people cry out to the Lord to rescue/save them
  • Because of God's unfailing love, the Lord rescues/saves
  • The people respond in praise for God's wonderful works

You might explore how this pattern occurs in our own lives and how God acts towards us at these times.

Is it possible to draw a parallel here with our experience of salvation in Christ? Our sin overwhelms us and condemns us to death and we cry out for our sin to be forgiven. Because of God's unfailing love, demonstrated so clearly on the cross, God rescues us through the saving work of the Son, the Lord Jesus, and those who are saved respond in praise.

It always strikes me that those who have come through so much hardship and danger are people who overflow in praise. I think of some of the refugees and asylum seekers we have met in our work, who talk so little about the threat and danger of crossing the seas, just like in this part of the psalm, but who are constantly praising and giving glory to God. There is a challenge here about our attitude toward praise and questions to be explored around what leads us to praise God.

2 Corinthians 6

Here we see that faith does not protect us from hard times or from difficulties. Such situations are not a sign of God's disfavour and we should not be surprised when hardships come. Like Paul, the believer is encouraged to trust in God and remember that God is with us during these times as much as at other times in our lives.

Paul's reminder that we have not received God's grace in vain is the preface to his list of hardships. How does that reminder strengthen us when in similar difficulties?

Mark 4

In the story of the storm we see a lack of faith and trust even though Jesus was with the disciples. Storms can come because of human failure to keep our environment and climate clean. When storms like hurricanes and cyclones come they damage and destroy homes. We see many refugees and migrants trying to cross the English Channel, but so often a storms rise, a large wave hits and the boat is upside down and the sea engulfs everybody and those who thought they were safe lose their life, their children, their dreams, their hope and their place of refuge. As Christians, and as a Church we need to think how we can calm the storms of these migrants and refugees and how we can help to provide refuge to them.

Raheel tells his story: "In my personal experience as an asylum seeker and refugee, I left everything in God's hands and fled from my country to seek refuge here in Scotland. It was like sailing in the boat, not sure where the waves will take me. But I had faith and trust that God would calm the storm in my life and would provide an exodus. I kept praying hard and constantly read the scriptures. This provided me strength and a sense of assurance that God is stronger than my challenges and has the power to take me out of this situation just as Jesus was with His disciples in the boat. After sailing in the boat, I was accepted as a refugee and welcomed by the people in Scotland, including my church family locally and nationally."

Overview

Here are some key questions that can be explored with reference to any or all of today's passages:

  • What makes us feel safe?
  • When our safety and security is threatened, how do we react?
  • Why do we feel entitled to be safe? It does not appear to be a Gospel promise; rather we are called to lose our life in order to gain it.
  • What is the truth about God and God's relationship to us when we are in situations of danger, threat, suffering and difficulty?
  • How do we retain trust in God when we are in the midst of threatening and insecure circumstances?

Prayers

Opening Prayer

Gracious and merciful God,
we gather in one heart and mind to pray for all families and individuals
who have left or fled their country, their land, their homes, seeking safer and better lives. We lift up to You their hopes and dreams, their fears and anxieties,
and all their needs and necessities,
that they may be protected on their journeys,
their dignity and rights may be fostered, honoured and upheld,
and they may be welcomed with open arms
into generous and compassionate communities.

All this we ask, through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.
Amen

Prayer of thanksgiving and confession

(Veronique, member of St. Rollox Church, a refugee from the DRC)

Heavenly Father,
I bow my heart to You and pray.
I give You thanks for all You've done.
Thank You for being my refuge and my strength.
Thank You for Your goodness in my life.
When I wake each morning,
I praise Your name.

I give thanks to You that no matter what the circumstances,
I can count on You to shelter me
And to give me strength.

Almighty God,
Merciful Father,
I, a poor miserable sinner,
I confess to You all my sins and iniquities,
Those known and unknown.
I'm not perfect
And I fall short every day of my life.
Thank You for Your mercy
In Jesus name. Amen.

Prayer based on the prayer requests of a Syrian refugee resettled in Stirling:

Loving God,
We thank You for the safe arrival on these shores
of all who have had to flee from war, conflict and unrest.
We pray for those who now call Scotland home,
having arrived here from distant and war-torn lands.
Bless all who have arrived here as refugees
and may they be welcomed here by all whom they meet.

We ask Your blessing also on those whom they have left behind –
family, friends, loved ones, whom they may never see again.
For every refugee who safely reaches this country,
there are countless others who cannot leave and who must remain in harm's way.
Protect them, Lord,
enable them to remain in contact with those who have been able to leave.

As refugees find a new life here in Scotland,
we pray that they and their families will settle here;
we pray for the children, starting a new school and making new friends;
we pray for the adults, learning a new language and a new culture;
we pray for those helping them to find their feet in their new lives.

Lord, bless refugees and displaced persons everywhere,
and bring an end to the strife in our world
which sees so many people driven from the homes and the friends and family they love.
In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Intercessions

God of family,
we bring before You the parents who are weeping and lamenting,
who are waiting for their children,
whose trace is lost in the sea, in the desert, on railway tracks,
in shipping containers and uncertainty:
men, women and children who had escaped from the war zones,
the famine and poverty of this world ,
with the hope for a better, safer life.

God of life,
we bring before You our lament for the dead, stranded at the borders of safety,
who died fleeing through deserts, over mountains and seas.
We call to You and join in the cry of all those who sought justice
and a better life for themselves and their children and perished in the process.

God of justice,
we bring before You political leaders, advisers and decision-makers
who hold the fate of others in their hands.
Make them aware of the causes of migration and flight.
Keep their consciences alive so that refugees are offered protection and dignity.
Let them agree rules of residence that are based on human rights
and guided by solidarity and compassion.

God of peace,
give us the strength to be witnesses of the suffering of the world
and fill us with the fire of Your spirit to renew our efforts to serve those in need
and give us the grace to welcome, learn about and share our lives
with people who come to live in our communities. Amen.

Litany of justice

Reader: Jesus said," I was hungry and you gave me food." Made in the Image of God,
All: We see the face of Christ in all.

Reader: Jesus said, "I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink." Made in the Image of God,
All: We see the face of Christ in all.

Reader: Jesus said, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Made in the Image of God,
All: We see the face of Christ in all.

Reader: Jesus said, "I was naked and you gave me clothing." Made in the Image of God,
All: We see the face of Christ in all.

Reader: Jesus said, "I was sick and you took care of me." Made in the Image of God,
All: We see the face of Christ in all.

Reader: Jesus said, "I was in prison and you visited me." Made in the Image of God,
All: We see the face of Christ in all.

Reader: Jesus said, "In as much as you did to one of those considered to the least important, you did it to me." Made in the Image of God,
All: We see the face of Christ in all.
We go from here to see and serve Christ in all. Amen.

Benediction

May God bless us,
our God, who called the world into being,
who breathed us into life,
who provides us with new strength.

May God bless us,
our God, whose love does not know borders nor walls,
whose justice will come.

Our God, who casts down the mighty from their thrones
and lifts up the lowly.

May God bless us,
Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer,
Amen

Alternative Material

This material has been supplied by kind permission of Spill the Beans and allows you to explore the readings or theme of the service in creative ways that include everyone gathering for worship.

New material from Spill the Beans is provided in the latest issues available from their website.

Activities

All of the activities below can be carried out in church or in the home with some adaptation and notice in advance.

Through the Season

Windows to God – Mirrors for the Soul

A possible visual hook for this season would be through the use of windows and mirrors. Indeed the overall theme for this season could be based on "Windows to God, Mirrors for the Soul".

In some of the passages during the season we encounter people who are looking on to what is happening, as though looking through a window at events taking place. As we read some of these passages, it is like we have a "window" to God, a way of helping us to see something more, and to learn something different about God.

At other times as we explore the passages in this season, it is as though the passages reflect back to us aspects of what it is to be human, positive and negative: the passages act like "mirrors" for the soul.

This thought can be developed so that the focus during the season will switch between whether we are looking through a window or into a mirror. Some weeks we will learn more about God, other weeks we will focus more on looking at ourselves and how we can reflect more of God through our lives.

We remember that some windows are mirrors too!

Possible arrangements might be:

  • A large window frame with a separate pane for each week, this pane could either be clear or mirrored (shiny mirror card would work) depending on the week and key words or theme added
  • Two large frames, one as a window on one side of the sanctuary, the other mirrored (either a large actual mirror or mirrored card), adding key words to whichever is the focus for that week.

Story: 1 Samuel 17:32-49

Theme: Stepping Up

Object: Window. Words: Boy, giant, stones, sling

Bible Notes

The following material is based on the alternative reading for today from 1 Samuel.

Signs of an Extraordinary Leader – 1 Samuel 17:32-49

The following is a confidential report on several candidates being considered for a church vacancy:

Adam: Good man but problems with his wife. Also one reference told of how his wife and he enjoy walking nude in the woods.

Noah: Former ministry of 120 years with not even one convert. Prone to unrealistic building projects.

Elisha: Reported to have lived with a single widow while at his former church.

Deborah: Strong leader and seems to be anointed, but she is female.

Paul: Powerful CEO type leader. However, short on tact, unforgiving with younger ministers and women, harsh and has been known to preach all night.

Timothy: Too young!

Jesus: Has had popular times, but once his church grew to 5000 he managed to offend them all, and then this church dwindled down to twelve people. Seldom stays in one place very long. And, of course, he's single.

What sort of leader should we be looking for in our churches? Is anyone ever good enough? Have you ever read adverts from churches looking for a new minister and been confused? There is a certain type of code language that is used by committees searching for a new minister. Often, they find it difficult to get to the root of the type of person they are looking for.

David is beginning to come into his own as a new leader. We read that God gave his Spirit to David (and took it away from Saul), and now Saul has him as his personal musician charged with banishing the evil spirit God sent to torment him.

The action in today's reading takes place after forty days of the Philistine giant, Goliath, tormenting the Israelites. It should perhaps be noted that only twice in the story is the name ‘Goliath' used. More often he is referred to as ‘the Philistine'. Perhaps this shows a development of the original story from an unnamed ‘giant' to ‘Goliath'. This may carry weight as later in 2 Samuel 21:19 it is noted that the warrior Elhanan killed a man named Goliath from Gittite (which means "from Gath", a Philistine city).

David was on a food run from his father to his brothers and found himself caught up in the action. With nobody else willing to take on the Philistine, David decided that he should fight Goliath. When David had been introduced to Saul at the end of chapter 16, he was introduced as a warrior and a man of valour and so presumably the offer from David did not come as a complete shock to Saul, even though David was still young.

This is a story which tries to demonstrate to the reader David's extraordinary gift for becoming king and leader. His natural characteristics are played down in the story to highlight some of the extraordinary. There are many contrasts in the story which help this: the giant versus the boy; the massive armour of the giant and the inability of David to wear any; the weaponry of the giant versus the small slingshot of David.

David, as the king in waiting, anointed by God, couldn't (quite literally) step into the shoes or armour of Saul. How often do leaders today find it difficult to step into their predecessor's shoes? How do churches cope with trying to step back into a perceived ‘golden age' of church, which served a different time?

How do we as churches step forward without trying to fit into how things used to be in the past, yet recognising the important of past experiences? Perhaps it is extraordinary leadership.

Retelling for Young People
David beats Goliath

If you know the tune to the children's game, The Farmer's in his Den, you can sing this!

Pick someone to be David and let them act the part, with real props if you wish!

Before wee Dave was king
before wee Dave was king
he went to fight a Philistine,
before wee Dave was king.

"I've fought with lions and bears,
I've fought with lions and bears,
where's the giant, I'm not scared,
I've fought with lions and bears!"

"Here, David, put these on,
here, David, put these on,
helmet, sword and armour strong,
here, David, put these on!"

"This helmet hurts my head!
This helmet hurts my head!
I cannae wear this lump of lead!
This helmet hurts my head!"

"This sword weighs a ton!
This sword weighs a ton!
I cannae pick it up and run!
This sword weighs a ton!"

"This armour doesn't fit!
This armour doesn't fit!
I cannae even walk in it,
This armour doesn't fit!"

"I'll take these stones and sling,
I'll take these stones and sling,
God will help your future king,
I'll take these stones and sling!"

Activities

These activities can be done with a gathered congregation or at home, with some adaptation.

If you are using the Through the Season ideas above to help set the scene throughout this theme, this week the focus is the window, and possible words are boy, giant, stones, sling, armour.

Gathering activity

Ask folk to share what was their favourite Bible story from childhood, or what pictures they remember from their Sunday school days.

Observe the differences if there are different generations present. Honour the images that have stuck: for good or not so good.

Action

Create a pile of stones at the head of an aisle in the worship space. Create also an outline of Goliath on lining paper and place in the centre of the worship space.

After telling the story of David and Goliath, invite people to consider the giants of the world such as conflict, hunger, homelessness. Ask people to call these out and write them in the body of the giant, or draw an image of it. Once you have completed this, play some music or sing a song while you let people pick up a stone and walk down the aisle and place their stone in the giant as a sign of dedication to fight these giants of the world. Following this action lead a prayer of dedication:

O God, if only we believed we could slay giants
like poverty and hunger,
if only we believed we could slay giants
like prejudice and hatred,
if only we believed we could slay giants
like conflict and bigotry.

And if only we could stand tall like giants
in our grace and care for each other,
if only we could stand tall like giants
in our acceptance and support
for one another,
if only we could stand tall like giants
in our forgiveness and justice
towards the other.

So may we love:
may we stand beside friends and family,
the sick and ill,
the newly baptised and the oldest,
the stranger and the seeker,
and know the strength of love between us
and the possibilities that lie therein.

So be it. Amen.

Reflection

Slaying giants—
the stuff of dreams
made real when God gets involved.
Stories of old coming to life
when told to a new generation.

God's word is not safe,
it is dangerous.
It's not benign,
it is powerful.
It encourages action and dissent
and sounds an alarm for us
to take up its challenge
and fight the monsters of today.

For God does not dwell in the past,
and stories do not remain on the page.
The Good News is a living word
that speaks in every age,
that calls on God's people
to rise to new challenges,
to seek new ways,
to love and to serve
all God's people.

Prayers

Call to Worship

Music for this can be found in the Church Hymnary, 4th Ed., 174. (listen to the tune here)

God of big and God of small,
God of short and God of tall,
God who calls and uses all,
In worship make us one.
Alleluia, alleluia, praise be to your name.

Prayer of welcome

God, we thank you
that as we gather in worship today,
you make space for each of us.
You call us and you equip us.
You love us and you welcome us.
You invite us to worship you,
knowing who and what we are,
assuring us that there is room for us
in your house, among your people,
and a place for us in your kingdom.

Give us security in your love
and your calling
so that we will always be able
to make room for others,
to appreciate their gifts
may be more useful or creative than ours.

God who embraces us in welcome,
as we experience your forgiveness
may we grow in confidence of your love
so that our arms open wider
to embrace others in your name.
Amen.

Sending

May God give you strength
to face any giant.
May God persuade you
to meet them with grace
and may what no longer fits
be left behind,
your armour being rather that
of love and truth.

And the grace...

Musical suggestions

Our online music resource is on the Church of Scotland website; you can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship. You will also find playlists for this week and liturgical seasons and themes on the Weekly Worship and Inspire Me tabs.

You can find further musical suggestions for this week in a range of styles on the Songs for Sunday blog from Trinity College Glasgow.

  • CH4 465 – "Be Thou my vision"
  • CH4 694 – "Brother, sister let me serve you"
  • CH4 706 – "For the healing of the nations" (alternative tunes: Westminster Abbey, Cwm Rhondda)
  • CH4 168 – "God weeps at love withheld"
  • CH4 362 – "Heaven shall not wait"
  • CH4 195 – "Here to the house of God we come" (alternative tunes: Abingdon, Melita)
  • CH4 251 – "I the Lord of sea and sky"
  • CH4 624 – "In Christ there is no East nor West"
  • CH4 253 – "Inspired by love and anger"
  • CH4 360 – "Jesus Christ is waiting"
  • CH4 198 – "Let us build a house where love can dwell"
  • CH4 543 – "Longing for light, we wait in darkness"
  • CH4 166 – "Lord of all hopefulness"
  • CH4 265 – "Pray for a world where every child"
  • CH4 250 – "Sent by the Lord am I"
  • CH4 544 – "When I needed a neighbour were you there"
  • CH4 566 – "When I receive the peace of Christ"
  • CH4 291 – "When out of poverty is born" (Christmas Carol)
  • CH4 258 – "When the hungry who have nothing share with strangers"

Further hymns, songs and chants can be found on the CTBI website.

The website www.songs2serve.eu offers intercultural songs of worship in a multitude of languages, with lyrics and translations into English.

You are free to download, project, print and circulate multiple copies of any of this material for use in worship services, bible studies, parish magazines, etc., but reproduction for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Please note that the views expressed in these materials are those of the individual writer and not necessarily the official view of the Church of Scotland, which can be laid down only by the General Assembly.