Service at SNP Conference April 2019 – prayers and address

Service at SNP Conference April 2019 – prayers and address

Opening prayer, by Revd Edward Andrews, read by Dave Thompson

Unless the Lord builds the house,

the builders labour in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

the guards stand watch in vain.

Praise the Lord

The Lord’s name be praised

 Let us pray

Eternal God Infinite, eternal and unchanging the stability and security of our lives, we are gathered together as your people, committed to your service, seeking to understand what your call to us really means.

We acknowledge that we have raised barriers between you and us. We seek security where no security is possible, we are risk adverse when we are called to risk all for the Kingdom. We pick and choose which sins we are concerned about ignoring your demands for charity.

We try to reduce to you the size which we are comfortable with rather than accept your majesty, creator of the Universe.

We therefore join together in confession.

God of Justice, we come together confessing our sins. We have not acted justly, loved mercy nor walked humbly with You.

Through the power of your Holy Spirit enable us to reflect on the ways in which we fail you in our life and witness, give us true repentance of our sins and strengthen us to serve you as your people in this nation

Give us the assurance that being truly penitent and trusting in the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord that our sins are forgiven and that we will be strengthened by your power to be you people in love and service.

Holy God, Creator of all, the risen Christ taught from scripture of his death, resurrection, and ascension into your glorious presence.

Give to us ears to hear your word, minds to be faithful to what we learn , and spirits committed to building up your kingdom in the future of this nation.

May the living Lord breathe on us his peace,

that our eyes may be opened to recognize him in breaking bread and the Word and to follow wherever he leads, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Address by Revd. Edward Andrews

The fall of the leader of nationalism in Ireland Charles Stewart Parnell made it look as if the journey to an independent Ireland was ended. Yet in the years after the fall of Parnell Ireland underwent a cultural revolution, not only in the appreciation of the Gaelic past, but in the flowering of the arts and literature.

While the result of the Referendum in 2014 was a setback in Scotland’s march to independence, in the last five years there has been a remarkable flowering in the arts, literature and languages. We have been experiencing a Scottish Renaissance where Scotland awakened prepares for the challenges of new nationhood.

There has been much publishing about the question of nationhood. You only need to look at the mass of attractive books for sale at the exhibition down stairs in the Conference. The only area with a real dearth has been the theology of independence.

I’m not sure whether it is because of the secular nature of Scotland, or simply because no one has tried to write on the subject, but here I am called share some thoughts with you.

Today we gather as Christians for independence as a minority – a fringe event at the SNP’s Spring Conference. We are called to consider what the role of Christians are in this, arguably one of the most secular countries in Europe, yet one where the historic sectarian divisions can still be used by those who would seek to frustrate Scotland’s march to independence.

We have, guided by the Holy Spirit been called  to work out what Christians have to say to Scotland on her journey to independence, and will say to the independent state of the future, and we do this against a background of radical change in society. We tend to forget is that people read their understanding of Christianity through two filters, their historic culture, and how society develops in response to the technical, economic and sociological changes of the time.

Within the life time of many of us here the Christian Churches had a very strong claim on the lives of the people of Scotland. An example being when Sunday trading was being legislated for in Westminster in 1950, the Act was not extended to Scotland as the Kirk would never let Sunday Trading happen. It could be argued that it was the beginning of the stirrings towards the reestablishment of an independent nation which demonstrated the emptiness of the claims of the Kirk, for the new parliament ironically siting in the Hall of the General Assembly overtook the claim of the Assembly to be the parliament of Scotland.

So, here we, Christians of different traditions in Scotland gather affirming that we believe that it is our call as Christians to be involved in campaigning so that the nation of Scotland will take its place among the nations of the world.

Since the time of Constantine, the Christian Church has expected to be at the top table, setting the agenda. Is this the model which Christ demands for his people?

As we look at how Christ called his people in terms of salt, yeast, light, we are called to be a much smaller, but more powerful movement than our current model suggests. We ask, “wherein are Christians involved in a campaign for Scottish Independence in a post Christian Scotland?” But you see we put it wrong way, for it is the mission of Christ which constructs the Church, and for too long we have seen the Church with a mission about Christ. The word is what are the demands of Christ upon those who would profess him for Scotland on her journey?

Our Gospel today was probably the most difficult of the sayings of Christ. The sermon on the plain is sometimes seen as a shorter version of the sermon on the mount, in fact it isn’t yes there is overlap, but the Luke passage is much more edgy than the beatitudes, with the woes supplying counterpoint.

It is the blessings and the woes which are so counter cultural that we are called to proclaim to Scotland. Remember Jesus sent his disciples out to make disciples, not believers. It is not what we believe about Christ which is important As Jürgen Moltmann says, “To know Jesus does not simply mean learning the facts of Christological dogma. It means learning to know him in the praxis of discipleship” in other words to live out the Christian faith to demonstrate to the world the love of Christ in what we do as His people.

I was preaching in a Church in America. I was doing a series of 4 sermons, and I didn’t think that the first one was going well. So, I said to them, “There are only two important things you have to remember, What do you think of Christ and what are you going to do about it? For the rest of my time there, these generous, biblically educated, generous, praying people discussed with me what they should do with their faith. The same demand is upon us

If the love of God is new every morning, how do we understand that love and respond to It

as it  is itself constantly developing, new every morning?  It is not for Christians to provide backing for the state, even when it is doing things which we approve, any more than we have the right to believe that it is the duty of the state to impose or prohibit on non-believers some action which Christians revere or reject.

As the people of God, we are called to be just that. God’s people. It is very easy for us to think in terms of a Cultural Christianity, where we baptise all people of Good will as unknowing Christians, and see the institutional Churches almost as representing the nation. That is not what Christianity is. We experience a faith, a difficult faith where we see what is valued are the opposite of what our society tells us is good. It is against this background that we make our prophetic call to Scotland in the name of Christ. For a society where the hungry are fed, where there is a joyful society. But we do this knowing that it is not going to be popular, and that we will be challenged, but that challenge is because we seek to serve Christ, building up communities where the Kingdom of God can be seen breaking through. We already see this challenge with the consorted, so called secular, but actually counter religious, attacks which we suffer from. We could get annoyed about them. Perhaps in this context we should “rejoice and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets”. George MacLeod use to say that the reason why the Church was not being persecuted because it was not worth persecuting

As people of faith witnessing to Christ we have to take risks and be prophetic to Scotland. God’s Kingdom will break in, grant that we are faithful in our call to proclaim the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Prayer of Intercession by Revd Kenneth Gordon        

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom you chose us, before the foundation

of the world, and destined us in love to be your own: help us to pray for all your children.

For the life of the world;
that your peace may be known and may prevail:

For …   nations, peoples, households and families …
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

For all who suffer injury, death or loss;
that they may know the hope to which you call us:

For …  victims of violence, terrorism, flood, famine, oppression, tragedy from whatevercause — especially sudden or unexpected
Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

For all who exercise rule and authority; that they may
acknowledge your power:

For …  leaders of nations, especially in areas of conflict or natural disaster — sovereigns,                    presidents, prime ministers & first ministers — for integrity & honest dealing;                      for righteousness, reverence for human life and respect for the environment

Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

For the Church which is Christ’s body;
that it may live for the praise of your glory:

For …  church leaders; for churches of all denominations, especially in Scotland — for             unity of purpose and effectiveness in demonstrating and proclaiming the Gospel of           our Lord Jesus Christ to this nation and all its people.

For ourselves:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us.

O God, you exerted your strength and power when you
raised Christ from the dead, putting everything in subjection
beneath his feet: accept the prayers which we offer in his
name for the world you have created and redeemed; through
him in whom you have set forth the mystery of your will, to
bring to full fruition all things in heaven and on earth, your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.