Good morning and welcome to Message from the Manse.

I begin today with two bits of good news. Firstly, there is a new president in the USA and secondly, the old one is not coming to Scotland to live!!!!

Despite all the doom and gloom merchants out there, there is still much to smile about.

A friend of mine was recently asked by his wife, "what would stop the stairs from creaking?" Apparently slimming world wasn't the right answer. I'm going to see him in hospital later.

Let's begin with one of the old greats, "And can it be"!!

Let us pray.

Loving God,

we thank you that you are constantly at work, striving to fulfil your purpose -

not just the course of history, nor only the destiny of nations,

but equally the life of each one of us,

everybody you have created precious in your sight, of infinite importance.

You have done great things for us,

and we are glad.

We thank you for the way you have moved in so many lives across the years -

the way you have met with individuals, confronting them with your will, challenging them through your call, and leading them through your love.

You have done great things for us,

and we are glad.

We remember Jacob, a trickster and a cheat,

Matthew, a hated tax-collector,

Legion, feared as a madman,

Paul, formerly persecutor of the Church;

and we remember how each experienced a life-changing moment - vision of a ladder into heaven,

call to discipleship,

a pronouncement of healing,

a blinding light.

One touch of your hand,

one word from your mouth,

and life was never the same again!

You have done great things for us, we are glad.

We thank you for the way you can change us, however much we may despair of it sometimes - that, despite our lack of faith,

our many faults,

and our sometimes wilful disobedience, you are constantly at work within us, nurturing the fruits of the Spirit, making of us a new creation,

imparting the mind of Christ.

You have done great things for us,

and we are glad.

We thank you that you can change anyone, however impossible that may seem - that the hardest of hearts

and most twisted of people

can be overcome by your grace,

moved to turn away from their past life

and commit themselves wholeheartedly to Christ.

You have done great things for us,

and we are glad.

Loving God,

we lose sight sometimes of your transforming power, becoming cynical, disillusioned and world-weary, frustrated by our repeated failure to serve you better, and disheartened by the continuing evil and heartache in our world.

Yet whether we see it or whether we don't, you are still present,

still striving to fulfil your purpose, and still able to surprise us

by the way you change what seems unchangeable.

You have done great things for us,

and we are glad.

Joyfully we thank you,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Our reader this morning is Brian McInroy.

Joseph reassures his brothers

When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, 'What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?' So they sent word to Joseph, saying, 'Your father left these instructions before he died: "This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly." Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.' When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. 'We are your slaves,' they said. But Joseph said to them, 'Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.' And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

Thank you, Brian.

Reflection

One of the foundations of the Reformed Church is the belief in something called the "Priesthood of all believers".

It is the idea that everyone has a "Calling" from God and not just special people.

Calling doesn't just come to ministers and elders, but to every member of the congregation; as I said last week, we all have work to do for God.

One of the most important tasks in life, is working out what it is God is saying to us and then responding to it.

Someone once said that if you wanted to put a smile on the face of God, all you had to do was tell him your plans for your life!!!!

When you hitch your horse to God's wagon, you are just along for the ride, you have no control over the destination nor the route.

When we become a Christian, we give up our right to self determination and place our trust in the hands of God; why would we do such a dangerous thing?

Firstly, because we believe that God will always do the right thing by us and that God does indeed know best.

Secondly, because the bible has over 5000 promises made by God and he has never failed to fulfil even one of those promises.

Thirdly, we have the example of Jesus to follow; he trusted God and look what happened to him.

As a young man in my mid- teens, I had decided to join the RAF and train as an air traffic controller; my road through life seemed fairly clear, but I had not included God in my calculations.

He had a different plan and different route; one that was to see me do things that I could never have dreamed of dreaming e.g. jumping out of an aeroplane to raise money for a play park, building homes for the street boys in Peru, having dinner in Edinburgh Castle as an invited guest, sharing in the Welcome Home Service for the Scots DG's on their return from active service in Afghanistan and too many other experiences to mention here.

Of course, I should also include being asked to be the Minister of the Auld Kirk, that also ranks high on the unbelievable list!!!

There have also been hard and difficult times over the years; losing both parents to cancer for example.

But the one constant has been the knowledge that my journey is accompanied by God himself; I have never had to take a step on my own, he has always been there, through thick and thin.

I can easily look back and see God's Call at work in my life, but not everyone can do that and sometimes people are totally unaware that God is even at work in their lives, until something happens and all becomes clear.

This morning I want to remind you of the story of Joseph, because his is a story, not of someone who knew he had been called by God, but a man who seemed to be pushed from pillar to post, with no say in the direction his life was taking, but who at the end was able to see that God had always been there, had always had a plan for him and who was able to accept the hardships he had faced as necessary, in order for God's plan to be completed.

For ministers and others, it is often easy to hear the call and to feel God's presence on the journey, but for others' things are not so obvious.

Joseph's journey began when he managed to really annoy his older brothers, firstly, by constantly telling them that one day they would bow down to him and then by having his father make it perfectly clear to his siblings, that he loved Joseph more than the rest of them put together!!!

Here is where Joseph discovers that he is not in control of his life, because his brothers kidnap him with the intention of killing him and blaming it on a wild animal.

Fortunately, none of them has the stomach for the deed and so they decide to sell him to some passing slave traders.

Against his will, Joseph now finds himself travelling to Egypt, where he is then sold to a man called Potiphar.

Things might have taken a turn for the better, because Potiphar recognised that Joseph had skills and he became a favoured servant.

Unfortunately, Potiphar's wife, also looked favourably on Joseph and when he rejected her advances; she cried rape and Joseph found himself in prison.

Then through his ability to interpret dreams he comes to the attention of mighty Pharaoh and once again, without any consent or consultation, Pharaoh makes Joseph his number one civil servant.

Years go by and Joseph is able to save not only his family, but many other Israelites from the devastating famine that touches the land.

You can imagine how his brothers feel when they discover who their saviour is!!! Now who is in control!!!

When Joseph's father, Jacob, dies, his brothers must have thought that their numbers were up; that there was no one left to defend and protect them from the vengeance of their little brother.

Yet Joseph puts their minds at rest by telling them, that despite what they had done and despite all the troubles he had had to endure as a result; he could see God's hand at work in everything that had happened.

Joseph was able to look at the bigger picture and as a result to make sense of his life, even the bits where everything seemed to be going wrong.

It is all too easy to let the issues of the day get in the way of hearing God's call or of recognising that God is indeed using us to make a difference.

Sometimes, often, it is how we cope with adversity, that makes a greater witness to our faith, than when things are going well.

It was only when Joseph looked back over his life, that he was able to make any sense of what had happened and that if he had not experienced those things, he would not have been in the position to save a nation from famine.

Remember how Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane said, "take this cup from me" and then added, "not my will but yours be done".

If we truly want to understand what it is that God is calling us to do, then we have to trust him and to hold onto the promise that he will never do us any unnecessary harm and that he will always bring good out of any evil we might face; hard as it might seem to be at the time.

I think we all feel a bit like Joseph at the moment, tossed by waves of uncertainty; pulled this way and that by conflicting opinions of how to deal with the pandemic and powerless to do anything about it.

Like Joseph, we have to trust that God is control, that his will, will be done and that we have a part to play in the unfolding of that story.

Last week I finished with "the end is nigh", this week it is "the dawn is breaking, the Son is rising"!!!

Amen.

Let us pray.

Living God,

we thank you that you are a God who hears and answers prayer, and we praise you for those times

when you have responded to us and granted our requests.

But we confess that there are times, too, when you seem silent, when, listen though we might, we cannot hear your voice.

And so we pray now for all who cry to you but who feel their prayers are unanswered.

Lord, in your mercy, hear us,

and all who pray to you.

We think of those known to us facing difficult times - battling with illness,

wrestling with depression, anxious about the future, grieving for loved ones -

those for whom life seems a puzzle, even a burden,

and who long to find hope

to make some sense out of their confusion.

Lord, in your mercy, hear us,

and all who pray to you.

We think of those who feel far from you - burdened by doubt,

overwhelmed by temptation, crushed by failure -

those who long to know you better but who find it hard to get close; who seek to serve you

but who are weighed down by a sense of their weaknesses, their lack of faith

and their repeated mistakes.

Lord, in your mercy, hear us, and all who pray to you.

We think of those who seek guidance - who feel unsure of the way ahead,

uncertain of their ability to face that future, unclear as to what you want from them,

or what you plan for their lives -

all who ask you to lead the way forward,

yet who still have no clear sense of their particular calling.

Lord, in your mercy, hear us,

and all who pray to you.

We think of the poor and the weak,

the vulnerable and disadvantaged in society - those denied their rights,

their dignity their freedom, their livelihoods -

all who long for a time when justice will be established but who have given up believing it ever shall be.

Lord, in your mercy, hear us,

and all who pray to you.

Living God,

we are conscious that so many in our world cry out to you yet seem to receive no answer -

some because they do' not expect to receive any, some because they are not ready or willing to listen,

some because they do not understand what you are saying, but many genuinely and urgently longing to hear your voice, yearning for some response.

Speak to them, we pray. Do not keep silent,

but reach out into their pain and hurt, their need and hopelessness,

and bring your word of comfort, of peace,

of healing, love and renewal.

Lord, in your mercy, hear us,

and all who pray to you.

In the name of Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh.

Amen.

And now may grace, mercy and peace; from God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; be with you and all whom you love, now and evermore. Amen.

God bless and keep safe.

We end with "Tell out my soul.