St Ninian’s
25.08.2019 Family/Backpack Service

Sermon by Helen Evans

At the start of the service we read together the Pilgrim Prayer – what is a pilgrim? (Lovely answer from Katie – a holy traveller)
Someone who goes on a journey to a holy place – a pilgrimage.
Has anyone ever been on a pilgrimage? Where did you go?
Has anyone been on a journey this summer? Where did you go? Did you take a big bag or suitcase?

Malcolm and I went to the Channel Islands – to Guernsey and Sark. We each took a suitcase and a rucksack. When we travel we usually take a bag with our own clothes and other things that we think we might need on the journey. I do little journeys every day though, I might walk to the shops or the post office, I might go to see my son and his family, I might go to church. I don’t need a suitcase for those journeys but I do always carry my handbag.

I believe in being prepared so my handbag is quite heavy. As well as essential things like my purse, a bottle of water, my driving licence, a teddy bear, and family photos I carry a whole lot of other ‘just in case’ things:
my diary
a small notebook
pens, pencil
a small first aid kit
a glasses repair kit
spare batteries for my hearing aid
a BSL dictionary
a very clever screwdriver set that has lots of different heads
a tape measure + small scissors

I could go on but I think you get the picture. I think I’m good at being prepared but maybe I’m not so good at trusting God. Did you notice in our gospel reading that when Jesus sent out his disciples on their journey he told them what to take with them? He said:
Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Lk 9 v 4

That was it – take nothing! Not even a change of clothes. They are to go out in complete faith and trust that God will provide for them whilst they are doing his work. As you can tell from all that I carry around with me I’m not so good at this. I wonder if some of you are better.

School-children, I think that your teachers would not be very happy if you didn’t turn up with things that you need in school so let’s see some of what you’re taking to school with you, maybe 1 or 2 things from each bag…

Jesus knew that he wasn’t going to be with his disciples for very long, they had to learn to trust God for themselves so he sent them out on that journey. For some of us learning to trust God probably takes most of our life journey. We have to learn what God wants us to take on our journey, that would be things like the fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is the list in Galatians 5. We also have to learn to leave behind the things that will weigh us down as we journey, things like guilt, worry, fear, other people’s expectations – things we need to hand over to God and trust him with them.

This pretty little decoration on my bag is one of my visual reminders that God is with me. God’s rainbow colours remind me that God always keeps his promises, the dove represents the Holy Spirit and is a reminder that through his Spirit God is always there with me.

Psalm 121 is one of the songs of ascent that Jewish pilgrims would sing as they walked up to the Temple in Jerusalem. It’s all about God protecting us, the last verse says:
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. Ps 121 v 8

I loved the start of the new school year with all its possibilities; new books, new pens/pencils, meeting up with old friends and the possibility of new friends. I was often nervous as well though, a new classroom, a new teacher – what would they be like? Maybe new children to get to know. It didn’t change when I became a teacher, still the excitement of all the possibilities and the nervousness of a new class to teach. It’s always been re-assuring though to know that I wasn’t going into it alone. As I picked up my bag for school, I knew that God was going with me. I hope that as you pick up your bags for school or for whatever journey you’re making you’ll know that God is with you too.

Now we’re going to bless your bags…