New Sermon Series ” Blessed”

New Sermon Series on the Beatitudes

Mount of Beatitudes, seen from Capernaum

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

Matthew 5:1-2

Last Sunday morning, we began a new sermon series entitled “Blessed,” looking at the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5. The Beatitudes is the name commonly given to the first part of what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. 

I hope to set the scene for this new sermon series and Bible study
at our midweek prayer meeting tonight by looking more closely at what the Sermon on the Mount in general and the Beatitudes specifically are about and what they have to say to us today.

I have always believed the prayer meeting should be a meeting of those who wish to pray. In the year ahead we hope that others will come and join us, as we have many reasons to pray and many to pray for in the time ahead. I have also felt that a preacher-led Bible Study lecture should not dominate the prayer meeting, but that our priority should be corporate and private prayer. That will certainly not change, and in the year ahead, we hope that more will join us to pray, and a cordial invitation is given to all to join us on Wednesday evenings at 7.30 PM.

Over time we have looked at several books, passages, topics, and themes in scripture in the prayer meeting that addresses various issues in Christian life. These have included for example;
the need for prayer, repentance and to seek the Lord, the need for obedience, the need for holiness, the need for grace, the need for humility, the need for forgiveness, the need for tears even. But in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus Christ combines this heavenly inspired teaching with challenging practical application of these truths to all listeners and readers then and now. The Sermon on the Mount calls us to a radical lifestyle that is shaped by God’s Word and guided by God, the Holy Spirit. What we might say to be the rule and reign of God in the hearts & lives of His people.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Matthew 5:13-14

As we read Matthew chapters 5-7, we see what real Christian character is. In essence, what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It isn’t just another supplementary law code or rule book. This Sermon takes us beyond Old Testament Law and our good works. It is a thoroughgoing examination of what it means to be a Christian. In carefully rereading these chapters, we have to confess that none of us is ever able to say that we have reached the summit of this Mount!

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

My prayer is that as we look at Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount, that we will let God the Holy Spirit challenge us and change us to His glory.

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Philip Yancey, the award-winning American Christian author, wrote a fascinating and challenging book entitled ‘ What’s so amazing about grace?’, probably with John Newton’s hymn of that name in mind. So what is so amazing about grace and what in fact is it? Without doubt, grace is one of the most distinctive words in our Christian vocabulary and yet probably one of the least understood. Some words of course defy concise definitions and grace is one of them, simply because the wealth of the entire revelation of God in Christ is enshrined in it. Many attempts have been made to define grace but perhaps we could say that grace is the spontaneous love and boundless mercy of God freely expressed toward those who are entirely undeserving of it. It is love for the unlovely, love at its most generous.

Although the word grace is found frequently in the New Testament, especially in Paul’s letters, Jesus, who was full of grace, himself never analysed or defined grace and almost never used the word. Instead, he communicated and demonstrated its power through stories we know as parables, most notably that of the Prodigal Son. I rather think that the real prodigal in that story was the father, who was as prodigal with his love and forgiveness as the wayward son was in the misuse of his money, honour and self-respect. Either way, the parable is a wonderful commentary on the amazing grace of God.

Let me share a story which illustrates powerfully what grace means. A father tells how, once, in the middle of the night he found his broken-hearted wife kneeling beside their son’s bed, stroking his hair. The lad lay there fully clothed, having once again come home in a drunken stupor. “What on earth are you doing?”, the father asked. Looking up, his wife said, through her tears “He won’t let me do this when he is awake.” Though her son constantly spurned her loving actions, she kept on loving him. That surely is grace in action.

The supreme example of God’s grace of course is in the salvation of sinners. According to the scriptures, man’s only hope of salvation is in the grace of God which He offers to needy sinners as a gift. The world can do many things but it cannot offer grace. This is the Church’s privilege however, to offer the gospel of God’s saving grace to a world that thirsts for grace in ways it does not even recognise. John Newton wrote eloquently of such a grace that saved a wretch like him. No wonder his great hymn “Amazing Grace” found its way into the Top Ten charts two hundred years after its composition and is still being sung with gratitude by so many all over a world in which there is so much un-grace.

A composer sometimes adds ‘grace notes’ to his composition, and a singer to his song. Though not essential to the melody, they add a flourish whose presence would be missed. Similarly, the grace of God in our hearts can add a sweetness and loveliness to our faith and witness which will make them attractive to the world and point them to Christ, the fountain of all true grace. May He enable us, by His Amazing Grace, so to do.

Rev Donald John Morrison

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Our next Gaelic service is scheduled for this coming Sunday evening 31st January at 6PM. The service will be lead by Rev Donald John Morrison , with various precentors and readers taking part.
More detailed information will be given in further posts.
The service will be live-streamed using Zoom from the church in Tarbert and will consist of Gaelic singings, prayers and sermon.

We would be delighted to have you share in fellowship with us at this Gaelic service.If you wish to join this meeting, please click on the following link to take you to the service through your Zoom app or browser extension. The service will also be streamed on YouTubeLive .

Join Zoom Meeting…
Meeting ID: 824 4952 7409
Passcode: 086699

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Before Christmas last year, we received permission from the Presbytery of Uist to reopen the church, having been shut for most of 2020. We planned to reopen the church in Tarbert for an initial service on Sunday morning 17th January. The Kirk Session and the Management Committee had met to discuss this after Christmas and agreed to hold an in-person service in Tarbert on Sunday 17th January.

However, as we are all painfully aware, the national situation concerning the new COVID variant has deteriorated markedly since then. After a bit of discussion this morning, ( Saturday 9th January), the Kirk Session now think it would be unwise to go ahead and reopen the church next Sunday. Given how the national picture is looking just now, we feel it might be right for us to wait a while until the situation caused by the alarming surge in the new variant cases improves. The feeling was that we shouldn’t now open on Sunday 17th January, but it is felt appropriate that we offer the use of the church for funerals or weddings if requested by a family.

We realise that this will be disappointing to some. Still, we hope that everyone will understand that given the gravity of the situation facing the country, we feel that it is prudent and wise to postpone reopening of the church until a later date. Our Zoom meetings will not be affected by this in any way and will continue during this difficult time. We are thankful that we can do what we have been doing for the last few months in worshipping God together in our own homes because of Zoom.

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Happy New Year

The New Year letter this year is being posted on the website a bit later than usual. This letter is also being posted physically to the entire congregation, and hence we did not feel it was right to post the letter on the website until it had arrived via Royal Mail to people’s homes. Undertaking a mailshot of the congregation is an extremely onerous task, hence the reason we haven’t undertaken too many mail-shots during the past year. Our grateful thanks are due to Karen, Agnes, Christine and others who printed, collated, labelled, enveloped and arranged postage for all these letters.


Dear friends,
Bliadhna Mhath Ùr dhuibh uile! A happy New year to you all. I wish you all God’s richest blessings for the New Year.
This year has been like no other and has been in every way a most challenging and difficult time. 2020 will be remembered by most of us as the year when everything changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
In my letter to the Congregation in December 2019 I said ; 
“The year ahead may be challenging for us personally and as a Congregation and Community in any number of different ways, but we must never leave God out of the picture. The dark times should not fool us into thinking that God is indifferent or uncaring towards His children. In every circumstance, our God can keep us and enable us to prevail.” Well, that was certainly no exaggeration, and I suppose in the light of everything that has happened in 2020, indeed, prophetic too!  

For many reading these words, this has been a difficult and challenging year. This year has been for some of us like the soul’s dark night. A time when God seems so far away, and we have been left to traverse the dark valley all alone. When friends are few, doubts are many, and there are no answers to the heart’s desperate cries. To make matters worse, God is silent, and the heavens seem shut fast in our faces. But is God far away, in these dark moments? Or is he, in fact, nearer than we can imagine, as the God who is “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit”. ( Psalm 34:18). Although we do not know what lies ahead of us in this year, let us remain confident in the God who promises in every circumstance never to leave us nor forsake us.
2020 will also be remembered by many of us as the year when we lost loved ones, and we may feel their loss more acutely at this time than at any other. Memories and reminiscences come flooding back of the empty place in our homes at this time of year. In the sorrow and sadness of grief, we continue to remember prayerfully all who have been bereaved in the past year. May we all know this year, God as our eternal refuge, and underneath us the everlasting arms of the Saviour to uphold and to bless.

Shortly before Christmas, we received permission from the Presbytery of Uist to resume services in the church. The Kirk Session have agreed that our first few meetings will be tentative first steps in seeing how we can adjust to the many challenges that lie ahead. The Kirk Session and Committee of Management met on Tuesday evening 29th December. We agreed that our first in-person worship service would be on Sunday morning 17th January at 11 am. At present only fifty persons are permitted to attend worship, and those who wish to attend a service will have to register in advance by either email or telephone. We will also now be permitted to hold funeral services in the church, which will be limited to twenty persons in total. However, it is hoped to boost this number by offering connection to Zoom during funeral services. The services will be stewarded by a rota made up from the elders and the Committee of Management.

Services will be very different and in a form that will be strange for all of us. For this reason, I am appealing just now for people to help out with running the services and other activities in the church. Some of you may remember that in March 2019 I mentioned in the morning intimations that it took ideally a total of eighteen people to run a regular morning service in Tarbert, and at the very least a minimum of twelve people to keep things going. Since then, due to COVID, we have been working with far fewer. I should like to take this opportunity to thank and mention those who have done a massive amount of work behind the scenes.

I am truly indebted to my co-hosts on Zoom and YouTube Live, Karen Macrae, Campbell Macrae and Kenny Macleod. They have enabled the work to grow and expand by being available to host meetings and take much of the strain off my shoulders in running meetings. Calum Mackay has spent much of the summer refurbishing the old vestry, and our grateful thanks go to him for the many hours indeed days spent in the joinery work, making that part of the building fit for purpose once again. Karen has also spent many days during the initial lockdown in the spring and summer, working hard in the church grounds, making a noticeable difference around the church. My thanks for all who have worked so hard over the of last year. To build resilience into the congregation’s work in the future in what will be a new and challenging year, we need more volunteers to help in various ways. Churches have always relied on willing voluntary help, and never more so than now. If anyone thinks they can help in any way, please speak to any of the Elders or Management Comittee of the Congregation. 

Many have asked about how donations and offerings can be made to the congregation, during this time when we are not using the building. Those who donate by Weekly freewill offering envelopes can hand these to Mrs Christine Macaskill at Tarbert Post Office. Full details of other methods of donation via Standing order or on-line may be found on the Congregations website at

Without any shadow of a doubt, the past year has been a momentous and challenging year for many of us, but in faith, we look forward to all that God has in store in 2021. At present, the world’s condition seems to be a literal fulfilment of what God said through Habakkuk “Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told‘. (Habakkuk 1:5 NIV). Despite everything though, it is my prayer that we should all look to the future in faith, walking by faith and not by sight and trusting in the Lord with all our hearts and not leaning upon our own understanding in 2021.

With every good wish for the New Year, and the blessings of Christ to you all,

Ian Murdo Macdonald

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Gaelic Service Sunday Evening 27th December

Gaelic Service Sunday Evening 27th December

We will round off our worship services in 2020 with a Gaelic service at 6 PM tomorrow.
Gaelic has always been a vital part of the Western Isles’ spiritual and cultural heritage. We all miss not meeting for our traditional Gaelic service on the evening of the Lord’s day. So tomorrow night once again, we will be hosting a Gaelic service of worship live from Harris.
The service will be live-streamed using Zoom from the church in Tarbert and will consist of Gaelic singings, prayers and sermon. Short introductions and sermon points at various times will be in English. Although several pre-recorded Gaelic services have been uploaded to the website, we are now live-streaming for the second time a Gaelic service, and we hope as many as can join us for worship. The service was also be Livestreamed on YouTubeLive
The reading for tomorrow night is taken from the Song of Solomon, chapter 2.

  • The proposed order for tomorrow’s service is ;
  • Salm 65: 1-2 ‘Tha ann a Sion Feitheam ort moladh a Dhè gun dith ‘
  • Urnaigh
  • Salm 102 : 16-18 ‘ Nuair a thogar Sion suas le Dia “
  • Leughadh Dan Sholamh 2
  • Salm 25: 4-5 “Foillsich do shlighe dhomh a Dhe “
  • Searmon “Guth mo Ghraidh ! “
  • Salm 72: 17-19 “ Bidh ainm-san buan gu suthainn sìor’
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Following the tragic road accident in Ardhasaig earlier today, it has been decided to cancel tonight’s planned Christmas Eve Carol service out of respect. In their grievous loss, we remember the mourning family in our thoughts and prayers.

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Morning worship Sunday 13th December 2020

Morning Worship via Zoom & YouTube Live. This morning in the second last in our series on Women of Faith we think of Mary the Mother of Jesus. Luke 1: 26-38

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Dates for your Diaries

The next few days are going to be a busy time for all of us, in the run-up to Christmas time. It has been and will continue to be busy for many in the Church as well. 

Gift Bags A big thank you to everyone from the ACTS Group who helped to put together and deliver the Christmas gift bags over this weekend. This was a big job, and so many thanks to everyone involved. We hope and pray that these gifts will prove to be a blessing to all.

Dates for your Diary 
Gaelic Carol Service from Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Seirbheis Nollaige à Caisteal Amhuinnsuidhe sna Hearadh 2017This Sunday evening ( 13th December) there is another opportunity to hear the Gaelic Carol service recorded by the BBC in the magnificent drawing room of Amhuinnsuidhe castle just before Christmas in 2017. The service is led by Rev Donald John Morrison, with readings from members of the congregation and singing from the Sir E Scott school junior choir, with their conductor Iain Maciver. The service will be broadcast on BBC Radio Nan Gaidheal on Sunday evening 13th December at 9 PM. For more information, please follow this link

Christmas Family Service The 11 AM service on Sunday 20th December will be a Family Service to which everyone is warmly invited. The service will be ‘live” from the Church, but also live-streamed via Zoom. We hope that some readings and prayers will be taking place in the Church, but also that all will be able to share in this special Act of Worship. We will publish more details of this service during the coming week.

Christmas Eve Carol service   The Christmas Eve Carol Service will be streamed live from Tarbert Church on Thursday 24th December at 7 PM. The service will be ‘live” from the Church, but also live-streamed via Zoom. We hope that some readings, prayers and singing will be taking place in the Church, but also that many others will be able to join us on-line for this service. Despite the challenges of this year, it is good to come together to worship, and the Christmas Eve Carol Service is always a good opportunity for us to give thanks to God for the blessing of Jesus coming into the world. 

Gaelic service  The next Gaelic service on Zoom will be on Sunday evening 27th December at 6 PM. Last month’s Gaelic service was a blessing to many, and we hope that many others will be able to join us for this Gaelic service which will be our last act of worship in 2020.

Cal na h’Iolaire Iolaire memorial service. There will be a Memorial service at the Harris War memorial on New Year’s Day to mark the Iolaire tragedy at 11.15 AM

New Year’s Day Service There will be a New Year’s Day service immediately after this hopefully in the Church at 12 Noon. New Year is an excellent opportunity for us to start the New Year afresh by coming together for worship. For that reason, we hope to be able to meet in -person in a limited way and observing all protocols. The service will as always be live-streamed.

New and different Links to Zoom will be sent out for the Carol Service on Christmas Eve, the Gaelic service on 27th December and the service on New Year’s Day. For other services, the link will stay the same as before. 

If in the future we are granted permission by the Presbytery of Uist to hold in-person services in the Church in Tarbert again, the Kirk Session has agreed that initially at least these openings will be for services of special significance, rather than weekly worship. Weekly worship will continue to be live-streamed from the Church, as has been the case for most of this year. When in-person services resume, live streaming by Zoom and YouTube Live and ‘Zoom Phone’ will continue to be offered to all who are unable to join in worship.

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Morning worship Sunday 6th December on Zoom and YouTube Live

With God nothing is Impossible

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Today is the first day of December, the last month of the year. Today also marks the opening of the first day of Advent Calendars of various kinds. Very often today of a chocolately variety!

But what exactly is Advent? I have to say that as a student in training for the ministry some years ago, I found it sometimes difficult to adjust to what were for me alien concepts such as ‘the Christian year’, which I had never heard of before. As a typical Lewis lad dropped into the life and work of a large city centre Congregation in the heart of Aberdeen, I struggled with some of the things I had to do, and as much from sheer unfamiliarity as anything. On one particular Sunday morning, I was asked to lead the worship and preach, whilst the minister sat in the Congregation to observe how things went. I stood confidently at the front and welcomed everyone as I envisaged he would have and said “Good morning and welcome to worship at Holburn Central Parish Church on this the first Sunday of Advent”. The Congregation burst into hysterics! Somewhat taken aback I tried to compose myself and tried again “Good morning and welcome to worship on this the first Sunday in Advent” again even more hysterics. The problem was it wasn’t Advent, it was the end of March! An elder bellowed at me as only an Aberdonian can ‘IT’S LENT! ‘.

Terms like Advent and Lent may have been new to me then, but when stripped away of all human additions, Advent helps us focus on Jesus coming to our world, as Lent is supposed to help us prepare for Jesus crucifixion and suffering for us.
Advent may be thought of as the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, but of much more significance is the fact that it represents the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. As John 1:14 puts it so wonderfully

‘And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth’.

John 1:14 (NIV-UK)

The word used to describe this miraculous event is INCARNATION. God was becoming human and taking human flesh.

The implications of this are awesome, and even more so when we think exactly why He became flesh – became human. God was keeping His promises to humanity. The promises that he would send His Deliverer, His Messiah or Saviour, to set people free. The prophecy given by Isaiah of Jerusalem 600 years before was being fulfilled.

‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned. ‘

Isaiah 9:2 ( NIV- UK)

Later on in his prophecy, Isaiah goes on to say in chapter 61 reminds us so powerfully, God was sending His own Spirit-filled, anointed Deliverer who would preach good news to the poor, who would bind up the brokenhearted, who would proclaim freedom to the captives, who would give release from darkness for prisoners, who would announce the year of the Lord’s favour, who would bestow on His people a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
He was sending His Son, Jesus the Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He has come as the Light of the World, the Light from which darkness flees. He has come, God’s promise was kept, God’s master plan was put into action, a plan that would be completed the day the Son of God would bow his head in death on a Roman Cross and declare triumphantly with His last breath “It is finished”.

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