Minister's blog

Cliché

"No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known." John 1. 18 "Unprecedented" must surely be the most overused word of the moment. Whenever a public figure is being held to account for the inadequacy of their, or their department's, response to the Coronavirus pandemic, their first line of defence is often "These are unprecedented times...". True enough. But, could we find ourselves excusing too much, simply because of the unusual nature of current circumstances? Now and again things happen which change the landscape, causing us all to re-assess our assumptions, attitudes and behaviour. It may be for be

Soaking

"Remember the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy." Exodus 20. 8 Holidays may be the last thing on your mind right now. We may even feel guilty mentioning the word, when those on the front line are working so hard. But, we are all in this for the long haul and, if we are going to stay the distance, we need to pace ourselves. Not for nothing does the biblical account of creation reach its climax with God resting, later enshrining the principle of rest in the Ten Commandments which he gave Moses - to distinguish the people of God from other nations and raise the bar of public morality. A shared day of rest is good for society, giving rhythm to the week and allowing all but those providing essentia

Fast forward

"He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again." Mark 8. 31 Clocks went forward today and many might be thinking: if only we could fast forward to the end of this lockdown. Understandable, especially if it would also mean an end to the suffering, even death, of those afflicted by Coronavirus. But sometimes there are no short-cuts and to wish there were risks failing to engage, to get to grips with what we have to do. At the beginning, during and towards the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus was tempted to avoid suffering, court po

Lonely?

"... and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28. 20 Apparently they have a saying in Argentina: "As lonely as Adam on Mother's Day" - think about it! A week into lockdown, if you are feeling that way or know someone who might be, please tell me or your local elder. We would not have wished the current situation on ourselves but we must do what we can to extract something good out of all the suffering and death which is plaguing the news. And one thing we can do is become more attentive to those within our circles of friendship and acquaintance. Doing so will reveal those who are struggling specifically on account of current restrictions. If may also direct our a

What about those of no fixed abode?

"There will be one regulation for you, whether a resident foreigner or a native citizen, for I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 24. 22 The other day I was overhearing the rant of a well-known journalist on the internet. He was lambasting those who were chafing at the government's isolation policy and evoking the spirit of war-time Britain, "when all you are being asked to do is stay in and watch telly!" Of course it's not as straightforward as that and many will struggle with loneliness and depression, while others will have worries about obtaining essentials like food and medication. I was alerted to another dimension of the problem yesterday, on receiving an email from the Scottish Refugee

Penetrating the gloom

"The light shines in the darkness..." John 1. 5 Woke up this morning to a thick mist. No surprises, this is "Eilean a' cheò" after all! But it has burned away to reveal a gorgeous spring day; the first of its kind. It feels as if the whole nation is being engulfed; surrounded by a darkness we have never encountered before and over which we have no control. Heroic efforts are being made to address the situation, to care for victims, to enable and protect vital workers. But control it we cannot. When I was at university I belonged to the air squadron. On an overcast day it was a thrill to fly through the clouds into the sunshine above, where everything was light and bright. We might hope, thro

What are they not telling us?

And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" Revelation 5.2 It must have been 10 years ago now, when I was ministering in St Andrews, that the funeral director remarked that he had just attended a briefing, at which his profession had been warned to brace themselves for unprecedented numbers of casualties from a disease that would originate in China. There is much about life that many of us know nothing about and even more than none of us can fathom. The verse above from Revelation is a reference to God's perfect future, as originally envisaged in the book of Daniel. Until now, nobody has been found worthy or capable of breakin

Bracing ourselves for that wave...

And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." Luke 22.15 Hearing a NHS worker on the radio this morning describing his anticipation of a tsunami of coronavirus patients took me back. On the eve of the second Gulf War I was in a forward operating base, with the spearhead teams who would be first into action and the medical units who were preparing for heavy casualties. I don't recall any fear but the tension was palpable. As I worked my way around the land-rovers and hospital tents what the servicemen most appreciated was the opportunity to share Holy Communion. Something about Jesus' desire to share this special meal with his own companions on t

The morning after...

"Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." Matthew 13.52 We've never had a Mothering Sunday like it. We've never had a Sunday like it: no church services throughout the land (with one or two notorious exceptions!). But fascinating it was to witness how people responded. The creative juices were certainly flowing... Reports came in from around Strath & Sleat - of a remote gathering in Kyleakin via zoom, of a virtual Sunday School courtesy of Cailean John and Bàbaidh in Sleat and of an instagram video by the Sleat YV. Meanwhile Broadford and Kyleakin churches

We've never been here before!

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem... how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." Matthew 23.37 Mothering Sunday was traditionally the day that domestic servants were allowed to return home to their "mother church". It has since been associated with the concept of "mothering" and, inevitably, with the commercial opportunities offered by "Mother's Day" (Bah, humbug). So for the first time ever, far from gathering in any church, mother or other, we find ourselves worshipping apart. But only in the physical sense. In the event of not being able to attend an occasion, we sometimes say to one another "I'll be with you in spi

Take heart!

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 7.14 No, it's not Christmas but what we celebrate at Christmas deserves bearing in mind throughout the year: that in Jesus, God came to live among people and, from Jesus, we have received the Holy Spirit - as our permanent companion. Immanuel means "God with us" and that means always and everywhere. May that thought put a spring in your step today! Here's a prayer: God of today and every day, bless you for your availability; that, while glorious in the heavens, you have made yourself present on the earth. Fortify us for honest and thorough confession, so there may be no place for sin in our lives

It's a beautiful day

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Psalm 19.1 On the day our schools and leisure centres close and so much anxiety abounds, now is the time to remind ourselves that God is in control. Generations of believers in the harshest of circumstances have taught us that security is found in worship. After months of clouds and rain, last night the sky was clear and today the sun is shining. Raising our eyes by day and by night to the beauty around us and the wonder of the Universe is to behold the work of his hand, who made us too. Praise the Creator, who heals, redeems and makes all things new.

What are we waiting for?

"How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow... on those who take refuge in you." Psalm 31.19 What amazes me is the assumption that, whenever we get through this pandemic, life is going to carry on as before. But what if this is like climate change: the latest symptom of the crisis in our relationship to creation and to one another? Then, rather than looking forward to "business as usual", we need to be thinking about how we are going to be living differently. For the fatalist that might be a bleak prospect, especially if they have created a comfortable existence. But, as the Psalmist reminds us, God's intentions for us are good - if only we

A strange interlude?

"There is a time for everything... a time to be silent and a time to speak." Ecclesiastes 3. 1,7 While the roads and restaurants empty, the airways are choking with opinions and advice in relation to the coronavirus crisis. Once we have acted swiftly to protect the vulnerable, safeguard the livelihoods of our workforce and enable the education of our children and students, we need God's guidance for how to respond faithfully to our strange new circumstances. The temptation will be to rush into all sorts of worthy initiatives, to look after each other. Already social media are on the look-out for heroic examples to propel/ shame us into action. But let's remember that what matters is that we

Spring at last?

Lent is derived from an old English word meaning spring. For many, spring is an exciting time of new beginnings. In its association with Jesus' 40-day wilderness fast at the beginning of his public ministry, Lent also speaks of preparation for something fresh. Why not use the time to draw nearer to God, through prayer, reflection and reading? There are excellent resources on-line and through para-church organisations like Tearfund and Christian Aid. Ask him if there is something that needs to change in your life and how? Then do it - and be blessed!

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