Minister's blog

Fondly remembered

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine." Isaiah 43. 1 Please indulge me while I acknowledge my uncle, John Cambell MacLeod, who died yesterday; another care-home victim of the coronavirus. Younger than my dad by 6 years, they were a generation apart: Dad's formative years were in the 50s, John was a product of the 60s. At one level he was a mass of contradictions: conventional to his boot-laces in appearance, wacky in his ideas; modest in his habits, prone to extravagant generosity; diligent in his commitments, hopelessly unrealistic in his business dealings. His employment reflected his profile: following graduation from Art College in London and a

When to speak

"The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools." Ecclesiastes 9. 17 Journalism thrives on disaster and controversy. The worse things get, the higher the profile of our news reporters becomes and the closer we glue ourselves to our laptop, mobile and TV screens. Producing words is a growth industry in straitened times and most of us lap them up, feeling obliged to keep up with the latest, even if we have heard it all many times already today. Thanks to the internet we are awash with information and, if the answer isn't there, you can be sure that someone will step in and fill the void with something - regardless of whether it is true. Self-regulation he

Moving on

"Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' It is not wise to ask these questions." Ecclesiastes 7. 10 I overheard an 11 year-old remarking to her younger friends "When I was young the summers were so much better"! It made me realise how ridiculous we sound when we don our rose-tinted specs and reminisce about "the good old days". For a start, they probably weren't as good as we remember them. And, of greater concern, is that they can become a cop-out for embracing today and tomorrow. Age-ism is counter-productive, whatever direction it is operating in: whether a senior citizen disparaging the youth of today, or a young person dismissing their elders as "past it". Such attitudes


"May he be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth." Psalm 72. 6 Went for an early cycle this morning to deliver a sympathy card. After a week of constant sunshine it was refreshing to feel the after-effects of overnight rain. Everything felt cleansed and invigorated, while the sun rays were just peeping through to dry it all up and add some welcome warmth. It all felt so perfectly balanced - and still. Psalm 72 celebrates the beneficial effects of wise leadership. Composed in honour of Solomon, it may have been used at coronations - as a prayer seeking God's blessing on the newly anointed ruler. But its ultimate reference is to the Messiah: great David's greater s

Keeping it holy

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." Exodus 20. 8 Saturday is the Jewish sabbath. Christians meet on Sunday, which is the first day of the week. So where does that leave us in regard to the fourth commandment? Well, if we have learned anything about navigating the finer points of church law, it is surely that we should avoid legalism in favour of concentrating on the spirit of the law. In other words, we need not do anything out of blind habit but, using the gift of discernment that God has given us, we may apply the commands of Scripture faithfully and compassionately. Early Christians continued to observe the Sabbath on Saturday because they were all Jews. But, in deference to Je

Forgetfulness: human weakness or divine disposition?

"I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Hebrews 8.12 Yesterday I forgot to post a message. I thought about it, got distracted and then the day ran away with me. It happens. From missed appointments to leaving vulnerable people in risky circumstances, our forgetfulness has the capacity to inflict suffering. Sometimes the impact is relatively mild, mere inconvenience; at other times it can be disastrous. I recall a notorious incident when someone left a pie under a grill and their house burnt down (thankfully no one was left inside). What confounds me (in a good way) is when I read that God himself is apt to be forgetful: him in whom no sin is found. On numerous

Having what it takes

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1. 7 "When the going gets tough..." as they say. But what distinguishes those who rise to the challenge of hard times and those who crumble under the pressure? I have found that the answer is rarely what one would expect. There was a particularly gruelling process I once experienced and what amazed me was that the ones who made it through were not the brightest or the fittest. Yet somehow they blossomed while others wilted. What was their secret? No one had it tougher than the earliest generations of Christians, who faced rejection and mounting persecution - on a scale that made being

Not going out

"I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness." Ecclesiastes 2.13 We may never have been so cut off from one another but, at the same time, a strange revelation is occurring. It happens every time we use social media, or watch presenters on TV use it to communicate with guests who cannot come into the studio. We catch glimpses of each other's homes, occasionally other family members, either deliberately or because they happen to have strayed across the camera's line of sight. Celebrities whom we have known for whatever has made them famous, whether because of their acting skills or because they present the news, are revealing their hidden skills and interests

Down to earth

"The earth belongs unto the Lord and all that it contains..." Psalm 24.1 Today is Earth Day. I have been celebrating by getting immersed in the stuff, completing a project of several weeks, to dig back the encroaching undergrowth around the manse garden fence. (My only regret is the disturbance I may have caused to the creatures who inhabited this verge - which is tempered every time I gaze at the wilderness immediately beyond!) The opening chapters of the Bible establish human responsibility to look after the earth God has created because he loves it and cares about it. Over the millennia this divine injunction has become misinterpreted as a licence to plunder. With scarcely concealed glee

Making it real

"Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." Luke 24. 39 You may have seen the bodach (old man) who stole our hearts on breakfast media this morning. His live-in carer noticed how much he missed his late wife, so she had a cushion made with her image on it. The old boy was delighted and now goes to sleep every night clutching his wife/ pillow. What I found particularly moving was when he confessed that, as a young man, he had not been as kind to his wife as she had been to him, often preferring the company of his friends at the pub, so he asked forgiveness every night in his prayers. They were married for over 70

Laughter therapy

"A cheerful heart is good medicine..." Proverbs 17. 22 A friend of mine is in the habit of regularly circulating material they assume will edify or amuse family and friends: a smorgasbord of pithy stories, sumptuous images, occasionally songs or music. The latest was a joke: "Yesterday my husband thought he saw a cockroach in the kitchen. He sprayed everything down and cleaned thoroughly. Today I'm putting the cockroach in the bathroom!" When I was preparing to join the military as a chaplain, I asked an old Royal Marine what advice he had for getting through training and then cutting the mustard in the Corps itself. He took a pen and wrote three letters: U-M-A (humour!). I later discover th

What are you aiming for?

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5. 48 The most frequently given reason against identifying as a Christian is that the person concerned does not feel good enough. The most often heard criticism against the church is that it is full of hypocrites. Both attitudes can be related to an unrealistic expectation: that Christians are perfect - or that they think they are, when everyone can see that they're not! So what did Jesus mean when he exhorted those who would follow him to "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"? Context is key. This command occurs in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. Specifically Jesus is teaching about love. Our tendency to

A time to weep

"... those who hope in me will not be disappointed." Isaiah 49. 23 It's beautiful day outside but it's a dark day in the church, on account of a lovely Christian lady: wife, mother, friend and neighbour - who went to glory on Wednesday and whose body will be buried today. Though we cannot attend the event in person, the church will meet via Zoom to pray for the Stewart family and for Cameron who is conducting the ceremony. It is sometimes said on rainy day that, above the clouds, the sun is shining. And we know, by faith, that beyond this life, in which there is so much pain and grief and disappointment and suffering, there beckons new life in the Kingdom, the gates to which Jesus opened for

Get serious

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." I Corinthians 9. 24 I don't think Paul was exhorting Christians to compete with one another but I do believe that he was encouraging us to apply the same dedication to living faithfully, as an athlete puts into winning a race. What will that look like for us? And how does it fit with our dependance on the grace of God for salvation, rather than our own efforts to earn our way onto heaven? We need to distinguish between our deliverance from sin and death, which only God can handle and which he accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus; how that takes effect

Hear the angels sing!

"These all died in faith..." Hebrews 11. 13 In less than a week, we have suffered two significant losses unconnected to Covid 19: one family, the other church family. In both cases the people concerned were believers. They knew where they were going and, in their departing, one could hear the angels sing. So there was blessing in the parting, as well as much sorrow for we shall miss them sorely. God alone is judge and we have no jurisdiction over where a person goes after death. We commit our departed ones into God's care, trusting they can have no fairer judge than the one who, in love, created them. Concern over what might happen to those who are indifferent to their Creator and even dismi

Spring - in or out?

"Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land." Song of Solomon 2. 12 It hasn't reached us yet but the evidence from further south is that spring has arrived! On various occasions the Bible celebrates the bursting forth of new life at this time of year and applies it, metaphorically, to describe the new life which faith brings; none more powerfully than the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs as it is sometimes called, which is a love poem drawing on the sensuousness of life and nature to enrich our desire for God. The other reference in my mind, which those who know the story will appreciate is not unconnected to the Bible, is 'The Self

Before you know it

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Mark 1. 35 I was challenged when I read about the initiatives being taken by my fellow minister, The Rev'd George al-Kopti of St Paul's church in Amman, who preached at our Easter celebration on Sunday. Like me, he has taken to writing a daily devotion for the church website. Such is the anticipation of this soul-food, that he received a phone call before 8.30am the other day asking why that day's offering hadn't already appeared! I am getting off lightly. Nevertheless I am sufficiently used to the idea now, to feel uncomfortable until I have posted my own mor

What a difference a day makes!

"Behold, I am making all things new!" Revelation 21.5 John ascribes these words to the Risen Jesus in the vision given to him while in exile on the Isle of Patmos. They express the freshness of possibility emanating from the One who has overcome all barriers and opened the door to life in all abundance. They echo the words of Isaiah in his own vision, which took place several hundred years earlier, likening the Lord's intentions for his people to a desert bursting into bloom. Both visions, before and after the event, give expression to the impact of Jesus' resurrection. Imagine the sensations of Jesus' family and friends, waking up on the first Easter Monday. How different to their fear and


"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10.10 On this momentous morning, I can think of no better call to worship than this culminating reflection in Tearfund's Lent devotional: First, open your arms to your own humanity; give the gorgeous mess of your entirety a warm welcome, remembering that all of you is loved, free from limit or condition. Second, drop your heart into a pool of wonder - that sacred, healing water found among the stillness, found wherever there are trees or birds or streams or hills or the opulence of an unfiltered sky. Do not let the screens hem you in; seek instead the heaven-wrought, the spirit-woven - all that brightly sings of the Abundan

Who knows?

"He descended into hell..." Apostles Creed Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, there is what we awkwardly refer to as Holy Saturday. "Holy" in what way? you may ask. When something or someone is deemed "holy", a special quality of purity, or elevation for higher purposes, is implied... Which renders its application to this particular occasion all the more suggestive. Where was Jesus between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? According to tradition, enshrined in the Apostles Creed, he descended into hell. This is not a biblical assertion, but it was made by those who were anxious to keep the faith of believers focused on the Bible and to protect those same believers from the false claims of he


© Strath and Sleat Church of Scotland     |     Registered charity number: SC001285