Minister's blog

Go to...

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened..." Matthew 11. 28 Have you a favourite "go to..." place, when you are stressed, confused, or in need of inspiration? Some people have a song, a chair, or they jump on a bike. All of these can be helpful, essential even. Best of all, though, is our Lord's gracious invitation to come to him. Jesus once said to his disciples: "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6. 31) and, through the Holy Spirit, the invitation remains open. Sometimes it's as simple as walking out the door and spending time with Jesus on the road. Or it may involve getting away from it all in a totally different place. During lockdown that isn'

Ath-beòthachadh na h-eaglaise

Chan eil sa chraoibh ach smuain gus an tuit sìol dhan talamh. Chan eil ann an sìol ach poca comas-fàis gus an cuir am poca sìos freumhan. Chan eil ann am freumhan ach lìonra gus an cuir an lìonra suas stoc. Chan eil san stoc ach pòla gus am fàs am pòla geugan. Chan eil sna geugan ach cnàimhneach gus am fàs an cnàimhneach duilleagan. Fàsaidh craobh na beatha ann am meadhan Ierusaleim Nuadh air gach taobh de Abhainn Uisge na Beatha, a’ toirt a-mach toradh gach mìos den bhliadhna. Tha duilleagan na craoibhe airson slànachadh nan nàisean agus gheibh eòin an adhair fasgadh anns na geugan aice. A tree is but a thought until a seed falls into the ground. A seed is but a sack of potential until the

Eternal reward

"Grace and peace to you from him who is and who was and who is to come..." Revelation 1. 4 The Book of Revelation, which draws the whole Bible to its conclusion, has been described as "an apocalyptic prophecy in the form of a circular letter". That is to say that it is about how God will bring history itself to his own appointed conclusion and what will happen on the way, delivered in the form of a letter addressed to a series of churches around an ancient postal route. The naming of these churches at the beginning of Revelation locates the route in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and the fact that there are seven (the perfect number) suggests that the message of Revelation is intended for everyo

Armed Forces Day

"Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 2. 3 Recently and for good reasons our focus has been on our health and emergency services. Not so many years ago the so-called "war on terror" dominated the headlines. And as the generations that fought in the two World Wars have died off, Remembrance has acquired an extra poignancy. We expect much of our Armed Forces. For relatively low pay they do our dirty work, at home and abroad. Even during the current Corona-crisis consider how frequently our service men and women have appeared manning the testing stations which have been popping up in car parks across the land. Dilemmas involving the use of fire-arms, in whi

Stop and learn

"The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." Habakkuk 2. 20 In my devotions this morning I came across a saying associated with the mediaeval luminary Thomas a Kempis: "When I have been much in the company of men, I emerge feeling diminished." Put a bunch of sinners together and what's to be expected but that we infect each other with our sinfulness! The antidote is, of course, to make sure we balance social interaction, which cannot be avoided, with time apart with God, which has to be prioritised if it is to happen at all. According to my devotional source, the principle cascades into other areas of life and interaction. If we aspire to be leaders we need to kn

Double standards

"... first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7. 5 I heard a story this morning, about a local hotelier. He received an enquiry from the agent of a group of friends, who come every year to stay in the area. "Can you guarantee 100%," demanded the agent, "that none of my clients will be exposed to Coronavirus and that all the following checks will be made and PPE supplied...?" The hotelier looked at the list for a moment or two and then emailed his reply: "I can inform you that there are no recorded cases of Coronavirus in this village, nor in the surrounding area. Can you guarantee that none of your clients w

Peace in our time

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14. 27 An unusual quiet has settled over many places which would ordinarily be bustling at this time. Is this peace? Or is it the absence of activity? There is no armed conflict in our islands and glens, in stark contrast to the battle zones of Yemen and Syria. Is this peace? Or the absence of conflict? Family life can be a maelstrom of busy-ness with tantrums and bust-ups when the tension becomes too much, or everyone can sit around the dinner table in stony silence. Is this peace or the absence of harmony? Like so many words which become dimi

The topic that won't go away

"... everything exposed by the light becomes visible..." Ephesians 5. 13 Apparently in China many more lives have been saved through improved air quality, on account of the lockdown, than have been lost to Covid 19! I cannot vouch for the origin of that information but it's one of those arresting statistics that reveal the mixed impact of what we are going through - on a global level. That impact is being felt in at least three ways: Firstly there is the way it has affected us all. It has been observed that "we are all in the same boat", to which a wiser commentator has responded: "No! We may be in the same storm but we are in different boats." The experience of a low income family in an inn

The dark side

"For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." Luke 8. 17 Life in a fallen world is full of compromise and contradiction. How we wish it were not so. We long for clarity, purity, integrity. But life as we know it is just not like that. Even what we encounter in the Bible sometimes flies in the face of our idealistic longing: whether that is God ordering the annihilation of the Canaanites, or Jesus announcing that he has come with a sword... I used to be scared of the dark. Then I spent a season of my life in a community which flourished during the dark hours and the night became my friend. All the while I r

Fathers Day

"And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven." Matthew 23. 9 Where on earth did that come from? Father's Day, I mean. In the Gospel according to Wikipedia we are informed that the tradition of honouring fathers originated in the USA at the beginning of the 20th century, alongside other occasions for celebrating family life including two I had never heard of before: Siblings Day and Grandparents Day. The same source informs me that, since mediaeval times, the Orthodox Church has marked the second Sunday before Christmas as the Sunday of the Forefathers, in recognition of Jesus' male ancestors. I doubt there is any connection with Fathers Day as we kn

World Refugee Day

"My father was a wandering Aramean..." Deuteronomy 26. 5 Everybody needs a home. According to the UNHCR there are 79.5 million people in the world today who have no home, of whom 26 million are refugees - half of whom are under 18 (ie children). Figures are hard to find but there are probably about 2,000 refugees in Scotland, alongside 29,000 homeless Scots. Homes are necessary for a sense of belonging. They provide the best context for raising children, flourishing adults and end of life care. They are a safe space for those who inhabit them. They are the building blocks of the communities of which they are a part. The Bible tells the story of how God created a perfect home for all creature

Gently does it

"... he had compassion on them..." Matthew 9. 36 Jesus was in touch with his emotions. The Gospels are replete with eye-witness accounts, not only of what Jesus did and said, but of how he felt. He wore his heart on his sleeve: he could be angry, he could be sad, he could be happy, he could be sympathetic. Whatever emotion he was feeling, he expressed it. Throughout his first 30 years, with the exception of his birth and one moment in his childhood when he reached adolescence, Jesus lived in obscurity. In total contrast, his last 3 years were spent in the spotlight and, apparently, he did not try to hide anything. We are allowed a peek into his intimate prayer times and team talks with his d

Why history matters

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." Deuteronomy 4. 9 History teachers must be rejoicing that their subject has been released from the fusty corners to which it is too often relegated. How encouraging that people are openly debating what children should learn. That the conversation is being driven by a public movement which has gripped the imagination of young people themselves multiplies its significance. It is indeed appropriate that schools should teach emerging generations the facts about slavery and this c

Unity

"I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one..." John 17. 21 Does the unity of the church where you are advance God's Kingdom or contradict it? Does the way we relate to fellow Christians (and they to us) confirm or deny our message of reconciliation? You see it mattered enough to Jesus that he put Christian unity at the heart of his high-priestly prayer. It's the "new commandment" he gave his disciples: Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13. 34). And it's what he said would be the foundation of our witness to the world. So how are we doing? The fact is that the church is riven with division. The rot set in early. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul te

Ahoy there!

"(God's) mercies never fail. They are new every morning..." Lamentations 3. 22-23 At last. Restrictions having been lifted sufficiently to allow solo paddling, the kayak was launched yesterday. It wasn't a big deal and I didn't have time for a long journey but it was a thrill to be afloat again: a reminder of what joy is to be found in simple pleasures. We need moments of respite to recall our humanity. Granted that some people are bored and lonely, many are so consumed with legitimate busy-ness that they become like robots on a treadmill - endless going around fulfilling tasks that need to be done but mechanically, without joy and without satisfaction. The danger is that those for whom thes

Now!

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." Ecclesiastes 3. 1 Interesting what it takes to sow an idea. After being kicked around in the long grass for long enough, the news is full of whether the time is right to reduce social distancing from two to one metre. It reflects an even more fundamental question, whether poverty is about to overtake coronavirus as the greater threat to social well-being? The talk in schools is all about blended learning. But some are of the view that, because the vast majority of children do not develop serious reactions to C19, they should be encouraged to return to full-time education as soon as possible. Teachers might

Who are you?

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4. 23 Saint Augustine, the fourth century luminary from North Africa, advises that self knowledge is complementary to knowledge of God. In other words, to become fully alive we need both a relationship with God and a realistic awareness of ourselves. This self-awareness will include both negative and positive features. In his letter to the church in Rome (chapter 7, verse 19), the apostle Paul shares his weakness in a moment of unusual candour. He expresses what so many of us experience, that he knows what he should not do but sometimes feels powerless to resist the temptation. On another occasion the same Paul

Another day in paradise?

"... what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Luke 18. 18 As the sun comes up on another beautiful summer's day, the roads remain quiet and the beaches are empty, the only cloud on the horizon may be a twinge of guilt. When one thinks of the suffering in war-torn countries like Yemen, now ravaged by Coronavirus. Or the violence that has erupted on our own streets, as an expression of unresolved anger over generations of discrimination. Of course we have our problems too. Whether your livelihood depends on the hospitality industry or your progress in education has been stalled, few can say this is a time for rejoicing. But in the greater scheme of things...? Why do some people seem to have al

The gift of childhood

"From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise..." Psalm 8. 2 Today is 'World Day against Child Labour'. Around the world thousands, millions even, of children are forced to work - either through circumstances or coercion. So they may be living rough and struggling to survive, or they may be in impoverished families having to deploy every possible resource to put food on the table. In extremis, parents are even selling their children for sex. Since lockdown, the scourge of so-called cyber-sex has rocketed. According to the International Justice Mission, 2/3 of the perpetrators are related to their victims. There is nothing good about the sexual exploitation of minors. Even n

How shall we remember?

"Now they sin more and more; they make idols for themselves from their silver, cleverly fashioned images, all of them the work of craftsmen." Hosea 13. 2 A new rage has erupted to distract us from the virus. It started with fury over the tragic death of George Floyd, which could not be contained. Despite the pleas of his family, demonstrations in America turned ugly and then crossed the ocean. Outrage at the killing of one man has unleashed the resentment of decades and centuries. Not content with venting pent up emotions, some protesters turned to violence and, when that was not enough, visual history was put in the dock and found guilty. So down came the statue of Edward Colston. No doubt

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