18 June 2019
the Bible, name is inextricably bound up with existence. Nothing exists unless
it has a name. A person’s name is
intimately bound up with his nature. It is an expression of his character. This
is not only true for people. It is also true for God. So what is the name of God?
people of Israel called him, ‘Yahweh’.
But his name was considered to be so holy that no-one except the High Priest
was allowed to pronounce it! Of course, God’s name was much more than the word ‘Yahweh’. It was an expression of his
whole being as it had been revealed to them.
us, God’s nature has been fully revealed in the person of Jesus. In a very real
sense, we know the name of God very well. His name is Jesus – more than this,
his name is the person of Jesus. In him, we are able to see what God is like as
he has never been seen before.
name Jesus means ‘Saviour’. In
everything he does, he is our Saviour. His whole life speaks of salvation.
That’s his name and that’s his nature! His name penetrates the heart of God and
shows us what he is like. As he says in St. John’s Gospel, ‘I made known to them thy name!’
17 June 2019
St. Paul commends the mind of Christ. ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ.’ One of the most beautiful Biblical poems follows. It’s a celebration of the work of Christ, his magnificent story of salvation – the exalted beginnings before time, the wonder of the incarnation, the humiliation of the crucifixion, the glory of his final exaltation. (Philippians 2)
some, the hymn has been seen in the context of baptism. Perhaps it was a baptismal hymn. In either
case, it illustrates not how we should live our lives as much as what happens
to us when we are ‘in Christ Jesus’.
his letter to the Romans, St. Paul is talking about baptism when he says, ‘We have been buried with him by baptism into
death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the
Father, so we too might walk in newness of life’.
in Christ Jesus is different from some moral obligation to be selfless or to be
obedient or even to be good. It is to become a part of that extraordinary
spiritual experience of him who did not exploit equality with God but emptied himself,
took the form of a slave, suffered and died.
this is our experience then the pattern of our life will not be reduced to a
set of moral obligations but enriched by the love and the life of him who is
able to map out for us a new life which is uniquely ours albeit shaped by his incarnation.
16 June 2019
considering the disunity in the church at Philippi, St. Paul has a remedy.
He calls on the church ‘to be of the same mind’. This is an
important verb in this epistle. It appears twenty-three times altogether in his
letters but ten of these occurrences are in his letter to the Philippians.
can they achieve this unity? For a
start, they can ‘regard others as better
than yourselves’. Not an easy discipline to follow. But it is one which
bears fruit in the grace of humility.
his celebrated book, ‘Celebrations of Discipline’, Richard Foster talks about
the difficulties in achieving humility. ‘Of
all the classical spiritual disciplines, service is the most conducive to the
growth of humility.’ he writes.
‘When we set out on a consciously chosen
course of action that accent the good of others and is for the most part a
hidden work, a deep change occurs in our spirit.’
goes onto commend the service of hiddenness, the service of small things, the
service of common courtesy, the service of hospitality, the service of
listening, the service of being served. Travelling along this path enables the
grace of humility to grow within us.
15 June 2019
well as the outer hostility, St. Paul discerns another problem which is
diminishing the effectiveness of the church’s witness in Philippi. And that’s
their inner disunity. It’s obvious that it would be in the interests of the church
to present a unified front not least in the face of a hostile world!
Paul discerns a spiritual malaise within the church at Philippi. Despite their
generosity towards him, the church appears to have become quite inward-looking.
Whilst St. Paul doesn’t specify the cause of their disunity, the content of his
letter points strongly in this direction.
‘Let each of you look not to your own
interests, but to the interests of others.’ And this is a rightful
challenge to the tendency of all human beings, communities and institutions to
become very preoccupied with themselves, their effectiveness, their appeal to
others. But this is not the way of the church.
14 June 2019
his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul acknowledges that the congregation has
lost confidence because of their unexpected suffering. ‘Why should we suffer?’
they say and Paul answers them in four
ways. He talks about his own experience of suffering and he reminds the
congregation that Jesus suffered too.
implies that the church’s suffering is
part of God’s plan. When you are united with Christ, you are
called to share his destiny – death on a cross! But, above all, he exercises a
ministry of encouragement. They are like light – stars shining in the world.Their faithfulness and endurance are in
striking contrast to the world around them.
are ‘standing firm’ like soldiers standing
at their posts, ‘striving side by side’
in the battle-line. But they do not stand alone. They have Paul and they have
God. ‘Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,’ he writes later on, ‘stand firm in the Lord and in his way, my
beloved.’ And this is our encouragement too!
13 June 2019
Saturday, we celebrated the East Linton Gala Day. The weather was inclement.
Fortunately, the rain held off for the procession and the crowning of the Gala
Day Queen but for the rest, it was wet.
things impressed me. Firstly, the number of young people who participated in
the floats. There were impressive numbers from our youth organisations and the
children in the Court carried out their duties happily and confidently despite
the number of people who stayed around in the park despite the weather. The
committee had rightly cancelled the outdoor stalls and bouncy castle but had
secured an entertainer, a storyteller, a
face painter … And a blues band played
the Court came to Prestonkirk for the
‘Kirkin’ of the Gala Day Court’ and engaged fully in the service. Some of our
members organised a bottle stall in the tea tent and raised almost £200 for the
Gala Day Committee. A useful piece of
very important for the parish church to participate in events like these not
only because they benefit our young people but because we can show how willing
we are to work alongside people within the community who value similar things
and are working for the common good.
Day Committee are to be congratulated for their hard work and enterprise. Some
of what they have done has been seen but a lot of what they do will be hidden
for ever. There’s grace in that, service too and we are the beneficiaries of
their warm-hearted generosity.
12 June 2019
The Dunpender Community Council has been sponsoring the
provision of solid, wooden benches at scenic locations around East Linton. I
have seen a couple on the banks of the Tyne but there is another which I have
At the foot of the road which leads up to Binning Wood, there is a very old, dilapidated bench disappearing into the long grass. You cannot sit on it anymore because it has become so fragmented – and soon you will not be able to see it.
The old has given birth to the new for right next door, there
is another. Sitting on it the other day, I got a glorious view of Traprain Law
and the surrounding farmland. It comes at a good point on my journey – the
start of the uphill or the middle of the downhill.
Either way, someone’s thoughtfulness has made provision for
my refreshment. Although there is no name on the plaque to take credit for this
handiwork, I know the craftsman and will remember his generosity as I listen to the birdsong and enjoy the peace.
The whole enterprise reminds me of another carpenter who made
well-fitting yokes so that the oxen were supported in their burden-bearing. And
for us, he became the yoke offering us a means of carrying all that life throws
at us with peace and equanimity.
‘Come unto me, all ye
that labour and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.’ he says. ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I
am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke
is easy and my burden is light.’
11 June 2019
I have always thought that bees were very mathematical. The
honeycomb speaks for itself. The perfectly formed hexagons are an extraordinary
celebration of the bees’ mathematical mind.
But there’s more to it than that!
Scientists at the University of Melbourne have just
discovered that bees have the brain power to link symbols to numbers. It’s what
we do almost naturally and without thinking. We link the figure ‘2’ to twoness.
Although their brain is no bigger than a sesame seed and
about 20,000 times smaller than a human
brain, bees are able to learn that a
particular shape represents a specific numerical amount.
Interestingly, the bees’ brain is denser than the brain of a human being and so the bee can learn and recall things much more quickly! As Professor Adrian Dyer said, ‘This opens up exciting new pathways for future communication across species.’ So where do we go from here, little bee?
10 June 2019
I tell you this not because I want you to subscribe to the
Herald on a daily basis but because I think the Herald has shown great wisdom
in sacrificing potential income for the sake of creating a more enlightened and
It has decided to offer free access to heraldscotland.com to
every college and university in Scotland. This means that anyone working or
studying at a Scottish institution of higher learning will have free access to
The initiative recognises three things. Firstly, not every
student is able to afford to buy a daily newspaper. Secondly, the internet is
the medium where young people access the news. Thirdly, in a world of fake
news, fact based and reputable reporting goes some way to redress the imbalance.
‘Are we assessing the
evidence and forming an opinion based on agreed facts and understanding formed
through unbiased scrutiny?’ asked the
Editor-in-Chief. ‘Or do we simply exist
within an echo chamber and hold a view based on what we want to hear?’
9 June 2019
Paul begins his letter to the Philippians, ‘I am confident of this, that the one who
began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus
be put off by the signs of failure all around – my imprisonment, your
suffering. They are temporary inconveniences and, in any case, they are actually doing some good in the
proclamation of the gospel.
faith with God. He has started a good work in you. He will never fail you. In
the face of failure, he will continue to support and encourage you until this
good work is complete.
words which St. Paul uses to describe the beginning and the completing of the
good work which God does through us are technical terms for the beginning and
completing of a sacrifice.
this way, St. Paul considers the life of every Christian to be a sacrifice
which is offered to God. Like Jesus, we will experience the humiliation of
failure but if we persevere, we will also experience the joy of his new life.
at things like this from God’s perspective helps us to persevere the more.
Unlike God, we don’t see everything. We don’t understand everything. We don’t
have all the answers.
But because of
the limitation of our perspective, we mustn’t assume that we have failed until
we are sure that God has finished the work he began in us! He alone can see the
whole picture and our failure may have
been an integral part of his plan!
8 June 2019
his faith in Christ, Paul has found a rare contentment. On the one hand, he is unaffected by the
prospect of living or dying. If he is freed from prison, there is so much more
he could do for the church. If he is sentenced
to death, there would be no loss but a greater gain. ‘For to me, living is Christ and dying is
the other hand, he is unaffected by the
motivation of fellow Christians. Some proclaim Christ out of love or
goodwill. Others out of envy, rivalry or
selfish ambition. And there are some twisted people who proclaim Christ ‘intending to increase my suffering in
imprisonment’! And what does Paul have to say about this?
he angry? Is he disappointed? Is he
ready to fling in the towel? Not a bit of it! ‘What does it matter?’ he asks. ‘Just
this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or
true; and in that I rejoice!’ The bigger picture, the broader perspective,
the field of grace, the vision of
Christ’s kingdom come!
7 June 2019
Strangely enough for a letter written from prison, the underlying theme of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is joy. Paul invites the church to be glad and rejoice with him. He encourages them to make his joy complete by being of the same mind.
calls them ‘my joy’. He prays with
joy. He rejoices in what they have done.
And, above all, he calls them to rejoice in the Lord always. And adds, ‘Again I will say, rejoice!’ Why?
has a marvellous perspective on life. ‘I
want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to
spread the gospel!’ Far from
diminishing his ministry, imprisonment
has helped it in two ways.
the imperial guard have discovered that he has been imprisoned for Christ.
Secondly, the local congregation has become more courageous about proclaiming
the gospel! His joy in Christ and his resurrection life was their inspiration!
6 June 2019
are three striking things about the congregation at Philippi. It was the first congregation which St. Paul
established – and the first church to be founded in Europe. When St. Paul
visited Philippi, he and Silas were imprisoned for healing a slave-girl. It was
on this occasion that they sang hymns at
midnight and converted the Philippian jailer. It was a very productive
the congregation had a significant number of prominent women. On the Sabbath,
St. Paul met a group of women and worshipped with them. His first convert was a
wealthy businesswoman called Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. In his letter he
also refers to two other female co-
workers – Euodia and Syntyche.
the congregation is imbued with the spirit of generosity. Of course, St. Paul
is writing a letter of thanks. He not
only acknowledges the personal gifts which they sent him but the generous way
in which they have supported his ministry.
‘No church shared with me in the
matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.’
giving and receiving is not only reflected in their material generosity but in
the way they have been willing to suffer for Christ. ‘You are having the same struggle that you saw I had,’ he writes. If
anything were to draw them closer together it is their willingness to share his
suffering in their mutual proclamation of the gospel.
5 June 2019
are not immune from failure. Belief in God is no guarantee of success.
Christian marriages end up in divorce. Christian businessmen go bankrupt.
Christians suffer from terminal illness. Christian congregations fall apart.
a Christian doesn’t guarantee success. How could it? Failure is part and parcel
of being human – and we find it right at the heart of the Christian gospel.
is hardly a recipe for a successful life! St. Paul knew that. It took Jesus to
the criminal’s cross and it led Paul to a prison cell. That’s where we find him
at the start of his beautiful letter to
the Philippians which we have been exploring at Stenton.
the first chapter, he refers to ‘my
imprisonment’ four times and whilst hoping to be freed, he does wrestle
with the possibility that ultimately he will be sentenced to death! And so he
4 June 2019
was a student, the first portion of Hebrew text which we read was the book of
Ruth. It is a masterpiece and was widely recognised as such by all those who
participated in our Community Bible Experience.
parent would benefit from reflecting on Naomi’s relationships with her
daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. For in wanting to secure their happiness, she
desires to set them free from any obligations towards her in her old age.
famously accepts her generous gift but Ruth cleaves to her mother-in-law in
that wonderful moment in which she declares her loyalty. At the end of her
moving demonstration of love, the author simply says, ‘Naomi said no more.’
is tempered by a recognition that the wiser course is to accept Ruth’s love and
not to impose her own will upon her. Silent acceptance isn’t always our most
obvious response to family differences involving our children.
story unfolds under the hand of God and the kindness demonstrated by its
participants until Ruth has a son, Obed. And he has a son, Jesse and he has a
son, David, Israel’s greatest king with foreign blood running through his veins
inherited from his great-grandmother.
course, there’s more. We sing about it every Christmas. ‘To you in David’s town, this day/ Is born of David’s line/ A Saviour
who is Christ the Lord/ And this shall be the sign.’ Out of Naomi’s
silence, God’s work is done …. a thousand years later!
3 June 2019
question was raised about the Old Testament. ‘What is the relevance of the Old Testament in today’s church/world?’ I imagine this was asked in the light of the
controversial brutality, indiscriminate slaughter, sacrifice and prejudice
which appears in its pages.
three great religions of the world respect the Old Testament. It is the Bible
of the Jews. It was the Bible of Jesus. It is a record of the history,
literature, spirituality of the Hebrew people and as such is a valuable
given birth to the New Testament. The work of God failed in the Old and for
some it looks as if it failed in the New. The two are intimately related. The
face of God grows ever more compassionate and understandable in the New Testament.
prophetic writings illuminate the shape of things to come in the Messiah who is
counter-culturally a Suffering Servant and Jesus reinterprets the Law without
diminishing it but radically transforming it.
we may view the Old Testament through the eyes of Jesus as well as celebrating
it as a collection of ancient writings reflecting the realities of
dysfunctional families and tyrannical
leaders as well as the deep and lasting spiritual insights of poets, prophets
2 June 2019
question concerned the flood – the identification of Mount Ararat and the scope
of the flooding. Was it restricted to a portion of the earth’s surface or did
it cover the whole planet? A local or global flood?
story of the flood is a myth which appears in the writings of other religions.
In the Genesis account, it implies that the flood was going to blot out all
human beings except the ones chosen by God to survive. I do not believe this happened – but I think
story is telling us that the God whom we worship has the power to destroy the earth in an apocalypse but through his
merciful love he refrains from doing it. The Noah narrative tells us how close God came to exercising his power but stopped short
of annihilating the whole human race.
The lesson is in the appreciation of God’s power to destroy the earth and the realisation that he also has the power to restrain himself from destroying it. How often mercy restrains us and the destructive forces, of which we are all capable, are rightly subdued. This is also God’s grace.
1 June 2019
the most interesting questions which was asked concerned the gifts which the brothers,
Cain and Abel brought to God. ‘Why was it
O.K. for Abel to bring fat portions from the flock but not for Cain to bring
fruits of the soil for his offerings?’
face of it, this seems very unfair for we can hardly distinguish between the
work of the shepherd and the work of one
who tills the soil. But the consequences were serious. The first murder hinges on
we cannot distinguish between the quality of the offerings. What we can
say is that God did not accept the one and did accept the other. Why? This is
an example of God exercising a ministry of grace. It is a mystery best embraced
Some are chosen. Some are not. I am a Christian, my neighbour is not. The Jews are the chosen people, the Scots are not. Abel’s offering was highly regarded but Cain’s was not. In his pride, this, of course, angered Cain!
When we see how some people appear favoured in their lives even by God’s grace, sometimes it disturbs us. Why aren’t we the favoured ones? It is a real human dilemma which agonises the heart. Sometimes it has tragic consequences as we are about to find out in this murderous tale!
31 May 2019
Lent, over thirty members of the congregation signed up to read the first part
of the Old Testament – Genesis to the books of
Kings. We have had two feedback sessions which have confirmed the value
of the experience for everyone.
people did not find it easy. On the
contrary, it was hard-going, repetitive and, at times,
impossible to understand. They were shocked at the violence and brutality, the
attitude to women and the inordinate number of animals which were slaughtered
in the Temple sacrifices.
all, they were disturbed by the character of God which emerged from its bloodstained
pages. God appears to be ‘vindictive,
unpredictable, lacking in compassion, cruel’. He manipulates people who oppose him and
even slaughters his own people for their
all of this, people were glad of two things. Firstly, the context for all the familiar Bible stories remembered
affectionately from childhood – Noah, Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David. It was
helpful to piece them altogether.
the questions and this was the surprising gift harvested from the experience. ‘It was
not as faith affirming as reading the New Testament.’ said one. ‘This shook us up and left us with more
questions about God. We were unsettled, uncomfortable.’
asked them if this meant it had been a
bad experience, they did not agree. On
the contrary, it had been a good experience and two things had helped – the affirmation
of the group and the realisation that everyone else had similar questions too!
30 May 2019
‘Fit Body, Fit Mind’ is the name of an article in a recent issue of Scientific American (Winter 2019). It complements the view that exercising the mind helps to maintain cognitive function with the more astonishing view that physical exercise is critical to vigorous mental health.
studies have brought this to the scientists’ attention. One considered the
mental and physical health of a large group of women aged 65 and over assessing
their levels of physical activity and cognitive function.
eight years later, the women were
assessed again. Apparently, the most active women had a 30 per cent lower risk
of cognitive decline. The authors’ conclusion contained some surprising results.
‘Walking distance was related to cognition,
but walking speed was not’. they surmised. And this is the really good
news, ‘even moderate levels of physical
activity can serve to limit declines in cognition’.
again, the benefits of walking are confirmed. You don’t have to walk fast nor
follow strenuous paths, you don’t even have to do a lot to enjoy some benefits.
Whatever you do will be to your advantage not only in hearing the birdsong,
seeing the hill but also remembering it all!
29 May 2019
Christina McKelvie, the Scottish Minister for Older People, indicated that a
key element in her national strategy for older people would ‘transform the narrative when it comes to
highlighted negative stereotypes contained in phrases like ‘over the hill’ and limiting ideas like ‘once you turn fifty or retire you’ve got nothing to give’. She
confidently added, ‘We’re absolutely
changing that and turning it on its head.’
abound about the derring-do of entrepreneurial,
athletic and creative older people. They certainly challenge the stereotypes
but they are also exceptional. They do
not provide realistic role models for most of us.
consider some older people in the Bible who worked harmoniously with younger
people to effect a richer society. The old man Eli enabled Samuel to hear the
Word of God and when it turned out to be disadvantageous to him, he accepted it
humbly. ‘It is the Lord,’ he said, ‘Let him do what seems good to him.’
was not allowed to lead the chosen people into the Promised Land. This ministry
was given to a younger man called Joshua. David was not allowed to build a
temple to the Lord. This ministry was given to his son, Solomon. Both exercised
a ministry of grace in letting go.
old man Simeon was one of many who had been waiting for some three centuries
for the day of the Lord. His faithful, patient waiting bore fruit when he held
the Christchild in his arms and sang, ‘Lord,
now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy Word for mine
eyes have seen thy salvation.’ What more did he need to do and see to find ultimate fulfilment and lasting
28 May 2019
Purja took a photograph of the summit of Mount Everest last week. It stunned
the world. In it, you could not only see the glory of the snow-capped, ice-clad
summit but a queue of over three hundred people waiting to reach the top!
them would have paid £50,000 for the privilege. Some of them would have been
poorly kitted out for the ordeal. Some of them would become ill on the descent
and some may even die.
2012, I saw the summit of Everest from the beautiful and relative safety
of Darjeeling. We must have been about a
hundred kilometres from the mountain but rose early enough to see the sun rise
over its majestic summit.
was enough for me. The romance of Hilary and Tensing lives on. I sensed the
wonder of their epic climb and the thrill of seeing the height of their
achievement without too much sacrifice on my part! It was memorable.
us are blessed with obvious limitations and aren’t tempted to join a queue to
reach the summit of Everest nor to tick another box in our list of outlandish
adventures. The world may believe that everything is possible regardless of
gender, age and background but I think not.
There are other considerations – the safety of others, a duty of care to family and friends, respect for the mountain and its ecological heritage, the delusions of wealth, the courage to face reality, recognising the hidden mountains of the heart which demand our ascent immediately if we are going to become wise and live at peace.
27 May 2019
the end of St. John’s Gospel, Jesus suggests that Peter’s most effective
ministry will be harvested in his old age.
‘But when you grow old,’ he says, ‘you will stretch out your hands and someone else will fasten a belt
around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’
ministry of old age is characterised by two things. Firstly, trust. As we grow
old, we need to trust others more
and more not only because of increasing physical and mental disability but also
because failure has made us less sure, less self-assured.
sacrifice. There’s a beautiful turn of phrase here. ‘But when you are old,’ says Jesus, ‘you will stretch out your hand …’ to hold onto a younger, stronger
person in our frailty.
our hands will be stretched out on a cross! This is how John unpacks it when he
adds, ‘He said this to indicate the kind
of death by which he would glorify God.’ Peter was killed on an upside down
cross because he didn’t consider himself worthy to share the cross of Christ!
26 May 2019
there is serious concern about the amount of plastic being produced and dumped
in the sea, the river, landfill sites and elsewhere, it is not the most
significant contributor to domestic global warming.
it or not, it is food! And, of course, this is an area close to our hearts and
stomachs! But it is also an area which can readily benefit from our forward
planning, self-discipline and refusal to waste food!
Waste Scotland’ is urging us to cut down the amount of unwanted food we scrape from plates, pots and pyrex dishes
for it rots to produce and release
methane gas into the atmosphere. This is
one of the most damaging greenhouse gases driving climate change.
research discovered that 456,000 tonnes of food waste was collected in Scotland
in 2016 compared to 224,000 tonnes of plastic waste. Only 93,000 tonnes of the
food waste collected was sent to dedicated recycling collections.
‘It might seem bizarre but scrapping that
leftover lasagne, mince or salad from your plate into the bin is seriously
damaging the planet.’ said the Chief Executive. ‘As they break down, they emit methane which is
many times more harmful in the short-term to our climate than CO2.’
challenge is obvious – preparing the
shopping-list more carefully, making more efficient use of freezer space and
learning how to be imaginative with the left-overs like the brilliant way my
granny used to make curries out of some of her left-overs in the 1960s!
25 May 2019
was murdered. Her mother was devastated. Her brother was consumed by a
murderous rage. The police allocated four days to the case.
the brother, never got over it. He wanted justice. He wanted vengeance. But
there was nothing to be done.
the next two years, he went downhill fast. Finally, he took revenge – on himself.
And his mum buried her son beside her murdered daughter.
‘I saw what hatred does,’ said the
mother, ‘It takes the ultimate toll in
one’s mind and body!’ Better to forgive if you can but it’s hard.
the forgiving Christ on the cross and remember the old Chinese proverb, ‘The man who opts for revenge should dig two
his book about life at L’Arche, Nouwen
observes rather surprisingly, ‘The dinner
table at the New House was where most of Adam’s miracles took place.’ He
goes on to say that Adam didn’t do anything. He wasn’t curing the blind, the
lame and the dead.
‘He was just there. But his ‘being there’
touched people’s hearts and souls in a profound way … there was a discovery
that he, we, and the whole world had a new meaning, a new significance, a new
purpose.’ he writes.
so it was that one of Nouwen’s friends came to visit. Murray was appalled that
the former university teacher had given up his career to care for people with
developmental disabilities. He was afraid his writing would stop.
first Murray wanted to stay in a hotel but Nouwen insisted that he stay in the
Guest Room at L’Arche. Surprisingly, the rich and successful businessman was at
morning, Murray was sitting at table beside Adam. Nouwen was helping to feed
Adam. There was an urgent phone call. Nouwen left and asked Murray to continue.
Despite his anxiety, he agreed.
on, he told Nouwen that during the next half hour as he sat with Adam, he began
to see him not as a disabled person completely different from himself ‘but as a beautiful human being who shared with
him many vulnerabilities’.
his successful business career, he had his
own struggles, fears, failures and disabilities.
As Nouwen observes, ‘Sitting
beside Adam, helping him with his breakfast, was for Murray a moment of grace
as he realised that he and Adam were brothers.’
the last ten years of his life and ministry, Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Roman
Catholic priest and acclaimed spiritual writer, was chaplain at a L’Arche
community in Canada. His last book was about Adam, a young man with several
disabilities including an inability to speak.
result, Nouwen observes that the dominant characteristic of Adam’s life was the simple posture of waiting.
Because he could hardly do anything for himself, he had to wait for others to
attend to him.
goes on to describe Adam as ‘a peacemaker’.
As he says, ‘By his quiet
presence, he always brought us again to a still place in ourselves and created
a loving atmosphere in our home.’
‘While I tended to worry about what I did…, Adam was announcing to me that ‘being is more important than doing’.
While I was preoccupied with the way I was talked about … Adam was quietly
telling me that ‘God’s love is more important than the praise of people’.
is what unites. And love is not the
preserve of Christians nor Muslims nor Jews nor able-bodied, nor successful
people but our common humanity. It is a universal gift. Everyone has the
potential to love another. It is a gift which may be given and received.
this is the foundation stone of the community then everyone is on an equal
footing. There aren’t some who are more successful than others nor some who are
less able. There is a community of women and men who simply love each other.
it does depend on recognising the gifts which others bring and being humble
enough to accept them in a spirit of joy. For love makes people happy with
themselves and with others.
‘Many people with disabilities have been so pushed down, they don’t know they’re lovable.’ said Vanier. ‘And then the day that they discover that they are lovable and that they can trust themselves becomes whoopee!’