Minister’s Blog

18  June 2019

In 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?

The 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.

For 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.

The 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!’

Minister’s Blog

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)

For 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’.

In 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’.

Being 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.

If 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.

Pews News – 16 June 2019

  1. Welcome to the kirk – and a special welcome to the Revd. Margaret Stein who is conducting morning worship  whilst the minister is on compassionate leave.  May the peace of God be with you!
  2. Coffee is served after morning worship at Stenton and from 10-15am in Prestonkirk.
  3. Flowers arranged by Shaun Gordon  (Stenton) and Margaret Hunter (Prestonkirk). Readers are Bill Stevenson  (Stenton) and Corrie Clark (Prestonkirk).
  4. Children are always welcome to worship with us. At Stenton, there is an activity for the children after the children’s address. At Prestonkirk, children are invited to participate in the service for all ages.
  5. The minister will be back home from the USA on Wednesday. Anyone requiring the services of a minister until then should contact the Revd. Dr. David Graham t: 01620 890800/ 01620 892800.
  6. The ‘Strawberry Fayre’ is in the Community Hall on Saturday  – Afternoon Tea and Music from 1.30 – 4.00 pm. Tickets cost £7 Adults/£3 Children and are available from Yvonne (07809684900), members of the committee or at the door! Speak to one of the committee (Alastair, Yvonne, Pat, Eleanor and Anne)  if you can help with baking.
  7. The Prestonkirk SS Picnic is on 23 June after morning worship. Members of the congregation are invited to join in. Please bring your own picnic. The children’s food will be provided.
  8. Midsummer Songs of Praise – Whittingehame Kirk  on  30 June at 6-30pm.
  9. On Tuesday 13 August, the last day of the school holidays, there will be an ‘Adventure Day’  in the Stables, the kirk and the Glebe field from 10am-2pm. Children between 5 and 11 will be most welcome at ‘Miracle Maker’.If you are willing to help with this adventure, please sign up in the Stables.
  10. Forth Children’s Theatre will be performing ‘Once on this Island’  in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 2-10 August at Edinburgh Tabernacle.  Tickets cost £13 (Adult), £9 (Concession) & £35 (Family) and are available to pre-order from Alastair McConnachie  t: 01620 860939.
  11. Please return filled Smartie Tubes  by the end of June to the offering plate, an elder at the kirk door or one of the Fundraising Team – Alastair, Yvonne, Pat, Eleanor, Anne. Many thanks!
  12. Copies of Pews News are available in DJ Malcolm’s, the Post Office and Votadini. Items for next week’s issue should be sent to the Revd. David D. Scott t: 860227 or e: revdd.scott@gmail.com

Minister’s Blog

16 June 2019

In 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.

How 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.

In 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.’

He 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.

Minister’s Blog

15 June 2019

As 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!

St. 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.

Minister’s Blog

14 June 2019

In 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.

He 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.

They 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!

Minister’s Blog

13 June 2019       

Last 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.

Two 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 weather.

Secondly, 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 on!

Most of 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 community engagement.

It is 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.

The Gala 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.

Minister’s Blog

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 just discovered.

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.’

Minister’s Blog

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?

Minister’s Blog

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 honest society.

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 Herald.

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?’

Pews News – 9 June 2019

  1. Welcome to the kirk – and a special welcome to Queen Emma and her Court who have come to Prestonkirk for the Kirkin’ of the Gala Day Court .  May the peace of God be with you!
  2. Coffee is served after morning worship at Stenton and from 10-15am in Prestonkirk.
  3. Flowers arranged by Shaun Gordon  (Stenton) and Val Fisher  (Prestonkirk). Readers are Doreen Thomson  (Stenton) and Marco Horn  (Prestonkirk).
  4. Children are always welcome to worship with us. At Stenton, there is an activity for the children after the children’s address. At Prestonkirk, children are invited to participate in the service for all ages.
  5. Art Club Exhibition is on this afternoon until 5pm in the Village Hall, Gifford.
  6. The minister is on compassionate leave from 11-19 June, conducting his nephew’s funeral in the USA. The Revd. Margaret Stein will be conducting worship next Sunday. Anyone requiring the services of a minister should contact the Revd. Dr. David Graham t: 01620 890800/ 01620 892800.
  7. The ‘Strawberry Fayre’ is in the Community Hall on Saturday 22June – Afternoon Tea and Music from 1.30 – 4.00 pm. Tickets cost £7 Adults/£3 Children and are available from Yvonne (07809684900), members of the committee or at the door! Speak to one of the committee (Alastair, Yvonne, Pat, Eleanor and Anne)  if you can help with baking.
  8. Midsummer Songs of Praise – Whittingehame Kirk  on  30 June at 6-30pm.
  9. On Tuesday 13 August, the last day of the school holidays, there will be an ‘Adventure Day’  in the Stables, the kirk and the Glebe field from 10am-2pm. Children between 5 and 11 will be most welcome at ‘Miracle Maker’.If you are willing to help with this adventure, please sign up in the Stables.
  10. Forth Children’s Theatre will be performing ‘Once on this Island’  in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 2-10 August at Edinburgh Tabernacle.  Tickets cost £13 (Adult), £9 (Concession) & £35 (Family) and are available to pre-order from Alastair McConnachie  t: 01620 860939.
  11. Please return filled Smartie Tubes  by the end of June to the offering plate, an elder at the kirk door or one of the Fundraising Team – Alastair, Yvonne, Pat, Eleanor, Anne. Many thanks!
  12. Copies of Pews News are available in DJ Malcolm’s, the Post Office and Votadini. Items for next week’s issue should be sent to the Revd. David D. Scott t: 860227 or e: revdd.scott@gmail.com

Minister’s Blog

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 Christ’.

Don’t 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.

Keep 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Looking 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!

Minister’s Blog

8 June 2019

Through 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 gain!’

On 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?

Is 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!

Minister’s Blog

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.

He 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?

He 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.

Firstly, 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!

Minister’s Blog

6 June 2019

There 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 twenty-four hours!

Secondly, 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.

Lastly, 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.’

This 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.

Minister’s Blog

5 June 2019

Christians 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.

Being 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.

Christianity 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.

In 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 was!

Minister’s Blog

4 June 2019

When I 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.

Every 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.

Orpah 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.’

Her attitude 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.

The 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.

And, of 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!

Minister’s Blog

3 June 2019

A third 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.

The 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 resource.

It has 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.

The 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.

Thankfully, 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 and kings.

Minister’s Blog

2 June 2019

Another 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?

The 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 it could!

The 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.

Minister’s Blog

1 June 2019

One of 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?’ 

On the 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 this issue.

Clearly, 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 humbly.

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!

Minister’s Blog

31 May 2019

During 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.

However,  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.

Above 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 modest indiscretions.

Notwithstanding 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.

Secondly, 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.’

When I 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!

Minister’s Blog

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.

Several 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.

Six to 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’.

Once 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!

Minister’s Blog

29 May 2019

Recently, 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 discussing them’.

She 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.’

Stories 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.

Better 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.’

Moses 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.

And the 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 happiness?

Minister’s Blog

28 May 2019

Nirmal 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!

Some of 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.

In 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.

This 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.

Some of 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.

Minister’s Blog

27 May 2019

At 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.’

This 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.

Secondly, 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.

Or 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!

Minister’s Blog

26 May 2019

Although 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.

Believe 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!

‘Zero 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.

Their 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.’

The 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!

Minister’s Blog

25 May 2019

Frances was murdered. Her mother was devastated. Her brother was consumed by a murderous rage. The police allocated four days to the case.

Daniel, the brother, never got over it. He wanted justice. He wanted vengeance. But there was nothing to be done.

Over 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.

Look at the forgiving Christ on the cross and remember the old Chinese proverb, ‘The man who opts for revenge should dig two graves!’

Minister’s Blog

24 May 2019

In 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.

And 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.

At 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 home there.

One 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.

Later 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’.

Despite 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.’

Minister’s Blog

23 May 2019

For 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.

As a 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.

He 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’.

Minister’s Blog

22 May 2019

Love 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.

If 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.

However, 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!’