Minister’s Blog

19 May 2019

When I was minister in Forth, a member of the congregation who was blind came to the kirk with his golden Labrador. He was very well-behaved – and no-one thought it odd that the dog was in the kirk.

When I was at Logie Kirk, two lambs were brought to the kirk door from Drumbrae Farm every Easter. They were very young and had colourful ribbons tied round their necks. Two children were deputed to bring them into the kirk – and the minister often sang to them!

I don’t remember animals in New Kilpatrick. However, I have seen two in the parish of Traprain. One Christmas, a member of the congregation took her dog with her to the Christmas morning service in Prestonkirk. And yesterday, there was another at the wedding!

It was a beautiful husky who had been rescued by the groom. Her name was Lily and she was the best behaved dog I have ever seen. She sat in the pew reserved for people with disabilities.

For most of the time, she lay with her legs spread-eagled in the aisle. But when the congregation stood, Lily stood as well. When the congregation sat down, Lily returned to her former pose.

She had a tiny orange banner tied round her neck celebrating the names of bride and groom and the date of the wedding. Why shouldn’t animals be found in the kirk participating in the worship of the Creator God celebrating her master’s wedding day?

St. Francis would have approved – and I do too. For the Psalmist is very clear that all living creatures have a vocation to praise God – wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds. And he concludes:

Let them praise the name of the Lord

for his name alone is exalted;

his glory is above earth and heaven. (Psalm 148;10,13)

Minister’s Blog

18 May 2019

I read an intriguing article recently entitled, ‘Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things’. It pitted  intelligence against  critical thinking. The former is  largely inherited. The latter is not and crucially can be taught.

No-one can deny the advantages of intelligence but the intelligence test doesn’t measure everything e.g. an ability to make good decisions and a propensity  to interact well with other people.

Studies have been done on people who are intelligent and people who are critical thinkers. Interestingly, those who have a high IQ do not necessarily live lives which are characterised by longevity and well-being.

However this is true of critical thinkers. Moreover, it was also discovered that people who think critically have less negative experiences to cope with  in their lives. Presumably, their ability to think keenly has something to do with this.

‘Critical thinkers are sceptics.’ writes Heather A Butler. They ask questions. They search for evidence. They are not fooled by bias nor prejudice nor the prevailing view.  They reason clearly and independently. And the great thing is we can all be trained to follow in their footsteps to the enrichment of our lives!

Minister’s Blog

17 May 2019

The World Health Organisation has just issued fresh guidelines on arresting cognitive decline. Whilst acknowledging that age was the biggest driver behind the increasing incidence of dementia, other factors could be contributing to it.

The guidelines for living a healthier lifestyle include physical activity, a Mediterranean diet high in fish, fruit and vegetables and the avoidance of toxins like alcohol and drugs like tobacco.

Jim Pearson, Director of Policy and Research in Alzheimer Scotland said, ‘Generally speaking what’s good for your heart can also be good for your brain.’ Having heard it, we can immediately see the wisdom of it.

We are more inclined to separate body and mind and to think about them as different entities. However, the brain is an organ just like the heart. What is healthy for one must be healthy for the other. They are both integral parts of the body.

Jesus favoured fish in his diet and a fish was used by the persecuted Christians as a secret symbol drawn in the sand to reveal their identity. The Greek for fish is ichthus and this was a mnemonic for ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’. Body and mind neatly nourished by fish!

Minister’s Blog

16 May 2019

Although East Linton is an inland village, we are only seven minutes from the beach. This is an enviable benefit. Recent studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between living near the sea and mental health.

In general, people are happier and healthier by the sea. And it’s not just the ocean view. Stress levels, blood pressure and mood are all improved by going to the seaside. In addition, sea water is rich in nutrients – magnesium, potassium and zinc!

We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water. Being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight and even heal what was broken.’ says Wallace J Nichols, a marine biologist.

No wonder the first thing people do when the weather improves is to go to the seaside! Jesus went there too. He went out fishing. He calmed a storm. He cooked breakfast on the shore. He fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes on a hillside by the sea!

Minister’s Blog

15 May 2019

In her courageous search to discover the truth about her father, Germaine Greer travelled far to discover that he was a fraud. He was neither a war-hero nor did he have an illustrious past.  He ran away from a foster home, changed his name and resolved to conceal his roots.

He remained aloof from his daughter. He never embraced her throughout his life. Nevertheless, she loved him. The discovery of the truth could have destroyed this love, but it didn’t. She still called him Daddy.  And so her courageous honesty revealed the reality of her own remarkable love for one who didn’t deserve it!

What’s real cannot be destroyed by our pursuit of the truth because the revelation of the truth makes reality even more vivid. Germaine Greer’s love for her father couldn’t be destroyed by her pursuit of the truth. On the contrary, her love was so real that it became even more vivid when the truth about him was revealed.

Minister’s Blog

14 May 2019

Faith cannot remove uncertainty.  With  uncertainty, comes doubt. It creeps in every day. Is there a day when we do not doubt other people, doubt ourselves, doubt God?

Doubt is part of our faith. It is not its opposite. Without doubt, we would have no questions to ask – and we have many. For as well as deepening our understanding of the Bible, a mature religion has to accommodate unanswered prayer.

And there’s much of that! Right at the heart of the gospel is the unanswered prayer of Jesus. The book of Hebrews reflects on his excruciating prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

‘In the day of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death ….’ But he didn’t. God didn’t save him from death. God didn’t answer his prayer.

So what about ours? The trouble is that some of our prayers appear to be answered but there are critical prayers upon which our life seems to depend that quite simply are not answered and certainly not  in the way we expect.

This brings disappointment at the very least and sometimes a loss in faith.  More positively, it may bring  a re-examination of our understanding of God’s will and most beneficial of all – a deepening understanding of the mystery of God!

Minister’s Blog

13 May 2019

At the heart of our religion is faith not certainty. Faith is what inspires us to take a risk, to step out into the unknown, to make a move in a particular direction which may or may not be the right thing to do but we do it because of our faith.

There is no certainty. We cannot be sure. All we have are the promises of God. ‘I will be with you always.’ is one. ‘Peace I give you.’ is another.  ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ is a third.

Promises  are not certainties. Paradoxically, we only discover their fulfilment when we have faith to believe in them. It’s in the stepping out in faith that leads us to the fulfilment of the promise.

Minister’s Blog

12 May 2019

There were a lot of mice in the old Kilburn Church. They were all over the wooden furniture, beautifully carved by the late Robert Thompson. It was all made  out of oak and featured a mouse on every piece.

When Thompson was starting out in business in the late nineteenth century, he was doing some work in a church. He said to his colleague, ‘We have plenty of work coming in to the business but still we are as poor as church mice.’

At that point, he carved a tiny mouse on the roof rafter. Seeing the finished work, he thought it would make a distinctive signature to distinguish his work. It has immortalised him and helped to advertise his furniture.

As a young man, he was keen to make a return to the solid oak furniture which was celebrated in the sixteenth century. He rediscovered the adze which he used to shave off surface oak to create a beaten pewter look. It is very attractive – and expensive.

Meeting the mouse on the wooden lectern in the kirk reminded me of another in the field where Robert Burns was ploughing. When the plough destroyed his nest, he apologised in these immortal terms, ‘I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,/ Has broken nature’s social union.’

What can we say when the UN recently reported that one million species are facing extinction including  the honeybee, the skylark and the hedgehog! The social union celebrated so beautifully  in the art of Thompson and Burns is being recklessly destroyed by humanity. Therein lie the seeds of our destruction!

Minister’s Blog

11 May 2019

One of the highlights of our holiday in Yorkshire was our visit to Pickering. We saw the steam train arrive at the station and walked to the castle at the top of the hill. We spent some time in the parish church.

It has a Saxon baptismal font which has been used continuously for the past thousand years! In addition, the church boasts the most complete set of wall paintings in any church in England.

They were produced in the middle of the fifteenth century largely to educate worshippers who were mostly illiterate. According to the guidebook, they were known as the ‘Biblia Pauperum’ or the ‘Poor Man’s Bible’.

Several saints were celebrated – St. George, St. Christopher, St. Edmund, St. Catherine, St. Thomas and the beheaded John the Baptist. Mary was crowned. Jesus was crucified, risen and ascended. The seven acts of mercy were illustrated as well as the descent into Hell!

Less than a century later, the paintings were whitewashed as art was banned from the churches at the Reformation. They were accidentally rediscovered in 1852 and covered up a second time only to be finally restored in 1876.

The painting of the Baptist manages to compress the full story of his beheading into a small space. Four  events are depicted – the dancing Salome, the rebuking Baptist, the beheading and the presentation of his head on a plate!

The artist has not created a chronological mural. All the bits are there but in random order. The characters are dressed in medieval attire . This is a tale not just for yesterday but for today. The arbitrary power of kings and queens is to be  respected. So, beware –  if you don’t want to lose your head!

Minister’s Blog

10 May 2019

Following the flooding in 2015, the Jorvik Centre in York was revamped at a cost of £4.2 million! The Head of Interpretation took the opportunity to incorporate recent research into the displays.

When it opened in 1984, the focus was on the Vikings and the recent discovery that York had been a Viking city. The part played by Christianity in influencing the Vikings had not been fully acknowledged. As a result of more recent research, this has been remedied.

One of the most prominent artefacts is a Celtic Cross featuring a Viking warrior as well as the traditional knot work. It was a replica of a tenth century cross which we saw for ourselves in the delightful Middleton Church on the way to Pickering.

It was one of five ancient crosses displayed in the kirk celebrating its ancient origin. We were lucky to see them because the church was being repainted and all its other furnishings were under covers.

We enjoyed the kirkyard. It wasn’t manicured like Scottish graveyards. It had been allowed to grow wild – primroses, bluebells, campion, forget-me-nots and dandelions growing in profusion. It was all the more attractive because it had been valued as a wildlife habitat.

As we stood there enjoying the peace on a very sunny day, we heard the cuckoo. The last time we heard it was at Cuddy’s Cave as we walked to Lindisfarne in 2013. Although it is the most distinctive of birdsongs, we hardly hear it now. It was an instant reminder of a lost but privileged outdoor childhood!

Minister’s Blog

9 May 2019

When we think of refugees, we think of their immediate need of food, shelter, safety and peace. This fools us into thinking that refugees are unlike us and, worse still, have nothing to give us.

One of the most remarkable refugees to arrive on these shores is Caucher Birkar who lived on the border between Iran and Iraq. It wasn’t the best of places to be during the Iran-Iraq War. Being Kurdish meant that he and his family were hated by both sides.

He was the son of a peasant whose family had land until 1978 when it was confiscated. His education gave him a place in Tehran University to study mathematics. In his third year, he made his escape to Britain.

By chance, he was settled in Nottingham whose university has a strong mathematics department. He wandered in to see Professor Fesenko. Although he spoke in broken English, Birkar was fluent in the language of mathematics.

He was enrolled to do a PhD. He became an academic at Cambridge. He made extraordinary discoveries in the field of algebraic geometry and has just been awarded the Fields Medal. This is  equivalent to a Nobel Prize and is only awarded to people under forty!

Because of the politics relating to refugees you mostly see negative aspects in the news,’ says Birkar. ‘Go beyond the negative and being a refugee and a scientist is not a strange thing.’ Perhaps Einstein is the most famous example!

Of all the people who influenced his decision to study mathematics, the most surprising was his brother who was six years older. When Birkar was ten, his brother started to teach him more advanced mathematics because, as his brother said, ‘These things are beautiful!

Minister’s Blog

8 May 2019

Lebanon has two significant neighbours – Syria and Israel/Palestine. As a result of warfare and unrest, it has become a safe if not an impoverished haven for Palestinian and Syrian refugees.

The statistics are staggering. The Lebanon has a population of six million people. Believe it or not, it is estimated that the number of Syrian refugees who have crossed the border because of the bloodshed is now 1.5million!

This means that there is one refugee for every four Lebanese. How do they manage this extraordinary situation?  With great difficulty!  It makes me feel ashamed when I think about the UK’s reluctance  to do more to help.

With Christian Aid Week beginning this weekend, we may look at things differently. If we are unwilling to welcome larger numbers of refugees into our country, perhaps we could give more money to alleviate some of the difficulties which Lebanon is facing in fulfilling the ministry of a good neighbour.

Minister’s Blog

7 May 2019

When I was younger, I read Victor Hugo’s intriguing novel about Quasimodo, the hunchback and bell-ringer at Notre Dame de Paris. It had been commissioned to replicate the hugely popular historical novels of Sir Walter Scott.  It was written within five months.

It had two consequences. Firstly, it embedded the cathedral in the popular imagination of the people. Secondly,  it exposed the cathedral’s disrepair. It had been badly damaged by the vandalism of the French Revolution.

As a result, a competition was created to ensure its restoration. However, poor quality stone was used to complete the project. Apparently, it has been crumbling ever since! After the fire, it is the stonework which remains!

Even work which is undertaken to build up the church and glorify God’s name may be  done on the cheap without regard to the long-term consequences. Failing to give of our best in a spirit of generosity has dramatic consequences. Ananias and Sapphira  didn’t live to tell the tale!

Minister’s Blog

6 May 2019

Abigail Disney is the granddaughter of Walt Disney’s brother. In a recent interview, she spoke about her struggle with inherited wealth. She believes wealth divorces people from reality and as a consequence has given away 70 million dollars of her inheritance.

She spoke about the Boeing  737 which her father purchased as a private jet. On one occasion, she travelled in it alone with all the attendant staff, fuel costs and excessive carbon footprint. It made her sick!

‘It’s fundamental to remember that you’re just a member of the human race, like everyone else, and there’s nothing about your money that makes you better …’ she said. ‘If you don’t know that and you have money, it’s the road to hell.’

Minister’s Blog

5 May 2019

She was looking down on everyone. He was looking round for more excitement. She was looking back on the good old days. He was looking away from the beggar. She was looking in – to herself!

And where were you looking – down, round, back, away, in or up? Up above the proud and the wistful, up above the restless and the merciless, up above the selfishness of our world into the very presence of God?

Up, because you can’t look down on a cross! Up to a head crowned with thorns, up to hands pierced with nails, up to a wounded heart which draws me out of myself, out of my past, out of my world, up into that place where love is come again!

Minister’s Blog

4 May 2019

‘Eat your vegetables!’ said my mum. ‘They’re good for you!’ Organic or not? It begs the question. What is good for you?

Do you remember those halcyon days when we could eat greasy chips, sprinkle salt on our beef, have as much cake as we could stomach – and savour the icing? They’ve gone!

And with them, a holiday in the sun! Apparently, it encourages too much inactivity in the brain and actually reduces our IQ!

Well, what is good for you? God perhaps? ‘Find out for yourself how good the Lord is.’ says the poet in the Bible. Why? He makes me happy! And that’s always good!

Minister’s Blog

3 May 2019

He wanted to be a minister – but he wasn’t accepted by the church. He turned to art – but he wasn’t successful. He painted 869 pictures – but he only sold one!

His paintings weren’t valuable then – but they are now! Last year, one was sold for over fifty million pounds – but he died in poverty, by his own hand, rejected by everyone except his brother!

What beauty he has given to the world – but it has only been appreciated in death. Don’t let the day pass without appreciating your brother or your sister, your neighbour or friend. Who knows? Vincent van Gogh may be living next door!

Minister’s Blog

2 May 2019

Have you ever been mistaken for God? I have! She was only two when she asked her mum, ‘Is that man God?’ I had to admit it, ‘Not yet!’

On the way out of the house, I took out my keys. ‘Car keys?’ she asked with surprise. I had to admit it. ‘Don’t have wings yet.’

We all laughed at the mistaken identity. But there was something in it! Aren’t we called to be like God in our love for others? So why don’t we see the likeness of God more often?

Minister’s Blog

1 May 2019

 I once knew a woman in a long-term psychiatric hospital who endured a burden of suffering which she once described very accurately as ‘a living sorrow’. Her burden was made much worse because she had to carry it herself.

There was little I could do to ease the burden except be there and sometimes that was difficult too. Often she would say that she could only continue living because of God’s strength. Every day her prayer was for peace of mind.

Although it wasn’t always answered, it didn’t cause her to lose her  faith. And although she had no obvious reason to celebrate the love of God, she never gave up loving him. In this way, she strengthened my faith.

On one occasion, she told me her favourite prayer and despite her depression, her physical disability and difficulties in her speech, she invited me, her minister, to join her in prayer and without faltering, she said:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me …

Minister’s Blog

The stones in ancient graveyards provide a fascinating study. On one, you will see a heart turned upside down. Someone who was loved has died.

On another, you will see a ghastly sight – a skull gnawing on a femur bone. Death is hungry for everyone!

On a third, you will see a snake forming a circle by eating its tail! The snake reminds us of death. What about the circle?

Its perfect shape reminds us of eternity and the promise of eternal life treasured within the walls of this ancient kirkyard.

Christ has died! Christ is risen! Death is swallowed up in victory! The snake has swallowed its tail!

Minister’s Blog

29 April 2019

Yesterday, the Stenton Singers put on a very imaginative and inspiring concert in Prestonkirk. They are a well-established choir working under the baton of Lynda Jeffrey, regularly raising funds for charity. This time it was for LORD, Late Onset Retinal Regeneration.

There were two major song cycles. The first was Stanford’s energetic and thoughtful, ‘Songs of the Fleet’. The listener was well-rewarded by the choir’s enthusiasm in ‘The Song of the Sou’wester’ and its sincerity in the Fare Well with its references to death, used to great effect in Great War commemorations.

The second was ‘Days that Changed the World’. The words were by Charles Bennett and the music by Bob Chilcott. They celebrated the invention of the printing press, the abolition of slavery and the successes and failures of the Wright brothers’ attempts to fly! They were all very engaging and provided much stimulus for the imagination!

There were three accomplished solo singers and two instrumentalists – the one playing a Handel sonata on the treble recorder and the other Gaelic airs on the clarsach. All very refreshing. John Anderson was the accompanist and did a brilliant job especially  in the wonderful song cycle accompaniments.

My all time favourite was a very unusual song written by Bob Chilcott, ‘Like a Singing Bird’. It surprised and delighted in equal measure. For one of Scotland’s most famous love songs, ‘My luv is like a red, red rose’ became the  wonderful foil for Christina Rossetti’s poem, ‘My heart is like a singing bird’. It was a magical moment when the two became one!

Songs from Carousel and Verdi’s Nabucco together with a very popular ‘Johnnie Cope’ completed the line-up. Lynda Jeffrey is much to be admired. Her challenging ways bring thoughtfulness and vitality in equal measure to choir and concert goer. This is one concert by the Singers which should not have been missed.

Minister’s Blog

28 April 2019

It is extraordinary what some people will do to steal a march others. When it comes to choosing the best school for your child, some people actually move house to set up home in a more desirable school catchment area.

When it comes to enrolling your child at a faith school, there is an expectation that parents will be regular attenders at church. A recent  poll indicated that one in eight parents who attended church to secure their child’s place in a popular faith school  was an atheist!

One atheist blamed the state of comprehensive education. ‘It’s an abhorrent situation.’ he said. ‘And one that is made worse when parents are forced to play a system that they didn’t create  and are then accused of being odious, despicable hypocrites!’

What he didn’t say was that the two years worshipping in his local parish church was so enlightening that he decided to stay, seek baptism, confirmation and maybe ordination! But perhaps this is what will happen to his child. It would if our prayers and not his were answered!

Minister’s Blog

27 April 2019

In a recent interview, Erling Kagge was talking about his love of walking. He has walked to both poles and climbed Everest. He has navigated the sewers in New York and walked the length and breadth of LA. It took four days.

Many creative thinkers were also avid walkers – the Greek philosophers, the romantic composers, Darwin and Dickens. The scientists have confirmed a causal relationship between walking and creativity. ‘We think with our entire bodies,’ said Kagge.

‘When we move the body, we also move our thoughts, our emotions, everything frees up and circulate.’ he continued. ‘It’s good to think when you walk but it’s even better not to. That’s when you find answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.’

Minister’s Blog

26 April 2019

A fortnight ago, astronomers revealed the first close-up images of a huge black hole. They offer scientists the opportunity to marry Einstein’s theory of relativity to the world of quantum mechanics. In a black hole everything is crushed into an infinitely small space.

This is the elusive, ‘Theory of Everything’ which Stephen Hawking spent a large part of his life trying to unravel. The most interesting thing about black holes is that they were discovered  long before  they were observed in the universe.

The discovery was entirely theoretical. The mathematics laid bare their existence but the scientists had to wait three decades before they found any signs of them in the universe. Perhaps Plato was right afterall when he  said, ‘God is a geometer!’

Minister’s Blog

25 April 2019

A member of the congregation drew my attention to an initiative at St. Leonard’s Church, Herefordshire. Twenty-five people worshipped there on a regular basis. When a shop was installed at the west end of the nave things began to change.

The shop in the church is open seven days a week and includes a post office, with a café in the gallery. Obviously, more people were making a connection with the church building and this seemed to draw them into the life of what happened there.

People started to light candles and to pray. Christmas was very popular. Conversations began to happen and people were asking questions about the church and the faith. It all happened in a natural and spontaneous way.

It seems to stabilise congregation numbers and weddings and baptisms go up.’ said Becky Payne who has advised the local diocese about turning churches into community hubs. ’People start to see the church as part of their lives.’

Minister’s Blog

24 April 2019

Anonymous letters should be consigned to the waste paper basket immediately. Whilst the one I received through the post on Tuesday was anonymous, it had no letter attached. It was an A5 leaflet folded into A6 and entitled, ‘Believe it or not God hates Easter!’

It began, ‘The Christian Church should not be keeping Easter. It is not biblically commanded as a holy convocation. Its observance comes from paganism. It is not valid!’ The paganism is a reference to Eostre, the goddess of Spring and the attack is on syncretism.

However, two things contributed to the establishment of Easter as a major festival within the Church. The first was the spontaneous way in which the first Christians not only continued to observe the Jewish Sabbath but also gathered together to remember Jesus on the Sunday.

Sunday, of course, was the day of resurrection and that’s  why it was chosen as a special day for meeting. By the end of the first century, this became an established pattern and differentiated Christian from Jew. It was and is and always shall be a little Easter.

The second was the connection between Passover and Easter. The Passover is an annual festival which is determined by the Spring Equinox and the full moon. It cannot be changed. The resurrection of Christ was celebrated on the Sunday after Passover and  that’s when we celebrate it now.

This celebration of the resurrection was established at least by the middle of the second century. The name, ‘Easter’, may not be Biblical but the resurrection most certainly is and unlike Christmas the day of resurrection cannot be disputed! And if you believe that this is the most momentous event in the history of the world, why not celebrate it?

Minister’s Blog

23 April 2019

In one of his poems, RS Thomas talks about meeting a man on a journey ‘whose eyes declare: /There is no God.’ He encourages the traveller to pay no attention because there are others on the journey:

With the same creed, whose lips yet utter

Friendlier greeting, men who have learned

To pack a little of the sun’s light

In their cold eyes, whose hands are waiting

For your hand.

We have met them too – nameless strangers who radiate a little warmth, a little sunshine and who welcome us into their presence. They have discovered that there is something more important than religion and that’s our common humanity.

The poet advises us not to linger. ‘A smile is payment.’ He says. ‘The road runs on.’ He continues. ‘With many turnings towards the tall Tree to which the believer is nailed.’

There is a more eloquent witness to the power of love than the words of the evangelist and that’s the tall tree – the cross bearing, the forgetting of self, the suffering for the good of another!

Love is what unites. Love is not the preserve of Christians nor Muslims nor Jews but our common humanity. But the Tall Tree reminds us that Christianity has something deeper to offer in the one who suffers and dies for the other.

Minister’s Blog

22 April 2019 – Easter Monday

First Up!

With Easter being later, our Easter Rising was always going to be in daylight and with the change in the weather from the beginning to the end of the week, we had it made. Around 85 people of all ages climbed Traprain Law at 6-30am and joined in the service at the top. The large wooden cross had already been carried up the Law on Thursday and was still in situ.

Liz, who looks after the thirteen Exmoors, was one of the first to arrive. She brought news of the ponies. They  were on the far side of the Law and wouldn’t be joining  us. Not to be disappointed, she brought a bag of Easter Eggs for the children – one from each of the ponies, one from herself and one from  her dog! I hope he gave permission!

It was a very swift climb. The dry paths and the warming sun helped. But once you have carried up a wooden cross, nothing ever seems as challenging! The worship benefitted from the calm weather. Whilst we didn’t see the ponies, we did hear the lark ascending as the sun was rising over nearby Dunbar. People were reluctant to leave this peaceful sanctuary!

I spoke briefly about Notre Dame making a connection with our ancient kirks. The chancel at Prestonkirk was built at the same time as Notre Dame. In its constancy, it bears eloquent witness to the Easter Gospel to more people outside than ever enter its ancient walls just like the cathedral whose congregation on Monday night  included people of all faiths and none.

The kirk should never forget this for  Easter is almost exclusively  an outdoor event, celebrated in the garden, at  the beach, on  the road and up the hill  where borders and boundaries are replaced by the free air, the birdsong and the sunlight  and  we can rise together in unity because the love of the crucified Christ has already  risen within us!

Minister’s Blog

21 April 2019 – Easter Day

Three things  impressed me about the fire at Notre Dame de Paris. Firstly, the opportunity. Although some stained glass will never be replaced because the techniques are lost to humanity, the fire does provide an opportunity for young people to learn the ancient skills required for the rebuilding. Here’s the phoenix!

Secondly, the people.  It  was  remarkable that so many people gathered in the streets of Paris to watch the conflagration. They were certainly not all Christian but two things were said about them. They were united in grief  and their unity was enveloped  in a worshipful silence. Here’s the true congregation!

Thirdly, the building.  This great House of God  bears eloquent witness to more people outside  than ever enter its ancient walls. For over eight hundred years, it has spoken to a community about Christ’s victory over sin and death! ‘Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!’ Here’s our hidden and most effective evangel!

Minister’s Blog

20 April 2019 – Holy Saturday

One of the most spectacular events ever to take place at Notre Dame de Paris was the wedding of our Mary, Queen of Scots to Francis, the Dauphin, the heir apparent to the French throne.

It happened on Thursday, 24 April 1558, the second week of Eastertide. The crowds flocked to the square. Others hung out of windows to catch a glimpse of the tall, slender beauty who was marrying their short, weedy Dauphin as John Guy describes him.

Mary did two unusual things. Firstly, she let her hair fall down her back. It wasn’t tied up upon her head. This is what was expected. But in this way, its glory shone and her beauty was greatly enhanced.

Secondly, she wore white. This was very controversial. At the French court, white was the colour of mourning. Disregarding the convention, Mary chose it for her bridal gown.  White for purity, new life and Eastertide.

The young bride was not only Queen of Scotland but also heir to the throne of England. Her cousin, Elizabeth, was considered to be illegitimate issue. In the marriage, three kingdoms were potentially united under Mary and the Dauphin.

It wasn’t to be but on her  wedding day, Mary chose to wear the colour of mourning and gave it new life. She challenged the conventions and suffered for it. The people loved her vitality. It was like another Easter where mourning was turned into dancing. As the Psalmist says:

You have turned my mourning into dancing;

you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy! (Psalm 30;11)