UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE
 
It wasn't in order to gain extra marks, honest!  But Bob Carroll, one of my Old Testament lecturers at Glasgow University was in my football team.
 
To show that we were learning, we named our team 'Calvin's Institutes' and 'Yaweh's Yahoos' and at the end of each lecture, Bob would announce how many goals that we had lost by, until, that momentous moment arrived, prophesied we told Bob, that we won a game.  He was always ready to play, his sports bag sitting in the corner beside a mountain of books on the prophet Isaiah and Jeremiah.  I don't remember him ever taking that kit bag home, so when he got the call-up to play, the strip would come out by itself and stand and wait for him!
 
Today is the Sunday that the Clarkston area marks the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, each of the churches having a guest preacher from the surrounding area. We are fortunate to have Iain Reid from Williamwood - some of you will remember the excellent work Iain did as chaplain to the Victoria Infirmary.  Yes, the Week of Prayer, for a better understanding of each other, of all our brothers and sisters.   
 
It was the late Professor Robert Carroll (yes Bob of my team) who put it this way: 'If the definition of the divine is to include that which is beyond human comprehension, then any account of God which knows as much as traditional religions claim to know about such a being offends against that principle.'
 
It seems to me that the key to closer cooperation within a religion and with other religions too is a recognition of our limited knowledge of the Almighty and that we see through a glass darkly.  There is much common ground in creeds and confessions but a sure- footed one might just be what we don't know rather than what we claim to know.
 
Rejoice today in what you don't know because that allows you to be an open book, still learning and still loving God in new ways.
 
Enjoy today's service.
24th January 2010                   
 
 
CHEERS!!
 
It was the run up to Christmas.   You know the feeling, 'heightened activity time'.   But this particular job was not just a chaplaincy one but a fatherly one. There I was, sitting in the atrium of Netherlee Primary school.  The children were performing 'The Little Fir Tree'.  There is always something special and heart-warming about children telling the Christmas story, in many deeper ways, that's what actually does happen - a child, a holy child, put everything into perspective.
 
However, this performance was particularly meaningful because Francesca was there, a face in amongst the many Primary 1 classes.  My little girl, a schoolgirl, how delighted I was, as well as seeing other children from our church.  In amongst the coughs and splutters of parents who got that little bit emotional and clicking cameras, the message was shared and a loud and rapturous applause was extended to all the participants and to the staff for pulling it all together.
 
A gentleman (from the Council) leaned over to the lady sitting next to me and asked for her opinion of what she experienced. She shared her thoughts with a smile on her face, then she was asked,
 
            'And what does your husband think of how the play?'
            'That's not my husband,' she replied, 'he's my son-in-law!'
 
Yep, the representative from East Ren thought my mother-in-law was my wife!   I was black affronted - though Granny was as pleased as punch.
 
The Gospel reading today, from John is Jesus' first miracle, set at the Wedding from Cana. It completes the series of three Epiphany readings which hint at who Jesus might be and who he was for: the coming of the Wise Men, the Baptism in the Jordan, and now the knees-up in Cana.
 
Good wine, takes longer to mature. The best comes later - we know that in a marriage when it is based on firm foundations.  I know that, from a woman who has been round the block a few times and has the wisdom that comes with experience in the world.  'Is that your husband?'.  I wonder who took the most offence!
 
Enjoy today's service.
17th January 2010
 
AS COLD AS MY FREEZER!!
 
'As cold as your freezer' the newsreaders said today.
 
Others were heard to have retorted, 'As cold as the South Pole.'
 
One thing is for sure, the weather has been dreadful - and it has been going on for weeks.  I recall when it started.  The primary school had attended the church for their Christmas service and in my closing remarks at the end of worship I shared with them the fact that it had started to snow.  No one thought that before the children actually stopped for their holidays that come the 10 January these bitter days would still be with us - 'In the bleak midwinter' indeed !
 
Due to the length of this cold period, the worry over supplies of grit and sand has increased, so much so, in the news on Friday night it was reported that someone had stolen a whole grit box in Newton Mearns !!
 
And shops are running out of salt.
 
In ancient Rome, soldiers and workers were employed by the state received part of their wages in salt.  The Latin word for 'salt' is 'salarium', from which we get the word 'salary'.  So if you ever have heard the phrase, ' You're not worth your salt', someone was telling you that the work you were doing was not good enough for the wages you were earning.
 
These are treacherous times underfoot, to be the 'salt' for mankind, please look out for your neighbours.  Think of those on their own, or unsteady on their feet, who could do with a help with their messages or just some company because they haven't been over the doorstep since last year.
 
Stamperland folk are known for their warmth.  Remember those who are finding it hard, pray for them, and go and spread some goodness on the paths of our parish by looking in on those in need.
 
And may the Son warm your hearts this day.
 
Enjoy today's service.
                        Sunday, 10th January 2010
 
 
DECK THE HALLS...AND THE VESTIBULE.. AND...
 
What a joy last Sunday evening was!
 
Over the past few years we have been hoping to encourage more people to come around the church after our Communion services because the December Communion has traditionally been the one when we decorated the sanctuary and the church.  We wanted to make it more of an occasion and boy, what a celebration it was.  There was music playing in the background, and whilst there was much busyness with adults running up and down ladders and others stepping back to see if what was hung was straight, there was also much laughter and fun as well as the inevitable eats afterwards.
 
People from all ages, from those higher in number to the very young (John Luca was there) moved around the building taking pride in the fact that they were helping to beautify the place in this great festival.  My thanks to you all, for making it such a great evening.
 
Yes, those in the autumn of their age as well as those in their spring!  Seeing such a mixed age range reminded me of one of the little legends that exists at Christmas time. One story suggests that the Three Wise Men of the Christmas story were of widely differing ages. One was very young, one was middle aged and one was very old. They went in one at a time to pay their homage to Jesus and each of them met a Jesus who was the very age as himself.  This is just a legend and was never intended to be taken literally but it symbolises the great truth that the Christmas Saviour is for everyone, whatever their age or circumstances.
 
Those there, last Sunday may well have got a little early taste of Christmas and the deeper joy of what Christ brings!  (Put the date in your diary for next year!!)  No matter your age - Christ is there for you.
 
Enjoy today's service.
13th December 2009
 

'I JUST LOVE A GOOD CHILDREN'S ADDRESS !'
 
'You always get something to take away with you in the Children's Address.' I have often heard this being said by adults in attempt to find some consolation from a church service that has been on the dreich side. Well, here is one for you, just in case !!
 
It is one that has done the rounds at Christmas and you will probably know it .
 
The scene is the stable where Jesus was born and its a tranquil one. All we can see is the holy family. Then, gradually, little by little, the scene is obscured as all the players in the story turn up with their gifts and the other parephenalia they bring with them.  At the end there is the unpleasant conclusion when the only way more people can be fitted into the scene is to move Jesus out of the way to make space for them.
 
I wonder if the church gives a clear sense to young people about the meaning of Christmas or if we are simply adding to the busyness of this time of year and aiding the forces that seem intent in stripping the season of is real meaning? 
 
The real Christmas story touches on so many themes that young people are interested in: poverty, homelessness, belonging, power and hope, to list just a few.  The real Christmas story is a tipping point in human history when we believe an unbreakable connection was made between divinity and humanity that would change the course of human history forever.
 
Do our young people get that point?  Today's young people are more likely to feel that they don't belong and that they are more likely to be left out of power systems that simply ignore them.  All that is left then is hope.  Jesus can be that real hope for the young because they can see how the power of a child can change how adults view the world.  He represents a community that refuses to draw lines to leave people out.  He can represent a world where being rich has nothing to do with designer labels or credit cards in your wallet.
 
Our responsibility at this time of year is to let the real Jesus of the Christmas story be seen by our young people.
 
Perhaps the children, in how they are addressed and welcomed, says more about Christmas and the Church to them than we would care to admit.
6th December 2009
 
 
MARTHA OR MARY?
 
In the gospel story about Martha and Mary who entertained Jesus at Bethany, Martha exhausted herself with much bustling and serving, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening.  Although Jesus said that of the two sisters, Mary had chosen the better part, the sympathy of the majority is with Martha.  'Lord,' she said, 'do you not care that my sister left me to serve alone?'  But Jesus answered, 'Martha, Martha, you are too anxious, too busy.'
 
In truth, neither Martha or Mary is perfect. We need the qualities of both. Christmas would lose much if we managed to opt out of all the presents, entertaining and decorating and a hamburger out of MacDonalds on Christmas Day without friends or relatives, would not be the same!  But Christmas also loses much if like Martha we fail to relax and worship, and ponder the deeper meaning of Christmas.
 
Let's make sure in this time of Advent, that all the rushing, cleaning, cooking and decorating does not destroy the peace, goodwill and joy which ought to characterise this coming festival of Christ's birth.
 
Which one are you, Martha or Mary?
 
Enjoy today's service.
29th November 2009
 
 
FALL BACK
 
'Spring forward, fall back'. It's the little memory trick to remind us that the clocks move in different ways dependent on the season.  And so, this morning, how many of you have remembered? How many of you were here an hour early? Or is it late?
 
If you could gain an hour, gain time, I wonder how you would fill it? If you could turn back time, what would you do or say that you regret missing out on?  Time waits for no one so I was glad to be reminded that there is a little rhyme which goes with the Big Ben chimes that precedes the striking of the hours.
 
                                                                        Lord, through this hour,
                                                                        Be Thou our guide.
                                                                        That by Thy power
                                                                        No foot shall slide.
 
No wonder so many have found inspiration in those loved and reassuring sounds.  We cannot stop time passing, but we can choose to use it wisely - with a little help.
 
In today's worship, may you know God who journeys with you, every step of the way.
25th October