Joseph
As always, I sat as proud as punch a couple of Fridays ago to watch Francesca in the school production, ‘The Shiniest Star.’ And my pride was magnified when I saw so many of our own here in Stamperland giving their all to tell the story.
 
Considering the school had opened for the first time that week on the Friday and they had had no dress rehearsal, they were even more remarkable.
 
My memory fails me (as it does often) but I can’t remember which characters or animals I played years ago. If I had the choice now, which would I choose?  Perhaps Joseph with the borrowed bathrobe and tea-towel on my head.
 
Joseph is more than just a funny memory from way back when. He has a timeless goodness to him. If I take a deep breath, if I settle back in my chair and re-read Matthew’s familiar passage, I marvel at the line, “Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.” Yes, we may cringe at the callousness of “dismissing” Mary. And, yes, in a verse or so, one of those fear-not angels will get the old carpenter to rethink things, but still .
 
A righteous man, unwilling to expose Mary to public disgrace. I look back with my twenty-first century eyes and believe that the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke are mostly wondrous, faith-filled myths. Well and good.
 
As a scholar, I’ll analyse and dissect the verses.   As a believer, I’m thankful for the emotion-laden carols inspired by the verses and the bittersweet Bethlehem moments described in those same verses. I am glad that this story is re-enacted showing its eternal qualities.  If I have played Joseph then I’ve lived for a silly, serious moment as a righteous man, as someone who refused to put another in a bad light. For all the scholarly ways we can try and dismiss the birth stories, and for all the ways we believers cram the story with talking animals and grumpy innkeepers, I admire the way Matthew gave us a glimpse of someone like Joseph.
 
‘Not trying to put someone in a bad light’ - yes, at its very basics, Christmas is about this.
 
In fact not just on Christmas Day but as every day unfolds, being righteous and caring for others is as essential (and difficult) as it is timeless.
19th December 2010
 
 
' A SILVER LINING '
 
I love the legends that appear around the Christmas story.
Just in case you thought that because of the weather, the tinsel on our Christmas tree is there to represent the volume of snow, let me tell you that your tinsel should be silver according to the following little story.
Mary and Joseph were desperately trying to keep ahead of Herod's soldiers, who were hot on their heels, intent on killing the baby. Mary was growing more and more tired and eventually could go no further without stopping for a rest. Although they knew that the soldiers weren't far behind, Joseph saw that they had no choice so he took Mary and child into a large dry cave nearby and lay down to sleep.
In that cave lived a spider who was aware of the danger threatening the child and wanted to protect him if she could.
 'The best I can do, little though it be, is to try to hide them by spinning a web across the mouth of the cave.'  Just then Herod's soldiers came on the scene but when the captain saw the spider's web glistening like silver in the morning sun and covering the whole cave mouth he said, 'We needn't waste time searching this cave. The web shows that no one has entered there for a long time past.'  And so the seemingly slight efforts of the spider were sufficient to save the life of the child.
The legend is a reminder that doing our best for Jesus, no matter how slight it may appear to be, can be a great help to him and his cause.
Think of that as you decorate your tree with tinsel in the coming weeks.
Enjoy today's service.
5th December 2010
 
 
 
' IT DOESN'T ADD UP '
 
I'm not one for blowing my own trumpet, but I want you to think back to a talk with the children not that long ago.  No, it's not the Tunnock's Tea Cake one! (Or, was it two!!)
The Children's Reflection I was thinking about was the one that involved the addition of numbers. 'What's 2 +2?' I asked. 'Four', they answered.
So, it went on, until I asked them what 4 - 1 equalled ? They said 'Three' and I said 'Five.' It was five, as I cut a corner from an A4 piece of paper to show that by giving one away, by sharing of yourself others gained and benefitted from it. Four corners - one corner, equalled five.
Their maths was correct but in faith there are no easy answers.
Many people tend to look at religion as a Question and Answer session, hoping that all matters will be made clear but discover that a clear answer is often frustrated. Life is messy, with hardly any absolutes and too many moral ambiguities. Faith in God expresses itself not through blind obedience and worship but a struggle between hope and doubt.
Our desperation is felt most acutely when we remember the families of the miners killed in New Zealand, distraught not just in the loss but in the suddenness and the manner of the loss - especially with so much joy from the success of the Chilean miners. For some, religious faith may mind assurance but for others faith can be shattered. It is exactly at times like these when a belief in God becomes either irrelevant or imperative to providing any glimmer of hope. None of us can make any sense of tragedy but those who believe in God also that it is this very faith that can't answer all the questions, which still brings strength and inspires hope.
Today we welcome invited guests to our church. We welcome them with an outstretched hand - and an honest admittance that we don't have all the answers. What we have is a hope that through darkness, the Light of the World still shines.
Enjoy today's service.
                       
28th November 2010
 
' GUIDE ME '
 
Last Sunday, the wee message was entitled 'Brownie Points.'
Well, if it is possible to give the BB, the Guides and the Scouts “Brownie Points” then all achieved them for their attendance, participation and respect during the silence. It was a marvellous sight to see so many of the youth organisations out - all did themselves proud.
I want to emphasise Jenni Mailey, as one of the fine examples of the youngsters who around the periphery of our church.
Last November, Jenni, from our own Stamperland Guides, attended the Scottish International Selection weekend at the Training House in Peebleshire. She was one of the three Senior Section Guides to be selected by East Renfrewshire County. 63 Senior Section girls from all over Scotland joined together, each hoping to impress the selection panel and be given one of the three sought after places for the 22nd World Scout and Guide Jamboree in Sweden.
Excitement and pride filled the air when Jenni was selected.
Now the hard begins. Each participant must raise £2000, which includes a levy to help bring Scout and Guide members from disadvantaged parts of the world, as well as the training weekends and activities. Jenni has been placed with the South East Scotland Unit: Haggis, Neeps and Tartan.  All the fundraising events, bag packs and training have all been through in Edinburgh and the surrounding area, which sometimes means travelling through at 7.30am. True dedication and commitment!!
As the 35 strong unit, made up of Explorer Scouts, Senior Section Guides, Guides and four leaders gelled together over the training weekends, selection for the Patrol leaders was made and Jenni was really pleased to be given the responsibility of leading a patrol, chuffed as the only Guide to be given this post.
Although the fundraising for the unit is ongoing, each individual must also raise money, so Jenni is selling the unit badges at £2 (please get in touch if you would like one). There is also a CRAFT FAIR on Monday 6 December at Carswell Hall in Eaglesham. See the intimations for more information re the Craft Fair.
Please support Jenni if you can. She has worked hard and is a credit to Stamperland Guides and a superb role model for the younger girls going through Guiding.
Last Sunday we remembered. I cannot emphasise the importance of supporting Jenni (and all the youngsters in our care).
Let’s not forget, they make up the church of today.
Jenni will remember too.
Enjoy today's service.
19th November 2101
                       
 
'BROWNIE POINTS '
 
I was never in the Brownies but I am aware of 'Brownie Points'  I'm quite sure you have heard of the phrase ''Earning Brownie Points"!! 
There are at least two notions where the term comes from, firstly, brown stamps given out in post-war America and the latter (which I prefer) that they are named after badges obtained by Brownies who were themselves named after a mythological elf that does things around the house for nothing.  (It kind of describes my work in the Manse !!)
In the news recently is the plan by some local authorities of giving reward points in order to motivate volunteering.  Called 'Caring Relationship Tickets' it allows volunteers to bank the hours they spend helping a disabled or elderly person in a 'Personal Time Account' and then claim back the credits for their own care later in life.
I'm not sure we can legislate for kindness.
Think of what was done by our parents for us?  Think of the extra-curricular hours a teacher spent to help or the hours that leaders who support many of the organisations give for the youngsters who come.  Their reward they will say is the joy of working with the children, you give without expecting anything in return.  Gaining a reward adds a new dimension to the likes of the Good Samaritan story if he was seeking to top up his Caring Points Card'!
People give freely and that in itself is the reward.
Today is Remembrance Sunday.
Today is one day out of many when we should focus on those who gave freely - for you and me.
Enjoy today's service - and remember.
 
14th November 2010
 
 
 
'MARKING THE CROSS IN THE RIGHT PLACE '
 
I have been thinking about voting this week. For two reasons.  The first is the mid-term elections in the USA and the second about prisoners' compensation claims because their 'human rights' and their citizenship has been affected when their right to vote had been withdrawn. Prisoner's Week runs from 21st-28th November where we remember all those who in whatever way are tainted by a crime that has been committed.
 
And that is right. It should be so... but I wonder, I really wonder. Surely committing an offence means the loss of privileges and that should mean the loss of the right to vote? If you work against a society does that mean you do not belong?
 
Voting, it is a funny one, but here is something also to think about. When you vote your paper goes into a pile, becomes a number, and is added up and compared to another pile. And then it disappears.  It is over.  
 
When you vote, you are trying to influence an outcome. When you pray you let go of outcomes and become open to God’s inflowing grace.   When you vote, you try to get someone or something else to change. When you pray you yourself change—which changes the world.
 
When you vote and lose, nothing comes of it. You lose. When you pray for something that has not come yet, as when you pray for peace, or justice for the poor, your prayer vibrates in harmony with the delight of God, which is the energy of the world, and transforms the world. Your vote may or may not have an effect but your prayer always has an effect. You are a nerve cell of God. When you pray you deepen the world’s awareness. It is good when we carry out our duty in the voting process.
Now pray, and exercise some real power.
Enjoy today's service.
7th November 2010