10K

It was a little while ago now, when I was a teacher, that I participated in a 10 K race around Strathclyde Park. When I say ‘race’, it wasn’t really except for the front three or four who sped off at lightening speed and were back warming down whilst the rest were still warming up!  It wasn’t really a competition at all: if anyone was competing, it was against the clock, against personal goals, inner limits and against our inertia. All round the loch everybody was supporting everybody else, cheering for each other, rooting for fellow racers. We were all sharing in giving to ourselves to something greater than ourselves.

In faith, in service, in prayer, in contemplation it is not just between ‘you and God.’ You are not alone. Unseen, millions pray for you, encouraging you in prayer. We are not all out jogging our private paths - or we shouldn’t try to be. We are part of a race, the human race and all of us are moving with joy and purpose toward God.

Today it is Prizegiving Sunday, a Sunday that we mark the work done by our children in their journey towards a greater understanding to what it means to be a follower of Jesus in our world.  All of us must remember, both young and old, that what we give on a Sunday morning is for something and someone greater than ourselves.  It is not about jogging private paths but, as in the children’s case, that they are loved and supported and nurtured with us all as a community in faith.

We need to remember and trust in the communion of saints, of things seen and unseen that keeps us on the right paths together.
Well done to both the children and the staff for another session and to all in the Kirk who have remembered  that we run the race beside each other and that we are all in it together, cheering each other on.
22nd May 2011

HAVING A BAD DAY?

I was in line at the supermarket one day.   I had just run in quickly to pick up a few items that I needed at home, but you know what happens when you try to make a quick trip to the grocery store! The grocery universe conspires against you to ensure that your shopping is neither quick nor easy. This particular errand came at the end of a trying day.

I don’t remember what all had gone wrong that day but I guess my face betrayed my annoyance and frustration. As I waited in the slow moving line, the elderly gentleman in front of me turned and looked at me.   “Smile,’ he said. “It‘s not that bad is it?”
I didn’t say anything in response but I remember thinking, “If you only knew the kind of day I have had!”  My face must not have softened any because he turned back to his groceries and didn’t say anything else.  I watched him leave, glad that it was finally my turn to check out.  In retrospect, I realize that my heart was so hardened by my reaction to the events of the day that I didn’t even recognize a kind gesture when it came my way.

Cleopas and his friend were walking along the Emmaus Road with heavy hearts and defeated spirits.  They explained their despair to the unrecognized Jesus, how their trip to Jerusalem had not gone as expected.  “Does he not know the things that have taken place?” they asked. “It’s a bad day!”

Of course, Jesus did know what happen.  In fact, it was the two friends who did not know what had happened!  Their hearts were so hardened by their perceptions of what had happened that they didn’t recognize the Redeemer who was with them.
When we are caught up in our own thoughts and our own worries, we sometimes the kindly gestures.

More importantly, through stranger or friend, we miss the Risen One who knows what happens in all our days.  As with Cleopas on the Emmaus Road, Jesus is listening and journeying with us even if we don’t know it.




Sunday 8th May 2011 



  

THE KING’S SPEECH


Firstly, I would like to say congratulations to Prince William and Kate Middleton on their marriage on Friday the 29th. May God bless them in the new paths they travel together.

With all the coverage on this big day my mind drifted back to more Royal attention in the film ‘ The King’s Speech.’ You’ll be aware of the story: of King George VI and his impromptu ascension to the throne after Edward VIII abdicates, and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch. The film received many awards and nominations, mostly for Colin Firth: 14 BAFTA nominations winning seven and 12 Academy Awards, winning four.

The King’s Speech.

Here we are on the second Sunday of Easter. One of the key happenings of the post-Resurrection experiences is that many who encountered the miracle of that day were afraid. But not only that - they didn’t say anything to anyone.

We have a Gospel to proclaim.

We have a great story to tell.

If you like, we have a King’s Speech.  How tongue-tied are we to share not just the joy of that first Easter Day but the joy of every Easter Day?  Easter Day didn’t happen.  Easter Day happens every day.   Why are we so reluctant to speak out in his name ?

 

Sunday 1st May 2011

 


GOING ON A BEAR HUNT

Last year at the close of the session of Stepping Stones we had the most wonderful Church Trip to Troon. The weather was fantastic and all who boarded that bus had fun in the sea and the sand, competed in the games and ate voraciously at the barbeque.
I remember as a boy the songs we used to sing on board the Sunday School Trip bus, do you? Remember ’Oh you canny throw your Granny aff a bus.’ How about ’the back of the bus, they cannae sing for peanuts.’ Or the slightly delicate ’Stop the bus I need a *** ***, a wee wee cup of tea ’!!
When I was a student in the ministry on the upper level of the double decker leaving Penilee St Andrews I was leading the children on the song based on the story ’The Bear Hunt’.
‘We are going on a bear hunt (the children repeated each line) we’re going to catch a big one. We’re going to have fun.’ Then, as the story enfold, we faced various obstacles like a mountain, a river, and a marshy bog, a fence and eventually the dark cave where the bear was. Frightened we ran back through the song making the noises of all the obstacles that we had faced on our outward journey.
This line sticks with me ’You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it. You have to go through it.’
Here is the key to this week, from Lent to Easter.
‘You can’t go around it. You can’t go over it. You have to go through it.’
May you walk with Jesus all the way.

17th april 2011

JACK AND JILL AND JEANS

Many thanks to Stepping Stones and Quest for their hard work over the past fortnight regarding Fairtrade to keep the products we buy to mind and the conditions people work in and the wage they receive.
To show how relevant and how appreciative we are of their hard work, I wonder if you are aware of the number of companies criticised for selling sandblasted jeans.
Seemingly, the pressure group, ‘Labour Behind the Label‘, said that companies using sandblasting methods to give a ‘worn’ look are putting workers in danger, with the silica dust from the sand getting into worker’s lungs.
Diesel, Matalan and Primark are amongst the companies challenged for their methods.  New Look and Marks and Spencer say they have banned the process.  It just goes to show you that the children were right to bring it to our attention.
We need to be more thoughtful of where we buy our goods for the sake of fashion or trend.
Thanks girls and boys, as we said ourselves, we need to be remember that all of us are made by God. He is our Maker and we have a responsibility of looking after who and what He has created.
The challenge from the girls and boys is - how do we move forward and become an official Fairtrade and Eco-Congregation ?
It’s walking the walk.  It’s making choices to change our traditions and habits.  If there is a more just, ethical way, a more caring way of living, then surely churches ought to choose that. ?

 

IT’S THE WAY I TELL THEM !’

I’m a great fan of Michael McIntyre.  Why?   Well, as opposed to some comedians who can be cruel in their comments, Michael tends to look at laugh and see the funny side: the idiosyncrasies of being human and he has a good eye of how you and I behave.  If you read his book, ‘Life and Laughing’ you’ll discover that Michael’s life wasn’t the easiest and his rise to stardom anything but a smooth path.
I’m writing this little reflection on Friday, ‘Red Nose Day’ and many children attended Netherlee with red noses and John Luca wore red in his nursery. Red Nose day has been a great success story, building from its inception in 1988 to what it is today, raising  money in an attempt to change the lives of poor and disadvantaged people.
I am not being disrespectful, but the life of Jesus is often one of comedy too.  Think how many laughed at him (the most hurtful humour) but think also of the ridiculous notion about what the Good News of Jesus is all about:-  treated like a Messiah one day, like a criminal the next, killed for the wrong reasons.  Even the resurrection was touched by farce but, in the end, it is God who has the last laugh.  He told jokes, too.
Not ones with obvious punch lines.  But it was the way he told them.  They weren't grave, reverent vehicles of truth; they were antic, shocking, holy jokes.  Jokes about pigs and pearls and demons and virgins and rich men swallowing camels; of course, people either got them or they didn't. He didn't always explain them. Any fool knows that the moment you explain a joke you kill it.
At the heart of it all, I think, was this one big, seemingly outrageous idea that there was a God who was going to bring relief to people and that rather than make them work for it, he was going to do it Himself.  It wasn't what people expected, or even deserved.  This was comedy as a kind of grace: "Come to me," he said, "all who are weighed down by life's heavy burdens and I will bring relief."
Which is what Comic Relief is at its best: a kind of grace; an attempt to bring about a reversal of tragedy through comedy. Healing through humour. Laughter from tears.
Despite what happens in the world, may God make you smile.  And may you, with you putting your faith into action, bring lightness where there is a heaviness of heart.
Sunday, 20th March  

HOBSON’S CHOICE

Over the past two Sundays I have hinted of the need for you to stand up for your beliefs - based on the Sermon on the Mount. ‘You are a light’, ‘You are salt’ and you can make a difference to the world, especially if you are a thermostat rather than a thermometer!
Many of us go with the flow when it comes to the demands of the world and, when the opportunity arises for us to express that the faith we follow is given priority, we shy away from the challenge.  Children are not always encouraged to see organisations through to the bitter end and in what is now a busy weekend, parents find it hard to remind their offspring that church is important and other activities have to take second place.
In the West, for the most part, this in the sum and substance to the challenge of our faith, with the exception of a rise in more aggressive secularism.  With this in mind, I wonder how any of us would have reacted to the recent story of Said Musa an Afghan prisoner in a Kabul jail who is under threat of execution because he was attracted to the Christian faith nine years ago.  He was baptised by someone pouring a jug of water over his head and saying some words from the Bible and, from then on, he became a marked man.
This morning, the readings ask us about choices. We all make choices for good or ill but how many of them would be faith-based ones if what we faced for making that choice and taking that stance was the threat of jail, execution and sacrifice?
‘Choose life or death ’ says the words in Deuteronomy.  Which do you choose daily?
Enjoy today’s service.
Sunday, 13th February 2011


'IN GREAT ABUNDANCE.’

It is 70 years ago since the S.S Politician ran aground.  Does it strike any bells with you ? Yes, that is a pun !
For those on the ball, like the winners of the David Milligan Quiz (again), the S.S Politician came to watery end when it crashed in 1941 during stormy weather near the island of Barra. The real-life incident, was made famous in a film when a group of Scottish Highlanders raided the shipwreck for the consignment of whisky, which was unbottled and being shipped to the USA for maturing in barrels.
The story is legend as the locals had to find sufficient containers and bottles to hide the consignment. They manage to salvage several hundred cases before the ship goes and down and before the arrival of the authorities who wish to confiscate it.
Whatever your feeling about whisky, and it being called ‘the water of life’, those experiencing rationing believe it was a godsend.
There is a Biblical truth in the story and the film which made my father wipe away the tears from his eyes with laughter, that what we hold as precious is often hidden. This morning, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells that we are ‘the light of the world’, that ‘ a light should not be hidden’ and that we should be a ‘city on a hill.’
What we have been given by God is precious.  It is a godsend. It is a wee ‘goldie’.  It is something to be shared to quench the thirst.  But we hide it. We put it in places away from others and often forget where we put it.
God’s generosity overflows, it is ‘love galore’ - oh, if we only could share that which warms us.

Sunday, 6th February 2011

‘WHAT IS ACTUALLY IN THERE ?'

Watch out Margaret McKee !   I’ve threatened Margaret in more than one occasion that one Sunday, during the children’s address, I’ll take her handbag out to see what she carries in it !   I know it is dangerous but I’m intrigued to what goes in to these ‘tardis’ like bags -everything but the kitchen sink, for every emergency that may arise.
We all carry things about our person: ID of some description, money, mobile phones, keys, 'lipstick '!!, tissues, especially in this weather, trying to prepare for every contingency that the world throws our way.
Beyond the tangible things we carry there are also the intangible ones. These can wear us down even more. You might call them worries, doubts, burdens or just plain fears. ‘There are 7 messages on my mobile , that can’t be good.’
I stand and look out the manse window; ‘Where is Pam, she should be back by now.’  Or a national tragedy heightens our anxiety and grieves our spirit.  Or there are more bills to pay - these are the burdens that many of us carry.
So what is in your handbag ?
Surprisingly, Jesus is interested in what you carry.  Today’s reading takes in the Beatitudes where Jesus reminds us though we have burdens we also have blessings.  We are blessed even in the midst of heartache and despair.
More importantly we are blessed because God Himself promises to carry us through all the storms of life.
Sunday 30th January 2011

ONE HUMP OR TWO ?

D
uring the Gulf War many years ago, Pamela went on holiday to Cyprus with friends. She promised in no uncertain terms that she would avoid all extra excursions to the Holy Land and Egypt. That promise was not kept but it was only relatively recently that Pam admitted to her mother that she had gone to the Land of the Nile. 
There, she took a trip to see one of the Wonders of the World, the Pyramids, in all their glory and was disappointed, like us, discovering that what you imagine a place to be like and how it turns out can be two different things.
I don’t know whether it was the built-up area or how uncomfortable the transport was on a crabbit-looking, bad-tempered camel, but she felt let down.
Bankers bonuses rile me, probably in a similar way but less so, as the men who can be paid £50,000 per week for, as my mother used to say, ‘kicking a wee ball about.’ There is much injustice in the world, especially so in the current climate as prices rise.  So I take great comfort in Jesus’ question ‘is it easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?’
But then I discovered recently that I had been interpreting that line all wrong, for you see, the camel in the West is an object of ridicule, but in the East the camel's a prized possession, valued for its transport, its milk, its skin and even its dung. So when Jesus compared the rich man with a camel he wasn't putting him down. On the contrary he was smiling on him. The comparison's a compliment, not an insult.
Of course the question still packed a punch for the rich man.  But what it showed was a prosecutor free of envy. And in the current crisis it's the skills of the wealth creators that are vital to the nation's recovery. According to Jesus the way to get heaven down to earth is for the wealthy to make their money work in the service of others.  Which in our current crisis could be through investment or taxation.
You see, just like the camel carried other people's burdens, nourished others with its milk and gave warmth through the fuel of its dung so God looks to the wealthy to protect the weak. Failure to do so makes heaven on earth an impossibility, not just for the rich but for us all. 

Sunday 23rd January 2011

MY WEE LAMB ? A shooter goes on the rampage in America. Francesca gets an ear-bashing for some misdemeanour. What’s the connection ? Whether we like to admit or not, we all like to ’out-source’ our pain. 
When we’re mad we yell at someone. It just feels right. When we’re troubled, we believe deep down that our troubles will be resolved if we can give our suffering to somebody else. 
It’s why shooters rampage, and it’s why we insult people who make us mad. It’s why we used to execute criminals, why we wage wars, hate minorities, blame our opponents, punish wrongdoers, break dishes and verbally scold our children.  It’s all the same violent gesture.
It’s all scapegoating.
We suppose that only more suffering will relieve us of our suffering. But those who use weapons never solve problems, do they?  Yelling never heals anything. Scapegoats never actually take away our sin.  No matter how clinically it’s applied, anger, violence, blame, judgment, punishment, retribution or prejudice never relieves us of our pain; it just adds to it.
No, it’s not suffering that saves us - not ours, not our enemy’s, not our scapegoat’s, our sacrificial lamb’s, or even Christ’s on the cross—it’s forgiveness.
God forgives us: this is the only way we are saved.
It’s God who takes away the sin of the world; God’s Lamb is the non-violent one who forgives because it is God’s will and His love.
Such a one will surely become a victim; but it’s the forgiving, not the suffering, that takes away our sin.   To follow the Lamb of God is to join in companionship with the Loving One, to live gently in a violent world, to allow Christ’s spirit of peace and compassion to flood our hearts. It is neither to be a judge nor a doormat, but to grant compassion to all, even - especially - to those whose fear leads them down a destructive path.
And our reading this morning : ‘Behold, the Forgiving One of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Come, let us follow.’ To follow in Christ’s way is hard indeed.

Sunday 16th January 2011