Why bother be still?

 

Psalm  1

Mark 1.29-39

 

I well remember on being on watch many years ago at sea during the night. To break the monotony, I burst into a song. For some now forgotten reason – it was ‘rock of ages’. Frank, our Chaplain, happened to be on the Bridge at the time and remarked in jest– Graham – you stick to your songs and I will stick to mine.

 

But the psalms are really everyone’s songs.

 

For it is highly possible they were sung in part song at the temple of Jerusalem long before Christ. They have been sung in worship over these last 2000 years. We even sang a rather difficult setting of one of them just last week at the General Assembly.

 

It seems then that we need to hear the psalms not just as prose but as poetry, as lyrics as indeed music designed to stir the heart and soul as well as the mind.

And what better place to start the music than at the beginning with Psalm 1?

Now it has to be said that we could spend a month of Sundays studying this work alone due its richness of language and imagery. So let’s narrow into what we can valuably explore in this hour. Let us focus in on the wider picture given by the psalmist. Let us grapple will the fruits of the tree planted by the stream.

 

Of course, to us in rainy Scotland, the sight of some scrawny bush surviving on a heather-clad moorland by a brackish burn is very common. But such a phenomenon was very rare in the land of the Psalmist. For the Holy Land has always been challenged for water; in fact much of heart of the problems over that divided region today lies in the access to this scarce resource.

And so we need to ponder what is the cause of another type aridity today’s modern Britain?

In general, it is not material lack albeit there is poverty around. It is usually not a shortage of things to do or watch or read. It is not even paucity of ideas and opportunities of expression.

 

Instead, it is quite the reverse. It is the almost irresistible allurement of the vast riches of attractions. It is the constant movement of interest for one mental bauble to the next. Indeed, it is often our ill-discipline of mind that prevents us staying focussed on one thing for more than a second.

Therefore, the concern provoked by Psalm 1 is how to survive in the most desolate of spiritual places. It is how to our souls can thrive in acres of distraction. How in fact do we live a fulsome and rewarding life in a landscape that seems literally without God.

 

And the answer is to realise that even in this glitteringly unproductive environment that the spirit is close at hand, Christ is indeed just beside us and that God is just below us as the foundation of our being.

Therefore, to be spiritually refreshed, we need to do nothing. We need to be still in our very being. We need to let our roots sink deep into divine sustenance. Since then alone will be sure to drink from living waters that freely flows from the Holy Spirit.  Or as Psalm 46 has is:

God is our refuge and our strength

An ever-present help in trouble

Be still and know that I am God

I will exalt you among the nations

I will exalt you in the earth

 

To illustrate my point,  let’s take that reading from Mark.

 

In it, we heard that Jesus had just started his ministry and was encouraged by the positive response of his first disciples. Yet now he had a daunting responsibility for them. Not least for their safety in an occupied land under a self-serving administration. He had also found the power to heal physically, mentally and spiritually. However that had brought fame and even more demands on his time and talents.

His answer to these competing forces of attraction was to be still – be still in a solitary place of focus and be still and know that God was God.

And as a result, he moved forward to be the universal saviour and not just a small town celebrity. Fruit had indeed flourished in an adverse place.

Few people would call the village of Woodstock near Oxford an arid place. It lies at the gates of that world heritage site which is the huge Blenheim Place. Its streets then are always crowded tourists and its ‘well to do’ bistros never seem to lack customers for their high prices. I know all this because one of our favourite caravan sites lies a mile away.

 

Well one warm day, last summer, I took a walk into Woodstock and meandered through its lanes. As is often the way in my holidays I was restless in my contemplation of what we as a congregation should be doing next. It was then I chanced upon the village church hidden from the madding crowd in a leafy yard up a honey-stoned byway. I entered and in its ancient silence sat and was still. Without a sound I suddenly knew refreshment, I knew again certainty to risk new ways and I knew in my quietness that for me, for you and for St Luke’s – God was God.  I left ready to travel on!

Today more than ever we need to say to ourselves in life’s hurly burly – let me be still. We need consciously to give ourselves over to moments of tranquillity, of open spirituality and infinitely godliness. We need to force ourselves to focus not on the world that is beckoning us but the sustaining divine that we are rooted in.  Because it is he who gifts fruits in this dry season, it is he who awards leaves that do not wither and it is he alone who allows us to prosper along the quiet lane of righteousness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why we bother listening

I was famous in my family for having said, as a small boy, on an Edinburgh bus – ‘Mummy – no one ever smiles!’ Well I used that city’s buses during my attendance at the General Assembly. Certainly, they were frequent, clean and convenient but still no one smiled. Indeed most were buried in the digital technology of mobile phones, tablets and e-readers. It was as if the world around them did not exist.

 

Of course, that isn’t just the outlook of passengers on our capital’s charabancs, it is more and more the feeling we get wherever we venture in Britain today. The electronic companion half way across the globe is now more important to many than the person next to them. Simply, everyone is talking and texting and typing but no one is really listening!

 

Now, Jesus was a good listener. He listened and heard the woman at the well with a dubious past. He listened and heard the Roman NCO desperate on behalf of his ailing servant. He listened and heard the grief of sisters and a mother. And in each be brought wisdom, comfort and healing.

 

Maybe then this is a good ‘new month’ resolution and it is to listen. I know it takes the hard work of concentration and self-discipline. But it is one way we can really show we care; one way that we really do show we follow Jesus and one way to show that God is actually present. For in godly listening we hear His word, gain His ear and enjoy His smile.

 

Or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian who opposed the Nazis, once wrote:

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them.

Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.

It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear.

 

 

Good Summer,

Good listening,

Good following.

 

 

 

The challenge in Pentecost

THE CHALLENGE

We saw the challenge.
People thought we were drunk.
Not surprising really,
And in a way we were.
Out of our heads with God.
And if they had heard the wind, saw the fire, experienced the filling,
They would understand.

We talked about it later,
In days of pain and prison,
We returned to that moment,
And that jab from the world.
A reminder:
Not all heard Jesus gladly,
Not all were healed,
Not all believed.

But Peter preached,
As we still preach,
For the harvest is promised,
For the Kingdom is assured,
For the sheep will be gathered.

Great Weekend coming soon!

The Gift Weekend Team have had their first meeting and are looking forward to organising a Garden Prom and a Family Harvest Service in September.

The Prom will be modelled on the very successful musical evenings held at Glamis Castle and will feature St Luke’s own talent and that of our friends. What a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a picnic supper in our beautiful gardens at sunset.

So keep the weekend of 19-20 September free for this memorable occasion.

Next Back to Church Group Meeting

From Ian Wightman
Just a reminder that Meeting 2 of the Back to Church Group will be held in the Sanctuary on Sunday 31 May after the morning service. It will last no more than 30 minutes.
Feedback from our initial meeting has been generally positive.
On Sunday we shall start to turn debate into action.
There is an important additional agenda item suggested by one of our group members which is well worthy of discussion.