Tag Archives: jesus

A perfect Day

Luke 6.1-11

Psalm 23

 

Now I know I have told you this before. But my uncle and aunt in Lairg, Sutherland, were members of the Free Church. And so, Sundays were days when the TV and radio were kept off, books were not read and the minimum of cooking was done.  The Bible and books of sermons were the only source of reading materials. In fact, it was only the going to church twice that broke the day’s silence. The Sabbath then was a day of rest. Indeed, for a small boy like myself it was a day of enforced rest. So much so that my grandfather was once asked by mother what he did on his Sundays during his 2-month summer visit to my aunt’s family in the North. He said that he waited until the family had their afternoon rest and then he unearthed his Sunday Post which he had got in the week and secretly read it.

 

Well, looking back it is easy to take pot shots at such a restricted day. Yet as they were crofters possibly this rest day gave a recharging time from subsistence farming. As committed Christians this rest day definitely restored their souls. Or as the psalmist has it:

He makes me lie down in green pastures

He leads me beside quiet waters

He restores my soul.

 

Well, of course, things here in Broughty Ferry today are quite different. For some of us must work on Sundays. But for many others, it more about doing things left undone from the week behind and doing things for the week ahead. It is more about doing things for and with the family. More about doing things for pure enjoyment Now these are very worthy yet they aren’t in the end – a rest. Put more bluntly, we are still obeying the rules of duty, obligation, loyalty and pleasure. We are still being bound by the compulsions of the moment. Or as one member once said to me – she couldn’t possibly come to church on a Sunday as she had to make the lunch for his visiting grown-up family. And the result is we are still enslaved to doing instead of being; being a child of God rather than an employee, father, grand-mother or neighbour. Being a child of God indeed for just a few hours free of the rules.

 

Yet we say, my work is important, my family is paramount or my neighbour needs me. Doubtless all true. Yet..yet we still need that restoration of soul, that moment for quiet water refreshment and a period of green pasture nourishment. We need time for ourselves with God and only God. For without that, life becomes a conveyor belt, a drudge even one that is flatly two dimensional without spiritual heights or depths. Moreover, as the psalm reminds we need time to ourselves to be guided into righteousness and faith to fear no evil. In simple terms, we need this day to heal our souls for the shadows and the valleys ahead.

 

However, the idea of a resting day still seems as unexciting and restraining as it was to me as a child in the highlands. In truth, it seems that it could make our Sundays rather cheerless, dull and even soulless.

 

When I was in university, the divinity faculty had a weekly lunchtime service in the Chapel. Often led by students there was always a mixture of worship styles on offer. Yet only one sticks in my mind. We entered, sat in the pews and nothing was said or done – only restful music was played. At first we were restless – wanting something, anything, to happen. Then we fiddled with the bibles in front of us – looking for some stimulation. Then slowly, we slowed down. We became restful. Indeed, we started quietly to be still with God and God was still with us. At the end of quarter of an hour, our time was up – yet we did not want leave – we didn’t want to stir – we didn’t want to break the bridge between heaven and earth. Nevertheless, we did and returned to the world refreshed, ready to do what was important; ready not to exist but live again.

 

This illustrates that to give this day to God is not to be selfish, slothful or constrained. It is to be still by casting aside our life’s lesser rules and demands. It is to sense that a deep love and goodness is following us through our sometimes-taxing journey. It is to luxuriate in a repast of peace where there is healing to life and life in all its true fullness. It is, indeed, to take time out in the house of the Lord and know it to be our perfect dwelling there forever.

 

So, this Sunday let us turn it into a perfect day.

For as Lou Reed sang in his famous song,

Oh what a perfect day’:

Just a perfect day
Problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
It’s such fun

Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was
Someone else, someone good

 

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas’ Golden Box

Once upon a time,

there was a man

who worked very hard

just to keep food

on the table

for his family.

 

This particular year

And

a few days before Christmas,

he scolded

his little five-year-old daughter.

 

Because he had found out

that she had used up

the family’s only roll

of expensive gold wrapping paper.

As money was tight,

he became even more upset

when

on Christmas Eve

he saw that the child

had used all that paper

to decorate just one shoebox

she had put under the Christmas tree.

 

He also was concerned

about where

she had got hold of the money

to buy what was in

the box.

Nevertheless, the next morning

the little girl,

filled with excitement,

brought the gift box

to her father and said,

“This is for you, Daddy!”

As he opened the box,

the father was embarrassed

by his earlier overreaction,

now regretting

how he had been angry

with her.

But when he opened the shoebox,

he found it was empty

and again his anger flared.

 

“Don’t you know, young lady,”

he said harshly,

“when you give someone a present,

there’s supposed to be

something inside the package!”

The little girl looked up at him

with sad tears

rolling from her eyes

and whispered:

“Daddy, it’s not empty.

 

I blew kisses into it

until it was all full.”

The father was crushed.

 

He fell on his knees

and put his arms

around his precious little girl.

 

He begged her to forgive him

for his unnecessary temper.

An accident

took the life of the child

only a short time later.

 

It is told that the father

then kept this little gold box

by his bed

for all the years of his life.

 

Whenever he was discouraged

or faced difficult problems,

he would open the box,

take out an imaginary kiss,

and remember the love

of this beautiful child

who had put it there.
That is both and sad

and uplifting story.

 

Yet for all of us

who have reached

a certain age,

we know life

to be both bitter and sweet.

 

But despite that

we still try

to candy coat Christmas.

 

We spend too much,

eat too much

and become couch potatoes

too much.

 

And then…

and then it’s all over.

 

That is the moment

we feel like that father

who opened

that apparently empty shoebox.

 

It’s at that moment,

we exclaim –

is that it!

 

It is that moment,

we feel a bit cheated.

 

However, that feeling

forgets that Christmas

is like that

beautifully wrapped present

the little girl

gave her father.

 

For the true content

of Christmas is invisible.

 

It is the invisible idea

that there is a Creator God

who came down to earth

not as a thunderbolt

but a baby risking human hands.

 

The idea

that he did this

for no other reason

that his concern

for each and everyone of us.

 

The idea

that we can respond

to this unseen present

by showing concern,

companionship and even love others.

 

Since who can doubt

that Christmas

does make the world

a better place.

 

For don’t we greet

total strangers

on the 25th

with a smile

and a ‘Merry Christmas’?

 

Don’t we give generously

to charities

for human beings

in trouble, far and near?

 

Don’t we revel,

if only for a day,

in a peace

that seems beyond understanding

but not out knowing?

 

And the answer are – Yes we do!

 

The Australian columnist

Clive James

once wrote

of visiting Paris

 and reading

the author Albert Camus.

For he said –

I wanted to write like that,

 in a prose that sang like poetry.

I wanted to look like him.

 I wanted to wear

 a Bogart-style trench coat

 with the collar turned up,

 have an untipped Gauloise

dangling from my lower lip,

 and die

 romantically

 in a car crash.

He then decided

quite wisely

to keep the crash

for a more propitious moment.

However, he then wrote –

when you leave Paris,

you also leave behind

 the person

you might have been.

Let us then

not leave Christmas behind.

 Let us not leave Christmas

 like a discarded empty box.

 Let us see more

than its golden wrapper.

 Let us not leave

the person Christmas

 could make us.

Instead let us

open and open again

 the gift of Christmas.

And then blow

its kisses of love

towards people

who need their presence

more than most.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremiah’s Promises

Jeremiah 36.1-7 (p798)

Jeremiah 31.31- 37 (p793)

 

Promises! Promises! Promises! If there is one word that can sum up this year politically it is promises. And whether they will be fulfilled remains to be seen.

 

Yet life is full of promises which are not quite all that they seem. The small print in that insurance policy. The advert which is misleading. Or, more trivially, the food that is not as tasty as the picture on its packaging suggests. So, in a way, we are quite sceptical even cynical of promises.

 

Yet in Jeremiah we hear of two promises. One which is summarised for the Israelites in the scroll that Baruch reads out in the temple.  Since, in our first lesson, God is portrayed as promising judgement upon their ruler and themselves. In fact, that is a recurrent theme throughout the Book of Jeremiah. Nevertheless, elsewhere in Jeremiah we have found a more palatable promise; the promise – I will be their God and they will be my people. A promise indeed we hear echoed in the words of the last supper – the words we repeat communion upon communion – the words that we find made flesh in our lives through the risen Christ.

 

How then do we reconcile these two apparently opposing promises? How do we find hope as well as admonishment in Jeremiah’s prophecies? How do we understand a God who judges firmly as well as covenants to be our saviour in time of trouble?

 

I am not sure if you have seen the new Netflix series called The Crown. It is based on the early years of the reign of our Queen. Whilst I suspect that it is a bit apocryphal in parts, it is nevertheless very entertaining and glossy. That isn’t surprising, as the price tag for 10 episodes, was a cool 100 million dollars.

 

In it, we see the child Princess Elizabeth being taught the elements of the constitution. Not least that the monarch’s role is only to warn, advise and guide her government. So too we can see the role of God in human affairs. This is not surprising as we can warn a child not to go near hot stoves but in the end, we cannot always prevent him or her. We can advise on friendship but not stop a relationship. We can encourage the doing of homework but not actually do it for a youngster. And so, it is with God.

 

Here then lies the apparent judgement of God. For it is more about foresight, more about a warning, more about lifesaving advice than any imposition of a sentence.

 

However, in the end, we can and do ignore this sage wisdom and go away ahead to the inevitable outcome. We can and do turn our backs on God’s foresight and travel blithely on. And so, in the end of the day, we are not really visited by God’s action rather we must live with our own.

 

Where then does this leave God’s second promise. The one about being our God and we being his people?

 

I must admit to never having read Clive Staples Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I have only seen the film. Nevertheless, even in that format, its Christian message cannot be mistaken. And it is all to do with that second divine promise.

 

Since At the beginning of the book four children are playing in their uncle’s wardrobe when they discover it is a doorway to Narnia. As they enter Narnia they learn it is under the spell of a wicked witch.
The children hear rumours that Aslan, the great Lion, will soon return to the forest so they devise a plan to overthrow the witch. But Edmund then turns traitor to the cause.
The witch requests an audience with Aslan and talks to him about the deep magic from the dawn of time. She says, “You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that I have a right to a kill.”
Aslan agrees and Edmund is to be sacrificed on the Stone Table. But then something unexpected and horrible happens. Aslan offers to be sacrificed in place of Edmund. The witch is delighted to be rid of Aslan once for all. He is bound, humiliated before the Witches entourage, and killed. It appears to the children that wickedness has won the day and that all is lost.
As the children tearfully leave the scene it is dawn. They hear a great cracking, a deafening noise. They rush back and find the great table split in two and Aslan gone. Suddenly he appears before them and as they shake in fear he explains to them “that though the witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she does not know. The magical promise beyond time that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”

 

Here then is the throne of the second and greatest promise from God. Since he doesn’t just stand aside wringing his hands as we make a complete mess of things. He doesn’t just stand waving a teared stain hankie as go our errant way. Instead, he has sent someone to help get back on track. He has sent someone to help change us towards making amends. He has sent us an ever-present saviour to sort out the debts we have accrued and take their price upon his own head. Simply, he has sent, sends and ever will send Jesus Christ.

 

As this year ends with all its promises threatening to turn to unwelcome omens, let us remember the opportunity always to go in a different direction. Let remember the promise of God’s wisdom to illuminate a brighter path. Let us indeed remember the Son’s promise of opening a fresher way by paying off the toll.

 

No wonder then the Witch in C S Lewis’ book banned Christmas – for then there would be but a wintery foreboding in our hearts. Mercifully, the Lion’s return is always promising.

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A GLOWING COLOUR

Between 1508 and 1512 Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel… a masterpiece without precedent that was to change the course of Western art.  The fame of Michelangelo’s paintings has drawn multitudes of visitors to the chapel, ever since they were revealed five hundred years ago -Wikipedia.

Late in 1943, two Nissen huts were given to Italian POWs on Orkney.  Using concrete, second hand materials and scrap they worked together to make an altar; a chancel covered by plasterboard and paintwork; windows of painted glass; candelabra in brass and iron and a rood screen in wrought iron. The entire interior was painted to imitate carved stone and brick and above the altar was a fresco of a Madonna and Child.  It has been restored and is now a much loved visitor attraction.- Wikipedia.

Lord, you have given us each gifts which you want us to use in your service.  For some those gifts are used quietly and almost unseen or un-noticed except by those they help.  For others the gifts are for sharing with the world.  From the bronze worker employed by Solomon to Michelangelo to the Orkney POWs, people have used their gifts of creative art to enhance places of worship and so to glorify you, Lord.  Many non-believers come to look at wonderful artwork in a church or in a gallery and many feel a sense of awe; spirits may be lifted; some may be puzzled, some may be confused.  But almost always there will be something that makes us stop and look again.  Thank you Lord for the skills of the artist.

Not far from here, each summer a village opens its doors to visitors who move through the community, from house to barn to shed to garage to gallery to pier to harbour buildings, talking, laughing, sharing, admiring as the Art Festival comes to town.  It is a glorious celebration of paintings and sculpture, jewellery and pottery.  Thank you Lord for the willingness to be open to others and to share the gifts you have given.

Whether it is through art or music or craftwork or drama our lives are made richer when the gifts are shared.  A glowing colour, a pure note, exquisite lacework or a soaring melody, all these can touch our lives without the need for words.  All these can connect us to friends and strangers alike in a shared enjoyment.  Thank you Lord for this shared enjoyment.

May we see and hear in human arts a reflection of the glories of your creation and so be moved to offer you our praise and thanksgiving.

Prayer for those in fear

Looming on horizon
Tsunami of my fears
Feeling of the hopeless
Turning now to prayers

Voice of desperation
Falls into the night
Arising as a whisper
The Presence of Your light

Fear not my beloved
I’m with you on the way
I will not forsake
With you I will stay

Still my faith be shaky
As challenge now arrives
Weathering the storm
Cling to Lord I strive

But to my amazement
I view an ocean clear
Body of pure grace
Relief in joy appears

Faith though storm is strengthened
As word of Lord stands true
Grateful be this soul
Forever cling to You

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