Monday, 25 August 2014

Respectful Dialogue

With just a few weeks to go to  Scotland's Referendum on Independence, the temperature is rising on both sides of the debate. As Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond and the leader of Better Together, Alistair Darling engaged in an acrimonious debate that, I'm sure, helped neither side's cause, folk are left wondering, where can answers to the questions they have ahead of the vote be found?
The Church of Scotland is attempting to facilitate respectful dialogue throughout the country. A debate was held during this year's General Assembly and, next week, the Moderator of the General Assembly is facilitating a further debate and encouraging churches around the country to become involved too. The rules of engagement are very different from those employed in the televised debates we have witnessed between our politicians. Above all, positive regard and respect is the order of the day.
When I intimated to my congregation that I would be involved in one such debate, a few people questioned the mixing of faith and politics.
Faith demands that we are political. Jesus was not crucified for being apolitical. And, especially in this historical era in Scotland, while it is possible to fail to engage with the question of independence, that would seem to be the same as failing to engage with life and with those we are called to love and to serve.
My congregation does not need to know how I will vote in the Referendum. I do not need to know how they will vote. But, together we are compelled to engage with this political moment in the history of Scotland. And, if the church can play a part in helping folk to find answers to their questions that will help them to make a decision on how to vote, then it is right that we facilitate debate.
In addition, I believe that, after the Referendum, churches will have a vital part to play in bringing folk together to make the best of whatever form of government we determine, in healing hurts and in helping folk move on and seek the best for the nation, community by community. Independent or part of the Union, churches in Scotland will continue to love and serve God by loving and serving the poor and vulnerable in our midst, for the love of Christ who never shied away from politics.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Let there be peace on earth

Let there be peace on earth...and let it begin with me.
This morning, the National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland held a prayer vigil and engaged in discussions on the Middle East.
There was passion, there was compassion. There was understanding, there was confusion. There was despair and there was hope. Through it all there was respectful dialogue and the recognition that, unless we can engage in creating peaceful community and making space for respectful listening in our own land, we cannot begin to engage constructively with conflict in other lands.
The National Youth Assembly affirmed that faith is often at its most resilient when persecuted and we follow a God who created order out of chaos and brings healing and hope in impossible situations.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Where have we seen God?

In Communion this morning we reflected on "Where have we seen God?" Jesus, in life and in death, has been seen in myriad ways - by the same people at different times and by different people at the same time.
The rest of the day promises variety in discussing intergenerational  ministry, sabbath and considering how we open ourselves to the presence of God. After a pampering session, we host a Masquerade Ball at which we will raise money for the visitors centre at Perth Prison.
We will also welcome the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Just another day at #NYA 2014.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

NYA 2014

The Church of Scotland National Youth Assembly is underway this weekend at Gartmore House. Over one hundred young people aged between 18 and 25 have converged on this secluded country house for a programme of worship, discernment,discussion,debate and fun, fun, fun.
The programme has been planned by the Assembly's youth reps over the year and, this year, takes the theme: "In my Father's House".
In a moving ceremony, last year's Moderator, Lynsey Kimmitt and Clerk, Esther Nisbet, handed over the baton to Rachel Hutchison, Moderator and John Haston, Clerk. With prayer, blessing and humour they were charged with their tasks for the year, which will include reporting to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and representing the Youth Assembly at events all over Scotland and beyond, from Guild meetings to Youth Forums. Two of the Youth Delegates also serve as Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament. It is, as always, encouraging to see the enthusiasm and passion of this part of the church.
Every year at NYA, we recognise those who have reached the age of 25 and send them on their way with encouragement and blessing. This year, there are 16 delegates who have reached that stage and are wondering, along with others, what next? It is our hope and prayer that they will feel enabled to network with others, to remain connected and to continue to resource and be resourced by the church. In My Father's House.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Beloved of God

Most of us don masks every day
Sometimes, even, more than one at a time
We don them for protection
-of ourselves and others.
More often than we'd care to admit,
wearing a mask is a good thing
acting as a filter
preventing us from revealing 
the myriad emotions
waging war to be released
Hiding our insecurities
Freeing us to act.
Our masks keep us mute
stifle the screams
that might otherwise escape
They mould our expressions
into polite engagement
veiled indifference 
or even outward confidence.
They direct our speech
into banal banter
and, occasionally, side splitting humour
All of it real
but none of it authentic
They prevent us from being outed
as shallow or complex
straightforward or intricate
And then we endeavour to become
the mask that we wear.
Becoming the persona we portray
is deceptively easy
Until it's not.
For when the mask slips
or, even worse, shatters,
we fail to recognise
who we are
and have little energy
for getting to know 
ourselves once more.
And, before we know it,
we are fashioning a new mask
for ourselves
and for others.
And the God who created us in love 
weeps at the knowledge
that we do not love ourselves enough
to simply be who we are.
Beloved children of God
Cradled in love
that reaches beyond every mask 
soaking up the sorrow we hide
and the joy we subdue
gently encouraging us to discard
the persona
we present to the world
and make friends
with the beloved creatures God created us to be.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Walking on water

A reflection of this week's gospel:
Matthew 14:22-33
Jesus Walks on the Water
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Like the disciples
When we are tired and weary
and out of sorts
the last thing we need
is to be confronted
with our Lord
approaching us on water.
In the midst of a storm
we long for calm
not more high jinks
We batten down the hatches
retreat into ourselves
admiring those who launch themselves
into the waves
But happy to sit back
and watch
and smile with satisfaction
as their efforts
are swamped
Content to allow the miracles
unfolding all around us
to become submerged
in the complexities of life.
We long to be brave enough
to step out of the boat
But we settle for the comfort
of the turmoil we know.
While Jesus invites us
to throw caution to the wind
to let go
and plunge in
knowing the safety
of his steadying hand.
The one who commands the elements
invites us to walk on water

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Praying for peace

Centenary of WW1
100 years ago today, Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey said : "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.
The following day, Britain embarked on the First World War, a conflict lasting 4 years and costing the lives of over 16 million men, women and children and the maiming or injuring of over 20 million.
The First World War was to be the war that ended all war.
But, as we know, that was not the case, neither on these shores or elsewhere in the world.
People are being asked to embrace the symbolism of lighting a candle between 10 and 11 tomorrow night to encourage a period of reflection on human sacrifice and the cost of war.
This is not an Act of Remembrance such as that we observe at Armistice in November though, of course, there are elements of Remembrance.
Rather, the focus of a lit candle, is a  reflection of hope for future generations.
That is made all the more difficult, all the more poignant and all the more vital with the vast amount of conflicts raging in our world today.
Many years ago when I sat Higher English, one of the set texts was  Sunset Song, part of A Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
These words come from Sunset Song:
They went quiet and brave from the lands they loved, though seldom of that love might they speak, it was not in them to tell in words of the earth that moved and lived and abided, their life and enduring love. And who knows at the last what memories of it were with them, the springs and the winters of this land and all the sounds and scents of it that had once been theirs, deep, and a passion of their blood and spirit, those who died in France? With them we may say there died a thing older than themselves...
A new generation will come up that knows them not, except as a memory in a song...
They died for a world that is past, these men, but they did not die for this that we seem to inherit. Beyond it and us there shines a greater hope and a newer world, undreamt when these men died.

Beyond it and us there shines a greater hope and a newer world.
Still,that world has not been realised.
Still folk are forced from their homes and their lands as war continues. 
Still tribes and nations are decimated and the poor and the vulnerable are forever victims.
More than ever before,this generation has to continue the hope and the dream of a world without war.

And so if our commemorating the centenary of the First World War is to be anything more than patriotic symbolism, with our lighting of a candle, must come a commitment to relight those lamps - in our lifetime.

Let us pray
God we confess today that we have short memories
and little ambition for massive change.
We settle for the confusion of lies and propaganda
that salves our conscience
and allows us to sleep at night.
Confront us with our responsibility
and with our culpability.
We who claim to long for peace
don't recognise true peace when we see it.
We who claim to love our neighbour
fail to see your face in one another.
And we who claim to love justice
do not understand the complexity of conflict.
We would balk at embracing an economy
unsupported by the wages of war.
God open our eyes, our minds and our hearts 
until we see as you see
And, fuelled by your understanding
and your compassion
resolve to love one another.
May we see the light of peace
dawn upon our world
in our time
God of all creation,
Prince of peace.

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