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100 days – Day 54 (ii) Trinity Sunday Sermon (audio)

100 days – Day 54  (ii)  Trinity Sunday

Sermon preached on Trinity Sunday 26 May 2013

http://www.dumfriesnorthwest.org.uk/index.php/trinity-sunday-26-may-sermon/

 

A Story by Leo Tolstoy – an abbreviated form of which I used on Trinity Sunday, 26 May, 2013 at Dumfries North West Church

A BISHOP was sailing from Archangel to the Solovétsk Monastery; and on the same vessel were a number of pilgrims on their way to visit the shrines at that place. The voyage was a smooth one. The wind favourable, and the weather fair. The pilgrims lay on deck, eating, or sat in groups talking to one another. The Bishop, too, came on deck, and as he was pacing up and down, he noticed a group of men standing near the prow and listening to a fisherman who was pointing to the sea and telling them something. The Bishop stopped, and looked in the direction in which the man was pointing. He could see nothing however, but the sea glistening in the sunshine. He drew nearer to listen, but when the man saw him, he took off his cap and was silent. The rest of the people also took off their caps, and bowed.

‘Do not let me disturb you, friends,’ said the Bishop. ‘I came to hear what this good man was saying.’

‘The fisherman was telling us about the hermits,’ replied one, a tradesman, rather bolder than the rest.

‘What hermits?’ asked the Bishop, going to the side of the vessel and seating himself on a box. ‘Tell me about them. I should like to hear. What were you pointing at?’

‘Why, that little island you can just see over there,’ answered the man, pointing to a spot ahead and a little to the right. ‘That is the island where the hermits live for the salvation of their souls.’

‘Where is the island?’ asked the Bishop. ‘I see nothing.’

‘There, in the distance, if you will please look along my hand. Do you see that little cloud? Below it and a bit to the left, there is just a faint streak. That is the island.’

The Bishop looked carefully, but his unaccustomed eyes could make out nothing but the water shimmering in the sun.

‘I cannot see it,’ he said. ‘But who are the hermits that live there?’

‘They are holy men,’ answered the fisherman. ‘I had long heard tell of them, but never chanced to see them myself till the year before last.’

And the fisherman related how once, when he was out fishing, he had been stranded at night upon that island, not knowing where he was. In the morning, as he wandered about the island, he came across an earth hut, and met an old man standing near it. Presently two others came out, and after having fed him, and dried his things, they helped him mend his boat.

‘And what are they like?’ asked the Bishop.

‘One is a small man and his back is bent. He wears a priest’s cassock and is very old; he must be more than a hundred, I should say. He is so old that the white of his beard is taking a greenish tinge, but he is always smiling, and his face is as bright as an angel’s from heaven. The second is taller, but he also is very old. He wears tattered, peasant coat. His beard is broad, and of a yellowish grey colour. He is a strong man. Before I had time to help him, he turned my boat over as if it were only a pail. He too, is kindly and cheerful. The third is tall, and has a beard as white as snow and reaching to his knees. He is stern, with over-hanging eyebrows; and he wears nothing but a mat tied round his waist.’

‘And did they speak to you?’ asked the Bishop.

‘For the most part they did everything in silence and spoke but little even to one another. One of them would just give a glance, and the others would understand him. I asked the tallest whether they had lived there long. He frowned, and muttered something as if he were angry; but the oldest one took his hand and smiled, and then the tall one was quiet. The oldest one only said: “Have mercy upon us,” and smiled.’

While the fisherman was talking, the ship had drawn nearer to the island.

‘There, now you can see it plainly, if your Grace will please to look,’ said the tradesman, pointing with his hand.

The Bishop looked, and now he really saw a dark streak — which was the island. Having looked at it a while, he left the prow of the vessel, and going to the stern, asked the helmsman:

‘What island is that?’

‘That one,’ replied the man, ‘has no name. There are many such in this sea.’

‘Is it true that there are hermits who live there for the salvation of their souls?’

‘So it is said, your Grace, but I don’t know if it’s true. Fishermen say they have seen them; but of course they may only be spinning yarns.’

‘I should like to land on the island and see these men,’ said the Bishop. ‘How could I manage it?’

‘The ship cannot get close to the island,’ replied the helmsman, ‘but you might be rowed there in a boat. You had better speak to the captain.’

The captain was sent for and came.

‘I should like to see these hermits,’ said the Bishop. ‘Could I not be rowed ashore?’

The captain tried to dissuade him.

‘Of course it could be done,’ said he, ‘but we should lose much time. And if I might venture to say so to your Grace, the old men are not worth your pains. I have heard say that they are foolish old fellows, who understand nothing, and never speak a word, any more than the fish in the sea.’

‘I wish to see them,’ said the Bishop, ‘and I will pay you for your trouble and loss of time. Please let me have a boat.’

There was no help for it; so the order was given. The sailors trimmed the sails, the steersman put up the helm, and the ship’s course was set for the island. A chair was placed at the prow for the Bishop, and he sat there, looking ahead. The passengers all collected at the prow, and gazed at the island. Those who had the sharpest eyes could presently make out the rocks on it, and then a mud hut was seen. At last one man saw the hermits themselves. The captain brought a telescope and, after looking through it, handed it to the Bishop.

‘It’s right enough. There are three men standing on the shore. There, a little to the right of that big rock.’

The Bishop took the telescope, got it into position, and he saw the three men: a tall one, a shorter one, and one very small and bent, standing on the shore and holding each other by the hand.

The captain turned to the Bishop.

‘The vessel can get no nearer in than this, your Grace. If you wish to go ashore, we must ask you to go in the boat, while we anchor here.’

The cable was quickly let out, the anchor cast, and the sails furled. There was a jerk, and the vessel shook. Then a boat having been lowered, the oarsmen jumped in, and the Bishop descended the ladder and took his seat. The men pulled at their oars, and the boat moved rapidly towards the island. When they came within a stone’s throw they saw three old men: a tall one with only a mat tied round his waist: a shorter one in a tattered peasant coat, and a very old one bent with age and wearing an old cassock — all three standing hand in hand.

The oarsmen pulled in to the shore, and held on with the boathook while the Bishop got out.

The old men bowed to him, and he gave them his benediction, at which they bowed still lower. Then the Bishop began to speak to them.

‘I have heard,’ he said, ‘that you, godly men, live here saving your own souls, and praying to our Lord Christ for your fellow men. I, an unworthy servant of Christ, am called, by God’s mercy, to keep and teach His flock. I wished to see you, servants of God, and to do what I can to teach you, also.’

The old men looked at each other smiling, but remained silent.

‘Tell me,’ said the Bishop, ‘what you are doing to save your souls, and how you serve God on this island.’

The second hermit sighed, and looked at the oldest, the very ancient one. The latter smiled, and said:

‘We do not know how to serve God. We only serve and support ourselves, servant of God.’

‘But how do you pray to God?’ asked the Bishop.

‘We pray in this way,’ replied the hermit. ‘Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.’

And when the old man said this, all three raised their eyes to heaven, and repeated:

‘Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us!’

The Bishop smiled.

‘You have evidently heard something about the Holy Trinity,’ said he. ‘But you do not pray aright. You have won my affection, godly men. I see you wish to please the Lord, but you do not know how to serve Him. That is not the way to pray; but listen to me, and I will teach you. I will teach you, not a way of my own, but the way in which God in the Holy Scriptures has commanded all men to pray to Him.’

And the Bishop began explaining to the hermits how God had revealed Himself to men; telling them of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

‘God the Son came down on earth,’ said he, ‘to save men, and this is how He taught us all to pray. Listen and repeat after me: “Our Father.”‘

And the first old man repeated after him, ‘Our Father,’ and the second said, ‘Our Father,’ and the third said, ‘Our Father.’

‘Which art in heaven,’ continued the Bishop.

The first hermit repeated, ‘Which art in heaven,’ but the second blundered over the words, and the tall hermit could not say them properly. His hair had grown over his mouth so that he could not speak plainly. The very old hermit, having no teeth, also mumbled indistinctly.

The Bishop repeated the words again, and the old men repeated them after him. The Bishop sat down on a stone, and the old men stood before him, watching his mouth, and repeating the words as he uttered them. And all day long the Bishop laboured, saying a word twenty, thirty, a hundred times over, and the old men repeated it after him. They blundered, and he corrected them, and made them begin again.

The Bishop did not leave off till he had taught them the whole of the Lord’s prayer so that they could not only repeat it after him, but could say it by themselves. The middle one was the first to know it, and to repeat the whole of it alone. The Bishop made him say it again and again, and at last the others could say it too.

It was getting dark, and the moon was appearing over the water, before the Bishop rose to return to the vessel. When he took leave of the old men, they all bowed down to the ground before him. He raised them, and kissed each of them, telling them to pray as he had taught them. Then he got into the boat and returned to the ship.

And as he sat in the boat and was rowed to the ship he could hear the three voices of the hermits loudly repeating the Lord’s prayer. As the boat drew near the vessel their voices could no longer be heard, but they could still be seen in the moonlight, standing as he had left them on the shore, the shortest in the middle, the tallest on the right, the middle one on the left. As soon as the Bishop had reached the vessel and got on board, the anchor was weighed and the sails unfurled. The wind filled them, and the ship sailed away, and the Bishop took a seat in the stern and watched the island they had left. For a time he could still see the hermits, but presently they disappeared from sight, though the island was still visible. At last it too vanished, and only the sea was to be seen, rippling in the moonlight.

The pilgrims lay down to sleep, and all was quiet on deck. The Bishop did not wish to sleep, but sat alone at the stern, gazing at the sea where the island was no longer visible, and thinking of the good old men. He thought how pleased they had been to learn the Lord’s prayer; and he thanked God for having sent him to teach and help such godly men.

So the Bishop sat, thinking, and gazing at the sea where the island had disappeared. And the moonlight flickered before his eyes, sparkling, now here, now there, upon the waves. Suddenly he saw something white and shining, on the bright path which the moon cast across the sea. Was it a seagull, or the little gleaming sail of some small boat? The Bishop fixed his eyes on it, wondering.

‘It must be a boat sailing after us,’ thought he ‘but it is overtaking us very rapidly. It was far, far away a minute ago, but now it is much nearer. It cannot be a boat, for I can see no sail; but whatever it may be, it is following us, and catching us up.’

And he could not make out what it was. Not a boat, nor a bird, nor a fish! It was too large for a man, and besides a man could not be out there in the midst of the sea. The Bishop rose, and said to the helmsman:

‘Look there, what is that, my friend? What is it?’ the Bishop repeated, though he could now see plainly what it was — the three hermits running upon the water, all gleaming white, their grey beards shining, and approaching the ship as quickly as though it were not morning.

The steersman looked and let go the helm in terror.

‘Oh Lord! The hermits are running after us on the water as though it were dry land!’

The passengers hearing him, jumped up, and crowded to the stern. They saw the hermits coming along hand in hand, and the two outer ones beckoning the ship to stop. All three were gliding along upon the water without moving their feet. Before the ship could be stopped, the hermits had reached it, and raising their heads, all three as with one voice, began to say:

‘We have forgotten your teaching, servant of God. As long as we kept repeating it we remembered, but when we stopped saying it for a time, a word dropped out, and now it has all gone to pieces. We can remember nothing of it. Teach us again.’

The Bishop crossed himself, and leaning over the ship’s side, said:

‘Your own prayer will reach the Lord, men of God. It is not for me to teach you. Pray for us sinners.

And the Bishop bowed low before the old men; and they turned and went back across the sea. And a light shone until daybreak on the spot where they were lost to sight.

100 days – Day 53: Anniversary

100 days – Day 53:  Anniversary

15 years ago today, I changed direction in my Ministry; I left the Parish, to become a full time Healthcare Chaplain (or to be PC: a Spiritual Care Giver) to the Dumfries Hospitals – a post I held, and enjoyed, for thirteen years.

 

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Charlie Chaplain

 

 

Sermon preached at Glasgow University Chapel – “Medical Sunday” 3/12/2000

 

  • Psalm 27, v. 1, vv 7 – 11, v. 13
  • Mark 4, vv 35-41

 

CHAOS, FEAR & FAITH

Richard Trench was the Archbishop of Dublin at the end of the 19th Century.  In the last two years of his life he fought with great courage a progressive illness that left him increasingly paralysed.

As a guest of honour at the Lord Mayor’s banquet in London, he was seen to be growing increasingly disquieted until someone asked if he felt well enough to continue.  ‘It has come at last’ he sighed, ‘complete paralysis of my lower left-hand side. I have been pinching my leg and cannot feel a thing.  And yet with Christ as my companion, I shall endure it with courage’

At this point, the lady sitting next to him leaned across and said ‘Your Grace, would it help you to know that it has been my leg you have been pinching for the last quarter of an hour?’

Many people have been helped by the prayer of serenity:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference

But many people who find themselves in hospital are less philosophical.

For many, illness is a corrosive wretched traumatic time of inner turmoil and confusion.

On a summer’s day sometime in the past, I fist came across Jenny, though that’s not her real name.  In the Crichton Royal Hospital in Dumfries there are beautifully kept grounds – lawns and flowerbeds with shrubs, plants, and flowers which are a delight to the eye.

Standing in the veranda of a particular ward I was talking to someone who had come to visit a relative who had been admitted there.  He mentioned the grounds and how attractive they were, and I responded by saying something along the lines of how the planners had designed them to be therapeutic.  They are calm and tranquil, and were created to have a beneficial effect upon patients.

Behind me there was a mocking voice – Jenny’s.  Jenny who I learned later was far from home, her child taken from her, her family only occasional visitors.  She was a troubled, confused, anxious, frustrated and unhappy young woman.

‘What the **** would you know about it?’,  she shouted.  ‘What’s the point of peaceful lawns, when you’re feel like this, when you’re not peaceful inside.’

And with that, got up and went back into the ward, slamming the door to the veranda.

So many people are not, to use her words, ‘peaceful inside’

It doesn’t have to be those who are in the mental health care sector.

‘I’ve just had bad news’ the elderly man in the striped pyjamas in the medical ward told me one morning.  He wouldn’t articulate what the bad news was, and even as subtly as I could I could get him to talk in specifics.  He was probably too frightened even to mention the words ‘tumour’ or ‘carcinoma’, though I guessed that was what we were talking, or rather trying desperately hard not to talk about.

And he was frightened, worried, anxious and more than a bit confused.  He was thinking not just of himself, but also of his frail wife – how would she take it, how would she cope?  He looked after her, he was the breadwinner – what a mess.  What a terrible and terrifying situation.

Let me take you to one of the surgical wards in Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary.  Here is a middle-aged patient, a woman, lying in bed the late afternoon before her operation.  She was admitted at ten in the morning, has had umpteen tests, has been talked to – perhaps talked AT would be more appropriate – by nursing staff and clinicians, and has basically had a whole day to get even more anxious and worked up about her surgery.

‘How are you feeling?’ I ask.  ‘Terrible’  ‘In what way?,  ‘I don’t know – just terrible’

We talked through it – we talked about her fear which was a reflection of her need, her powerlessness, her very identity.

This was a lady suffering not just physically, but emotionally, and spiritually.  Hers was a spiritual pain.

And lastly, come with me to the Alexandra Unit in the infirmary where I work.  This is our palliative care ward.  And here is Joe who up until a few weeks before had a good job and a wide circle of friends.  Joe was very much the social animal.  He was popular and carefree – although there had been some kind of fall-out with one of his grown-up sons a year or so ago.

Here is Joe who has now apparently lost everything and has abandoned hope.  All the old signposts have gone.  He is disorientated and directionless.  His feeling of wholeness, of personhood has been fractured.  He has become isolated from his known worlds – from his past which he will never regain; from his present (he has little or no control over his bodily functions; he has lost his power and control, his security, his dignity, his identity, his purpose).  His yet-to be-created future lies threateningly before him.  On top of all this – probably because of all this, he starts thinking about his estrangement from his son.  And it pains him.  It pains him even more because he feels nobody cares.  It pains him because his perception is that nobody will really take the time to listen.

Patients are, if you will, captives.  Prisoners of their illness, prisoners of their fears and anxieties.

Someone once said that being ill is like being in a state of chaos.  In a maelstrom of emotions.

The Gospel story from Mark which we listened to earlier tells of a storm at sea.  It’s perhaps interesting to note that the author or editor has placed this story of an actual literal storm immediately before three other events which involve people in chaos and confusion: the stories of a demon-possessed man, a young girl who is terminally ill, and a confused and despairing woman who has been haemorrhaging for some twelve years without relief.

In the boat the disciples were panic stricken, confused, frightened men who were at the mercy of elements beyond their control.  They were being tossed hither and thither on a turbulent sea, facing an uncertain future.  And no one seemed to care.  Christ was even asleep in the stern of the boat.

Yet Jesus was with them in the storm – he was with them in the same boat, as the strong winds buffeted the sail and the waves were crashing over the side. And he is with us in the storms of life.  He never abandons us.  He cares about us and our situation whatever that may be.

He enters into the chaos.  He is present with us in the chaos.  He journeys with us through the maelstrom.

As should the spiritual caregiver.  He or she involves himself, herself in the patient’s predicament, accepting them for what they are, with all their resentments, anxieties, anger, self-pity, unspoken needs.  Our aim is to instil faith for fear and hope for despair, demonstrating in the process God’s love and interest in his children, and responding always to the fundamental human need to be heard and understood.

We think of doubt and unbelief keeping people from faith.  Perhaps, more often than we realise, it is fear.

The fear of the disciples in the storm was an unbelieving fear – Jesus didn’t care about us, they thought

When St. Paul was being taken prisoner to Rome, he was caught in a violent storm which was so bad that Luke recorded ‘We finally gave up all hope of being saved’ (Acts 27, v. 20b)

Then one bleak morning Paul came out and said, “Take heart!  Not one of you will lose your life; only the ship will be lost.  For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship came to me and said ‘Do not be afraid, Paul!  You must stand before the Emperor.  And God in his goodness to you has spared the lives of all those who are sailing with you’ So take heart, men!  For I trust in God that it will be just as I was told”  (vv. 22-25)

Paul was trusting in ‘the God to whom I belong and whom I worship’ All of us can take heart – all of us will be safe.

But we too have to have the courage of our convictions.

A family was on holiday in a remote cottage.  There was no electricity and no running water.  The only gas was from a camping stove.

At bedtime, the young daughter was extremely brave about going upstairs with her mother by the light of a candle.

But a puff of wind blew the candle out, leaving them in total darkness.  The little girl was afraid.

“I’ll go back downstairs to get the matches” said her Mum, “but don’t be afraid, Jesus is here with you” “But Mum” replied the daughter, “Can’t you stay here and we’ll send Jesus for the matches?”

It doesn’t quite work like that!

We are called to live by faith and not by fear.  Living by faith means that, while we may not know the details of life, we can be sure of the outcome.

We can live by faith – for we know that God has promised to be with us.  His grace is going to be sufficient for us.  His Word will guide us.  His Spirit will be within us with enabling power.

‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear.  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid…..Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord’

100 days – Day 33: Sermon preached at Dumfries Northwest Church on Sunday, 25 May 2014

100 days – Day 33

this is an EXTENDED version of a sermon preached today – it is, if you like, “the Director’s Cut”

 

I’m very fond of watching films – old and new – comedy and drama – adventure and whodunnits.

I’ve got a handful of blurays and DVDs in my sitting room – as Neil will testify!

Plus Sky Movie channels and Netflix on computer.

However, I don’t like romances……  although this one scene from a classic movie is truly memorable.

This is  one of the greatest movies ever and an enduring classic – it’s not a romance, but this scene is romantic in a bitter-sweet way

 

Casablanca – at the airport Rick and Isla part…….

 

Ilsa: But what about us?

Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.

Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.

Rick: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.

[Ilsa lowers her head and begins to cry]

Rick: Now, now…

[Rick gently places his hand under her chin and raises it so their eyes meet]

Rick: Here’s looking at you kid.

 

“As time goes by”

 

It’s often very difficult to say ‘goodbye’ – especially if it’s a member of the family or a close friend who is going away for a while.  Railway stations, airports, bus stations and ferry terminals can be pretty awful places at times.

I used to live and work in Trinidad as a Church of Scotland minister to the four kirks on the Island.

Sometimes, my work – or leave, of course – would see me at Piarco International Airport, catching a plane to North America, or the UK, or the Island of Grenada, where I did a couple of stints as a locum.

Many times, there would be little groups of tearful Trini’s, bidding farewell to a family member or close friend, as they walked toward the departure gate to catch their flight to Toronto or New York or London – where, in all of these cities, there are large communities of ex-pat West Indians.

Sometimes, I’d overhear this – and it was said to me too, when I returned to Scotland on leave:

“Travelling mercies be upon you!”

What a beautiful thing to say, to wish for, to pray for!

And the reunions at that same airport when a loved one returned.  What welcomes!  what joy that the journey had been completed safely, and the loved one was back in the bosom of his or her family.

 

But……

……In our lifetime, there are many goodbyes and some of them can be hard, even painful.

Imprinted in my mind most vividly is my beloved wife asleep on her death-bed – just a matter of hours before she died.  I bent over her, kissed her on her forehead and said “Thank you; I’ll see you again soon enough somewhere, some time. You’ll be safe”

 

‘parting is such sweet sorrow’

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are forbidden to be together

Though they are sad they must leave, they look forward to the time they will be together once more, and therefore the parting contains both sorrow, and the promise of something sweet and beautiful.

My words to my dying wife again, “I’ll see you again soon enough – somewhere, some time…..”

 

There are many ‘goodbyes’ in the Bible…..

  • We’re going to start with that grand old man Moses who led the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt through the wilderness toward the promised land.

 Moses at the end of so many years of service to Israel, is not allowed by God to enter the promised land.  He looks back at what they have done together, then he looks forward, and bids them farewell.

He says goodbye to his people – ‘Happy art thou, O Israel’ he cries, ‘A people saved by the Lord.’

 

He knows that God has protected them in the past, and has no fears for their future – for he knows they are in God’s safe keeping.

  • Then there is Jacob, a very elderly man.  What a long and exciting life he has led; what a man he has been. 

Then had come the loss of his son Joseph, whom he had believed had been killed.  But years later, Joseph, now a great man in Egypt, was reunited with his family.

In his old age, Jacob moved with his entire household down to that strange land to settle there.  He lived in Egypt, but his heart was still in his homeland of Palestine.

Even as he lay dying and said his goodbyes, he begged that his body should be taken back and buried in the land he loved..

 

  • Then there is the parting between Jonathan and David. 

Jonathan was a prince, the son of King Saul, and David was a shepherd boy, and they became very close friends.  But David was perceived as being a rival to Saul, so the King forced them apart.  They met secretly to say goodbye, embraced and wept.

Then Jonathan said these last beautiful words:

    ‘Go in peace…the Lord shall be between thee and me…forever’

They had to part, but in their love of God, they would always be one.

 

  • There is the parting between St Paul and the elders of Ephesus 

The old Apostle, having done his work in these parts, is on the way back to Jerusalem.

He knows that he is running into danger, and, therefore, says goodbye to his friends.  Even grown men at such times can break down in tears, so Paul asks them to stop as they are making things harder for him.

How these Christians really did care for one another.

 

And, then there is Jesus addressing his disciples.  Today’s Gospel picks up immediately from where we finished last week, when looking at the first fourteen verses of the 14th chapter of the Fourth Gospel.

READING: John 14 verses 15 to 21

‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’

 

 This must have been terrible for the disciples.

He’s telling them that he’s leaving them.

Here was the one who had brought God into their lives in a real and living way, now saying his goodbyes.  What a blow that should have been.

Here is Jesus whom his disciples had known so wonderfully, and who had changed their lives forever, now going away from them.

But when they do part – on Ascension Day (which is celebrated this Thursday) – we discover that the disciples went back to Jerusalem, ‘filled with great joy’ ‘Filled with great joy’

Why? 

 Because they had his promise that although it was goodbye and an end of meeting together in the old way with him before their eyes, it was the beginning of his being with them in a new way.

He didn’t leave them bereft, nor orphans, nor alone and cast adrift.  He had promised them an “advocate” a “comforter” (and that word literally means someone or something that strengthens us – we get “fortify” from the same Latin root)

He would be with them, in spirit, always.  And not just with them, but with us too.

 

I started with a film quote; here’s another…… this time from “Spiderman 2” which I saw last week.

Poster_-_Spider-Man_TASM2

 

It’s the valedictory speech at High School given by Gwen Stacy, the classmate and former girlfriend of Peter Parker (Spiderman’s everyday persona): 

She says:

“It’s easy to feel hopeful on a beautiful day like today, but there will be dark days ahead of us too, and they’ll be days where you feel all alone, and that’s when hope is needed most, no matter how buried it gets, or how lost you feel, you must promise me, that you will hold on to hope. Keep it alive, we have to be greater than what we suffer. My wish for you, is to become hope, people need that, and even if we fail, what better way is there to live. As we look around here today, and all the people who helped make us who we are, I know it feels like we’re saying goodbye, but we will carry a piece of each other, into everything we do next, to remind us of who we are, And who we are meant to be.

 

And this –

 Mr. Holland’s Opus is a movie about a frustrated composer in Portland, Oregon, who takes a job as a high school band teacher in the 1960s. 

 

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Although diverted from his lifelong goal of achieving critical fame as a classical musician, Glenn Holland (played by Richard Dreyfuss) believes his school job is only temporary.

At first he maintains his determination to write an opus or a concerto by composing at his piano after putting in a full day with his students.

But, as family demands increase (including discovery that his infant son is deaf) and the pressures of his job multiply, Mr. Holland recognizes that his dream of leaving a lasting musical legacy is merely a dream. 

At the end of the movie we find an aged Mr. Holland fighting in vain to keep his job.

The board has decided to reduce the operating budget by cutting the music and drama programme. 

No longer a reluctant band teacher, Mr. Holland believes in what he does and passionately defends the role of the arts in public education. 

What began as a career detour became a 35-year mission, pouring his heart into the lives of young people.

Mr. Holland returns to his classroom to retrieve his belongings a few days after school has let out for summer vacation. He has taught his final class. 

With regret and sorrow, he fills a box with artifacts that represent the tools of his trade and memories of many meaningful classes. His wife and son arrive to give him a hand. 

As they leave the room and walk down the hall, Mr. Holland hears some noise in the auditorium.

Because school is out, he opens the door to see what the commotion is. 

To his amazement he sees a capacity audience of former students and teaching colleagues and a banner that reads “Goodbye, Mr. Holland.” 

Those in attendance greet Mr. Holland with a standing ovation while a band (consisting of past and present members) plays songs they learned at his hand.

His wife, who was in on the surprise reception, approaches the podium and makes small talk until the master of ceremonies, the governor of Oregon, arrives.

The governor is none other than a student Mr. Holland helped to believe in herself his first year of teaching. 

As she addresses the room of well-wishers, she speaks for the hundreds who fill the auditorium:

“Mr. Holland had a profound influence in my life (on a lot of lives, I know), and yet I get the feeling that he considers a great part of his life misspent.

Rumour had it he was always working on this symphony of his, and this was going to make him famous and rich (probably both). 

But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous. At least not outside our little town. 

So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure, but he’d be wrong. 

Because I think he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame.”

Looking at her former teacher the governor gestures with a sweeping hand and continues, “Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each one of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus.
And we are the music of your life.”

 

Life is about the impressions that we make, like finger prints we leave everywhere.

Jesus left finger prints on the lives of people he met and laboured with,

Never underestimate that people will forget what you say and often forget what you may do for them but they will never forget the way you made them feel!
So leave good impressions like fingerprints of the hearts of people you meet 

 

A couple of weeks or so ago , a remarkable young man died – and what a legacy of hope and inspiration he has left us.

Stephen Sutton, raised more than £3.5m  for charity after news of his illness spread on social media.

Stephen was diagnosed with terminal cancer aged 15.

Rather than dwell on his misfortune, the teenager drew up a “bucket list” of things he wanted to achieve before he died.

This led to him completing a skydive and playing drums in front of 90,000 people before the Uefa Champions League final at Wembley last May, among various achievements

 

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  Someone wrote this about this extraordinary young man:

“In his last few weeks, Stephen Sutton aged only 19,was  unable to process the outpouring of emotion and compassion that he had triggered. He did not want to die, but his thirst for life did not manifest itself in gloomy or depressing ways.

“Cancer sucks, but life is great,” was his motto.

 Announcing Stephen’s death, his mother wrote that “her heart is bursting with pride but breaking with pain for my courageous, selfless, inspirational son”, and that the “ongoing support and outpouring of love for Stephen will help greatly at this difficult time, in the same way as it helped Stephen throughout his journey”.

Her pride undoubtedly has much to do with the fact that cancer never defeated Sutton, even though it took his life. He will not just be remembered for his fundraising or his refusal to be defined by his cancer.

 He inspired people to embrace life, regardless of the obstacles, to be full of compassion, and to look after each other. That is quite a legacy”

 

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We never have to say goodbye to Jesus, he is with us forever.

Remember what he said ‘ I am with you always, even to the close of the age’ And he is, as king of kings & lord of lords – and in that we can all rejoice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 days – Day 29

100 days – Day 29 

More about tea!

Today will be a long one: up earlier than usual this morning, as, once more, I forgot to put the bin out.  Back indoors – and on with the kettle.  I’m now on my third cuppa of Whittard’s Russian Caravan, and there will be a few more gallons downed before noon.

And it has to be STRONG tea – none of the wishy-washy stuff that Morrissey drinks:

 

 I found this quote about weak tea quite amusing:

“I thought there was a hair in my tea but it turned out there was a crack in the bottom of the cup.” ~anonymous~

 

It’s a morning of sermon preparation – and that usually means procrastination and pit stops (or should that be PG Tipstops?) ; it’s so easy, and sometimes necessary for a tea break!

This afternoon sees an important debate at the General Assembly.  Hopefully, it will be conducted graciously and without rancour.  Now, if the main protagonists could just sit down over a nice cup of tea, a “balm in Gilead”, who knows what a becalming influence it could be.

 

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This evening, it’s Hamilton Accies v the Hobos in the first leg of the final play-offs for Premiership

 Somehow, I don’t think that it will be tea that I’ll be drinking!

 

 

 

100 days – Day 20

100 days – Day 20: A Short Entry

 

 

I’m used to jokes about my height – I’m only 5′ 5″ and shrinking as I get older.

I remember a minister who was visiting his parishioners in the Infirmary and who popped into the Chaplain’s Office first.  “Don’t get up!” he said, as he came through the doorway.  “Oh, you’re already standing up…. I couldn’t tell the difference!”  How we laughed.  Oscar Wilde, eat your heart out!

As a child, surprisingly, I was underweight and a faddy eater.  “What, not even SHORTbread?” one wit asked.

Nor did I like milk (still don’t) – cue: “But you must have liked CONDENSED milk!”  Ha! Ha! Ha!    Oh, what jolly japes over the years!

 

Once, when I was a Parish Minister in a particular church,  the lectern in the pulpit  wast too high for my short stature; I couldn’t see over it.  So, the problem was solved by my standing on a hassock (a kneeler).  Unfortunately, having been off for a couple of Sundays on leave, I returned to find, on climbing the pulpit, that my “booster” had been removed – the preacher who was filling in for me was quite tall.

It looked a bit like this:

kilroy_was_here_by_icrashcars

 

Charles Spurgeon once asked a ministerial student to preach an impromptu sermon, the result of which deserved entry in the Guinness World Records for the shortest sermon ever preached. The student preacher proclaimed the entire sermon in three sentences. Appropriately, the topic was Zacchaeus:

“First, Zacchaeus was a man of small stature; so am I. Second, Zacchaeus was very much up a tree; so am I. Third, Zacchaeus made haste and came down; so will I.”

With that, the student sat down to shouts of “More, more!” from his fellows. “No,” said Spurgeon. “He could not improve upon that if he tried”

However, I read another kind of good news this morning in the Telegraph:  short men will have the last laugh after all

Scientists have found evidence that short men are likely to live longer, with those under five foot two having a greater chance of surviving to old age.

One researcher has claimed that “The taller you got, the shorter you lived.”

Dr Bradley Willcox, from the Department of Geriatric Medicine, at the University of Hawaii, found that shorter men were more likely to have a protective form of the longevity gene, FOXO3, leading to smaller body size during early development and a longer lifespan, and were also more likely to have lower blood insulin levels and less cancer.

Yep – kind of like that!

 

 Oh, and I forgot to mention that the visiting clergyman who came to my hospital office was six feet tall …….  and is now six feet under!

 

p.s – it’s sometimes difficult to get to the tenth floor of an office block – I’ve usually got to walk up the last three flights of stairs.  Why?  Because I can only reach the seventh floor button in the elevator!  BOOM! BOOM!

 

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