Thought for the month

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:30–35)

This Easter Lord Jesus
you walk with us
not on the road to Emmaus
but through every emotion
and question
and cry of despair
You listen without dismissal
carefully holding
all that we share.
This Easter, Lord Jesus
we recognise you
not in breaking of bread in our sanctuaries
but at every table
where families gather
forced together
or kept apart
and in every means we have
of maintaining relationships
and of staying connected
You continue to surprise us
Risen Lord
Turning up when we least expect you
in places we would never imagine
May the light of resurrection
Pierce the darkness in us
and in our world today.

Thank you to Liz Crumlish for sharing this Easter thought, which comes from Living through Lent, the booklet of reflections that we introduced in this Ash Wednesday post, and which you can still download at this link.

It’s the preparation of Holy Week that speaks more to me and evokes more memories than Easter Day itself. Vivid memories of my home Church, where our choir would sing a sacred cantata every Palm Sunday evening. Then on Good Friday afternoon we would head off in a coach to a country church to repeat the piece we’d rehearsed for the previous Sunday.

Our choice of setting for the Passion narrative alternated: one year Maunder’s Olivet to Calvary; the next Stainer’s Crucifixion. Both of them late Victorian attempts to rethink the great Bach Passions so that congregations could relate to them and they weren’t too difficult for ordinary choirs to perform. Each had choruses, chorales, recitatives and arias – and hymns for everyone to take part in.

It’s the Stainer that’s stayed with me. That’s not just because I still have the copy I sang from in the 60s, but I’ve sung it three times during 30 years in Dunfermline and, as many of you know, until coronavirus intervened we had plans to sing it here again last April with an augmented choir. It’s because it still speaks to me, all the way from The Agony in the Garden when Jesus asks three times “Could ye not watch with me one brief hour”, through that well-known setting of “God so loved the world” to The Appeal of the Crucified which starts “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?”

I’m sad I won’t get to sing Crucifixion this year, but its words and music will be with me as I re-read the story of Christ’s Passion and death. I won’t hear a pin drop in the stillness that follows “It is finished” and I’ll think back to the congregation rising to sing the final hymn “All for Jesus”.

Martin Tarr

[If you want to find out more about Crucifixion and hear the music, go to our archive page]


Reflecting on a year of COVID restrictions in Scotland

the wave of disbelief
and the stunned silence
The grief
and lament
The resignation
and helplessness
The shock of furlough
– surplus to requirement
in an institution
focused on survival

the mounting fear
as death tolls rose
The longing to be able to do more
than make a difference
by staying home
and the low grade anxiety
that began low in the belly on waking
and lodged in the throat on sleeping

the deniers
and the conspiracists
the pontificators
and the optimists
all of whom made the work of  scientists
and out of their depth governments
all the more difficult

the hope snatched away
by a second wave
crushing already beleaguered services
affecting a less compliant populous
being rekindled
by the whisper
of vaccine potential
into a hope reborn 

Oh to share the indictment of Maya Angelou
“When we know better, we do better”
Sadly, I wonder…
What have we learned?
And will our learning make any difference?
Will it make a difference
to the marginalised
to those on the edges
to “the least of these”
whom we are called to love and to serve?
Or, as is often the way,
Will those in power
tell the story
through rose tinted glasses
of a nation that fought
and won the fight
papering over the cracks
of dissension and division
of incompetence and pride
ignoring the long shadows that remain
trumpeting resilience
and “building back better”
as the tools with which to move forward?

Remembering …
And sitting with the grief
so that the loss and sacrifice
of so many
and the ongoing trauma and suffering
is not swept aside
as we move forward
but is carefully woven
into the fabric
of our communities
not only as dark threads
but also as bright and vivid streaks
startling reminders
held aloft
carried with us
into the compassionate future
that we craft together.

This reflection by our friend Liz Crumlish is used by permission, and comes from her blog, which you can follow at this link.


Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return …

(Genesis 3:19)

This Ash Wednesday,
When we cannot gather
to have ashes imposed.
When we may not participate
in the familiar liturgy,
hearing the words that remind us
of our mortality
It becomes all the more important
to take time, with God,
reflecting on the nature
of our shared humanity
– our relationship
with one another
and with the divine creator
who has placed within us
wisdom and knowledge
love and compassion
connectedness and reliance
on each other
and on this
weird and wonderful world
in which we live
Perhaps in our forced isolation
and in our departure
from normal routine
in the strangeness of restrictions and lockdowns
closed borders
and forced quarantine
and amidst loss
that continues to mount up
we might finally confront our frailty and consider the question
of our purpose …
What is the nature of the footprint that we will leave as we journey through our life
How will we carry others
And when will we allow others
to carry us?
And how will we bear witness
to the God of the Universe
who walks alongside
bearing us up in infinite love
providing all that we need
as we accompany others
along the road of life

Thank you to Liz Crumlish for sharing this Ash Wednesday thought, which comes from Living through Lent, a booklet of daily reflections for Lent 2021 that you can download at this link.

Today is 2 February: a day when the Scottish football transfer window has just closed with a flurry of last-minute signings; a day when even the hardiest of Christmas revellers pack away the remains of their decorations; a day to reflect on the time when Christ was presented in the Temple as an infant as recorded in Luke 2:22–40.

The “Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple” marks the day that the old man Simeon took the baby in his arms and recognised him as “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel”, words used each day as part of Evening Prayer.

On 2 February it became the custom to bring a lighted candle to the altar to represent the Christ-light, and to bless all the ‘lights’ or candles in the church, praying that all who saw the outward and visible light would remember also and be blessed by the inner light of Christ “who lightens everyone who comes into the world.”

With similar prayers for blessing in our hearts we’ve been asked to light candles at 7:00pm each Sunday to pray together with other Christians in Scotland, using the prayer specially written by the Scottish Church Leaders Forum which is linked to our Home page. And this month, in their #PrayerfortheNation initiative, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are asking us  to pause and pray every day at 6.00pm for those impacted by the pandemic, with the suggestion that we might light a candle as a prompt to pray.

But our prayers don’t need to be complex or theological in tone. This prayer by Ruth Burgess is suitable for even the youngest:

I light a candle.
A sign that
I know
that God loves me.

I light a candle.
A sign that
I want to walk
with Jesus today.

I light a candle.
A sign that
I want the Holy Spirit
to breathe in me.

I light a candle
and I ask that
God’s love
and God’s glory
may shine through me.

So, go and light that candle!

More poetry on Malcolm Guite’s blog, from which part of this post was adapted, and in Prayers for Lighting Candles by Ruth Burgess, from which the prayer was taken.

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Coming up …
  • 22 April 2021
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