Thought for the month

Today’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning, Scotland was given by Rev Philip Blackledge, Rector of Holy Trinity, Melrose, and he has kindly given us permission to publish it here.

Good morning.

For those of us who are into sport, the past wee while has been something of a treat – football, golf and cricket galore, rugby and the Olympics on our screens, it provides something of a hopeful distraction from perhaps more difficult headlines in the news.

The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan has given me much pause for thought. Knowing many folk who served in the military, who lost friends in that conflict, as the Taliban gains ground, it makes people who served there wonder whether what they did, what they suffered, what they survived, has been of good effect.

In sports, it’s easy to know what a victory looks like. You have rules that everyone agrees, you have a criteria for success, be it the fastest time or the most goals, or the lowest score, and a time limit in which to achieve. And even if your victory is by a quarter of a second, you know the difference between winning and losing.

Real life is less easy, because the rules keep changing. In a place like Afghanistan, it’s hard to know what victory might look like, or when the work is done.

And that is true for each of our lives too. How do you “win” being a good neighbour, or having a happy life, or being a decent person?

What I say to my friends who were the veterans of those conflicts, I try to live by – and that involves a very old fashioned virtue – righteousness. Self-righteousness is certainly not a virtue, but righteousness means simply trying to do the right thing.

We can’t always know what the end game is, or what the rules are, or what victory looks like, but we can strive with the zeal of an athlete and the dedication of an Olympian, to do the right thing.

That requires not just energy and dedication, but wisdom and courage, and an ability to trust in the future, and to hope for better things. It’s not as clear as a victory or a gold medal, because life is messier than sport. I know I’ll never win a gold medal – not unless they make brewing tea a sport. But being a good parent, or spouse, or neighbour – we can all be winners when we try.

For the next 29 days you can listen to the programme on BBC Sounds: Pip’s talk starts at 1:23:34

At our Eucharist on 18 July, our readings came from a lectionary widely read throughout the world, and Rev Dr Michael Paterson expounded on the point that all three readings have fundamentally one message, that God cares!

He commented most powerfully – “In migrant camps around the world, in churches in flood-stricken towns, and in every place where there is conflict and persecution these very same readings we have heard will be read today. ‘God cares’ – the preacher will say – but will the people know it? Will they trust it? Will they believe it?

“Friends, God cares! God cares about the migrants. God cares about the flood victims. And God cares about whatever you and I are having to face in our own lives right now, whether it’s chronic pain, troubles in our relationships, depression, loneliness, addiction. God cares. But do we know it? Do we believe it?

“Today, at this altar, God shows us he cares. He breaks bread for us and offers to feed us. Today in our worship God pours out his Spirit upon us and offers to heal us. The question is: Do we trust it? Do we believe it?”

And he finished with the prayer: “May God have mercy on us this week. May he give us the faith to believe he cares. And may he give us the courage to reach out to others to let them know ‘God cares!’” Amen!

Do read the whole of Michael’s sermon at this link.

In the service that followed the announcement of Kenny Rathband’s retirement from full-time ministry, Rev Dr Michael Paterson preached on our Gospel reading from Mark 4.35–41, and included these words of encouragement:

In the 50 years of St Margaret’s this little community has never sunk
our little boat has never capsized
and no one has ever drowned.

Over the years we have been caught in some spectacular storms
and made the odd May Day call
but this community has ridden the waves
and shown time and time again
that its anchor is in Christ
and its leadership is shared.

Many churches rely so heavily on their clergy
that when a priest leaves the church collapses.
St Margaret’s is the opposite.
You run your own ship
and you run it well
with every person playing their own part.

There’s a slogan doing the rounds at the moment:
‘every member ministry’.
Some clergy are threatened by it:
‘Won’t that make clergy redundant?’ they ask.

I tell them that it’s nothing new
and that St Margaret’s has been doing it for 50 years.

So have courage folks:
you have been here before and you got through
because you all pulled together,
and who says you won’t do that again?

And the good news is that God has already given you everything you need to ride this latest storm

So let’s pray as if it all depends on God
while doing the St Margaret’s thing
and working hard as if it all depends on us.

And in that divine human collaboration
the storm will surely be calmed
and we will once again, together,
cross safely to the other side.


The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

Spirit of God
Eternally present
Before the birth of time
Not an afterthought
Not the latest iteration
But an integral part
of the eternal dance of the Trinity.
She was there moving over the water
at the birth of time
she was there in the hopes and fears of a people
who longed for a Messiah
She was there in the garden
when the warmth of resurrection
rekindled love
All three woven together
moving in synchronicity
Sometimes to the mellow strains
of a slow waltz
Sometimes to the whirling upbeat
of a ceilidh dance
At times she takes the lead
selecting the beat
changing up the rhythm
And then she sets the stage for another
to be front and centre
For the dance cannot be accomplished
without all three parts participating
in the divine choreography
And new parts are always being written
so that we, too, might participate
even in our clod hoppers
by taking our place on the floor
and simply beginning to move
to that persistent beat
that draws us into the Divine dance

This thought for Trinity Sunday comes from our friend Liz Crumlish: more on her blog.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.   (Romans 8:26)

This Pentecost, O God,
We fear the mighty rushing winds
and the tongues of fire that disrupt our careful order
We fear the exuberance of a crowd
getting out of control
and spilling onto the streets
We hold back on celebrations
when not all are able to participate
in our local church world
and in our global world
Send your Spirit once more
to intercede for us
with sighs too deep for words
With sighs that give thanks for life
and sighs that mourn so much death
With sighs that re-story us
as a people of hope
With sighs that re-member us
as a people of faith
And giving thanks for the very breath of life
May we take your life
and your Spirit
into all the world.

Written by Liz Crumlish for Pentecost 2021

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