Thought for the month

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.

“In spite of Covid-19 even the retired can set goals” is the title that Paul Beasley-Murray gave to a recent blog. He was reminded of the book, Extra Time: 10 Lessons for an Ageing World by Camilla Cavendish, who wrote: “‘Extra time’ is the period when there’s everything to play for’”, and went on: “We need to see Extra Time as a starting point, not as the beginning of the end”.

Paul then changed the metaphor, looking at life as like a marathon, where it is the final stage that matters, and quoted the Chairman of a US Center for the Future of Aging:

When you run a marathon at a certain point you hit the wall. Then you go through it. Towards the end you get the ‘kick’. The fewer years we have left, the closer the end, the value of our time goes up. We should see this as an opportunity to speed up. We have to make people believe that this can be the most valuable time of their life.

Paul identified with these sentiments, being not yet ready for his rocking chair(!), and feeling like saying, with eighty-five-year old Caleb, “Give me this mountain!” (Joshua 14.12). So, at the beginning of another year, he suggested now is the time for him and for us to set some goals.

Do read the rest of his blog, where he outlines some of his goals, and is amazed at what can be achieved by a combination of technology and creativity despite all the Covid-19 restrictions. Paul also reminds us of the words of Paul Tournier: “Of God alone can the Bible say (Genesis 2.1) that on the evening of the sixth day of creation he had completed his work”. So, with your work not yet complete, think about setting some goals for how God would have you serve him in 2021.


The image “Working together: from Old People’s Home for Four-year-olds, Channel 4” comes from this review of Camilla Cavendish’s book.

In response to today’s updated restrictions from the Scottish Government, there will be no further meetings on our premises until at least the end of January. However, we will continue to worship on-line – details are on the website – and we are still there to help, and available by phone and email – details on our How to contact us page.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. (Luke 2:15–18)

Who are the angels today?
Those with a story to tell:
a story of love and goodness
and glimpses of God at work;
a story that takes cognisance
of all the darkness,
yet draws out the hope
that is buried within.

And who are the shepherds?
The ones going about their business
who were singled out
to witness the miracle of Incarnation;
charged with spreading the good news
that God dwells among us.

Angels still pierce our darkness;
still bring us stories of love in action;
still point us beyond the gloom
to see the light.
While shepherds still carry on
tenderly caring,
witnessing everyday miracles
as they forge on
with the work that is theirs to do.
Treasuring, amidst their hard graft,
the presence of God
hallowing their work.
And these are the ones
to whom the good news is still proclaimed today.

Prayer

Lord, heighten our awareness of the angels and shepherds to whom you draw near today and from whom we can hear good news.

Read the whole of Liz Crumlish’s Advent via the post at this link.

Coming up …
  • 20 May 2021
    7:30 pm St Andrews West Area Council (Zoom)
  • 23 May 2021
    9:30 am Said Eucharist
  • 23 May 2021
    9:45 am Methodist Zoom Worship
  • 24 May 2021
    7:00 pm Ecumenical Study Group (Zoom)

More details at this link

 

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