Thought for the month

Paula Rego's painting of St Margaret in the Chapel of the Nine Altars at Durham Cathedral

Paula Rego’s painting of St Margaret
in the Chapel of the Nine Altars at Durham Cathedral

Three churches in the Dunfermline area are dedicated to St Margaret of Scotland, including our Episcopal church at Rosyth, and her life will again be celebrated on 16 November.

This painting shows Margaret near the end of her life, perhaps having heard that her husband Malcolm and one of her sons had died at the Battle of Alnwick. She is gazing into the far distance, as if her sights were already set on the next world, like Jesus, setting his face steadfastly towards Jerusalem and his imminent passion and death. Her face is lined with the marks of suffering; her hand rests upon her cherished bejewelled gospel, now in the Bodleian Library.

At her feet sits her son, who will become King David I, perhaps caught between the lure of the weapons lying like a child’s toys around him, and the summons of his mother’s book to fight different, spiritual, battles. Son and dying mother: a kind of pietà in reverse. In a way, the themes are the same: a kingship not of this world; a vocation where royalty means walking a via dolorosa; the path of servanthood of the one who first suffered pain before he entered into glory.

It is not a comfortable painting, but then Margaret was not one to reign in easy state while others suffered. (Adapted from this original)

In this month of remembrance, give a thought to all who have selflessly worked, and continue to work, for others, as you join us in our worship.

An icon of Saint Luke

An icon of Saint Luke

Since the beginning of June we have been reading from Luke’s Gospel, the first of the two books that he wrote. However, despite the wealth of historical detail in Acts, we learn little there about the man himself whose festival we shall be recognising this month.

The evidence of his work is that Luke was a Greek-speaking and well-educated man, and we believe he was a Gentile (by tradition from Antioch in Syria), the Apostle Paul’s companion on many of his missionary journeys, and the doctor whom Paul called “Luke, the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14 and was glad to have with him during his imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:9–11).

Luke’s account of the good news is the only one that records the annunciation, the songs of Mary and Simeon and the story of the birth of John the Baptist, and gives much detail about the early life of the Jesus who entered history as a human being. [Had Luke met Mary? Orthodox tradition is that he produced the first icon of her.]

His gospel has messages for us today in that it shows special sensitivity to outsiders (the Good Samaritan; the widow of Zarephath; Naaman the Syrian) and to women, showing several women among the most dedicated of Christ’s followers. He speaks much about prayer, showing its practice to be rooted in the example of Jesus, and there are many parables relating about the proper use of money.

Keep up with Luke’s message by joining us for worship!

A joyful shepherd carrying the sheep back to its fold

A shepherd carrying the sheep back to its fold

Our readings this month include Luke’s record of three of the many parables told by Jesus. On Trinity 15 we read about the lost sheep and the lost coin, which Jesus follows (in a passage we don’t read this year) with the parallel story of a lost son, the “prodigal” that has been the subject of so many sermons.

Ken Bailey suggests that, in these parables, Jesus is declaring both his responsibility to find and restore his people, and our responsibility to repent, which Bailey defines as “accepting being found”. Easy enough to understand with regard to the prodigal … but the lost sheep?

Realising that it is lost, a sheep will freeze, and can only bleat. Even when it hears the voice of the shepherd, it can’t move because it is terrified, so has to be carried back to the fold. A difficult, dangerous task in rugged terrain, which hired hands will baulk at, and only a good shepherd will do with joy. Which is why a shepherd carrying the sheep back to its fold was one symbol used by the early church, rather than the symbol of the cross.

Do join us for worship, as we rejoice that we have all been found through God’s love.

Another of Cerezo Barredo’s powerful images

Another of Cerezo Barredo’s powerful images

Our first Gospel reading this month – the Parable of the Rich Fool – is a reminder that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” and that we need to be “rich towards God”. Whilst most of us would say that we don’t have enough laid up to take it easy in the same way(!), the questioner whom Jesus was answering by telling this story is actually being warned against all kinds of greed, and advised to concentrate on things that have eternal value. After all, we can be assured that God will provide for our everyday needs. [The passages that follow have complementary themes: if you haven’t read them for some time, an easy way is to use this link]

As we start preparing for the many tasks that lie ahead during autumn and winter, should we all perhaps make sure that we don’t focus too much on the demands of the here and now? To help keep your priorities right, do join us for worship!

Peace like a river flowing …

Peace like a river flowing …

Taken together, the readings from Isaiah 66 and Luke 10 used on Trinity 5 present us with a picture of a river of peace flowing out from the Lord, mirrored in the Gospel as the flowing of the disciples as they are sent out in pairs on their first mission. From the Lord of Peace, others, like ripples in a pool, flow out carrying his simple message: “Peace to this house!”

Notice in the picture that each disciple is carrying a cross. Although strictly an anachronism, this is a reflection of the Galatians 6 passage, where Paul repeats his boast in the cross, a thought central to Paul’s life and ministry: by becoming part of the mystery of the cross, each of us is a new creation in Jesus.

As we move into July, for many a time of refreshment and relaxation, let us share peace with those we meet on the way. [Our thoughts this month have been adapted from an original at this link]

Coming up …
  • 8 August 2021
    11:00 am Holy Communion
  • 15 August 2021
    9:30 am Sung Eucharist
  • 15 August 2021
    9:45 am Methodist Zoom Worship
  • 22 August 2021
    11:00 am Morning Worship

More details at this link


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