What is becoming more and more important to me? Being known by God. It's not that I have to struggle to discover God, But that I am invited into his knowing of me. That's what I hear in these words of Cistertian Monk, Thomas Merton: "Our freedom from the prison of our own illusions comes in realizing that in the end everything is gift. Above all we ourselves are gifts that we first must accept before we can become who we are by returning who we are to the Father." Isn't that exactly what we see Jesus live out? God wills us to discover who we are in his knowing of us - remembering that in scripture to know is a shared intimacy. Who is the God that knows us? I trust it's the God Rowan Williams describes that he believes in: "God is not an item in the universe, not a being among others. The energy, action and intelligence of love that saturates everything, sustains everything, moment by moment. Always in the depth of every situation capable of turning things round and making a difference - precisely because God is not just part of the system, but the context of it all." Lets discover the gift of who we are that is embedded in our being, uniquely know by God and therefore not threatened by anyone else's being. What does that mean? Our doing never has to compete - we are already fully known by a love that never ends.
What are you doing with your time? Got a fair bit more on your hands lately? The first time pieces in Europe were created to help those following a monastic way, time would tell them to make a space to meet with God at different points in the day: Morning prayer (Lauds) Midday prayer Evening prayer (Vespers) night prayer (compline) time beat a rhythm for prayer, song, work, eating, rest. Time was in the service of meeting with God. Then merchants and business took over the clock and well, we know what time became... But for who knows how long many of us have the chance to befriend time in a different way. From tomorrow morning I will make a space on face book live for morning and evening prayers, offering what we are living to the presence of God. Morning prayers will be @ 9:30 am and evening prayers @ 9:30 pm. There will be a short meditation then a prayer. A simple reclamation of time for the company of God. I went to see Gregory Alan Isakov @ St Luke's last year. Below is a beautiful song about time.
Yesterday folks found ways of worshiping that were largely untried and rarely imagined in the way are church. Was it just a wee gaggle of people desperately doing their own thing, hanging out their Sunday best on the cyber washing line? I wonder if we (particularly Presbyterians) need to widen our spiritual imagination: look up - see who you are worshiping with. What we sing and pray and recite flies like a little bird to and from the cracks of our hearts nest; but where does our fledgling praise fly to? The little bird of our worship carries us into the worship we can't see... ...with the saints and angels in the nearer presence of God. We don't create worship here so much as we join in with the true worship there. If we think of worship there as some holy individuals, or crowd surrounding a bigger, superior individual then our spiritual imagination needs to grow. The saints and angels are persons endlessly travelling into God's knowing them, a personal knowing that endlessly gives of itself to the saints and angels as they know God as they are known: a knowing that never comes to an end. Worship is a wonder and mystery with the everlasting pulse of love running through it all. When we meet to worship however we manage to do that whether alone, one or two of us or with the help of technology, we become part of the worship that in the nearer presence of God is endless, blissful joy. As we find new ways of worshiping together May our spiritual imagination look up and on that journey May the saints and angels watch over you...
This mornings service can be found on e above link.
Tomorrow our wee church gets together in a whole new way. I'll be posting on Facebook and on the web site something for us to reflect on: story, song, poetry, letters, good news - allowing the Holy Spirit to open up our lives to the presence of God - the same as any Sunday. The same but different. How that's done I'm sure it develop over the weeks we cannot meet together. In Jesus God has dirt under his finger nails. He thirsts and hungers, laughs and cries. He knows friendship and loneliness. He brings others home to themselves, as the beloved gift they truly are. Where was he found? Among people who were isolated and couldn't be touched, the lepers, cast offs, bleeders, ignored and forgotten. That's where he still wants to be. That's where he is. Always. I wrote this song some time ago now, accompanied by 3 gifted friends, to try catch a glimpse of him passing this way. See you tomorrow @ 11:00.
On Wednesday we held a service to remember Jean Thomson, one of our own. It wasn’t the service we had intended, with the sudden closure of church buildings throughout the country. There were many folk who really wanted to be there, but were denied the opportunity because of the risk.
So we are making space here to remember Jean, and making available some of our reflections
How might Jean have us remember her today? Not I imagine, as if we could tell her story cover to cover. I never saw her as someone who needed to constantly announce to the world What she was doing on Facebook or twitter. Her natural independence, Her thoughtful, seriousness of mind, And the ease with which she kept company with herself, Shaped around Jean a friendly reserve Free from the anxiety of needing everyone to know her story. If Jean sometimes seemed a closed book, There was a great story lived inside, But one whose pages she would share when and where she chose, With those she loved and were her friends. So, remembering Jean today Is not telling more Than she would have us say, But remembering just a few of the pages She shared with us from her story – in her matter of fact way. As we know Jean loved to cross stitch, and knit And many a gift was generously made for a new born or a wedding hanging in someone’s home in a distant part of the world. What if we remembered her life today As if it were one of her intricate and beautiful pictures Patiently, and lovingly stitched with the thread of living. The first thread appeared in 1947 born to Tam and Eileen Lithgow, Growing up with sister Isobel The stitch of her childhood Woven at Bellside, in Clelland From happy days shared with their parents, spinster aunt and bachelor uncle and the menagerie of haulage lorries Belonging to the family business. No surprise then that Jean Was confident behind the wheel of a car before she gained her licence to drive. Even from an early age, There was a thread of fearlessness That ran through Jean; She and her friends thought nothing of cycling the miles on the main road from Clelland to Edinburgh just to see the Forth Rail Bridge and then back home again. Now if that expedition involved a race Then I’m sure Jean would have wanted to win - Because competing was stitched through her story: Jean loved to compete - not least on the badminton court. She was a skillful and highly competitive player Beginning with the Wishaw Badminton Club before later qualifying as a coach, when for many years she and her good friend Anna Anderson coached children at Law Primary School and were stalwarts at Law Badminton Club. For many years’ badminton was a hobby and a passion for jean, And she only finally gave up when ill health frayed the thread of her game. The stitch of Jeans working life was woven with pleasure as a Medical Laboratory Technician, and other than a short spell as a school technician Jean gave herself to that role with delight, skill, and attention detail Both at Law and Wishaw General Hospitals. It was in 1969 Jean and Campbell were married And together they brought into the world their two daughters, Isla and Morag. Over the years the cross stitch of family life Had many patterns But on Sunday, as we spoke together, Among the memories that found us Were of the lovely times spent as family on holiday at St Andrews; Year on year in the static caravan - not to mention - the adventures of trampolining As well as the trips to Jersey and over to Ireland. And although Jean and Campbell separated some 12 years ago sewn between them was the stitch of friendship and she would never hear anything said against him. Where we to ask Of late, what was the favourite part of her picture? There’s little doubt, being a gran to Max, Donald and Duncan. Jean was the kind of gran who would whisk you off to Lapland Or have a boat tree house anchored in your garden; Its fair to say, the obstacles of Lanarkshire buses And the alchemy of their time tables Never got in the way of her going to look after her grandchildren. Jean quietly delighted in being a gran And was equally a delight to her grandchildren. Jean had good friends in the village Whom she regularly met At the church, in the guild or at the craft club That she was a founder member of. She enjoyed the company of her family But was equally content on her own Knitting, tackling a seduko puzzle, potting a hyacinth. What were some of the colours You saw threaded into the life of Jean? A dignity and quiet self confidence That could matter of factually find its voice and speak her mind. Not one to wear her heart on her sleeve Jean never gave herself to effusive displays of affection, But what is easily seen is no measure of what is truly there and reality cherishes the hidden as much as the obvious. There was a deep care, a generosity and kindness in jean These were threads running through the whole of who she was, Along with a tenacity and stubbornness Both of which were to stand by her When she was diagnosed with a life changing illness Some five years ago. There is a line in John O’Donohues Blessing for presence Which says: Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles That seek no attention. The way Jean chose to live with her cancer, The way she outwitted the prognosis of the consultants And still found her way to Ireland and Australia each year And to spend precious time with her family Was a quiet miracle. And supporting that miracle Were the many good friends in the village, particularly Anna, Elspeth and Jennifer. Whose care, friendship and support she greatly valued. As was Isobel Who for the past thirty years, lived next door to her sister. And without this bond, commitment, patience and sisterly affection, Jean would have seriously struggled in recent years. And during that time, she received devoted care from the local community nursing team who became her close friends. And Jean looked forward to their visits, as much for the chat than the nursing care. To keep calm and carry on Is now something of a cliche But that’s how Jean lived with cancer… She carried on doing what she wanted to do Carried on solo trips to see her family oversees Carried on meeting with her friends and family She carried on Sunday by Sunday Drawing strength from worship and prayer. The poet Emily Dickinson Was someone who kept unpublished in her lifetime Some of the greatest poems of the 19th century, And one of her poems strikes me As how Jean took her leave of this world: “Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality.” In the ancient poem from the book of psalms The writer speaks a prayer: "You have searched me, Lord, And you know me, You when I sit and when I rise You perceive my thoughts from afar. However much Jean’s story was unpublished to most What she lived, Who she was, Her dreams and losses Her hopes and loves Were no secret to God page by page line by line word for word and what was left unsaid between are known to him. And God can only know by love. So today we give thanks That the Story of Jean Is not finished But finds a telling and goes on In the space Christ has made for her Through his life, death and resurrection. As St Paul once told the church in Colossians “you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." That is where all our stories find their true telling Where each of our stories will be kept and held and told in God.
No Sunday worship No use of the church building for funerals No general assembly
words…words…words…if you follow any social media then I imagine already you are scrolling past more words than are helpful to take in.
I’m not going to add too much to ticker-tape of information that leaves you less and less willing to read on. But there are some words worth listening to. And this morning I’m thinking of St Theresa of Avila, whose words are a prayer for the changed face of our world:
Let nothing disturb you Let nothing distress While all things pass away God is unchanging Be Patient for with God in your heart Nothing is lacking God is enough
These are words worth travelling with a while