Thought for the month
It was wonderful to be able to share in our Harvest Festival service on 26 September – the first time that our Local Ecumenical Partnership has worshipped together for over 18 months! Our service was led by the Rev Eddie Sykes, who had adapted a special liturgy from the Iona Abbey Worship Book and the 2021 Abingdon Worship Annual so that we could really focus on the meaning of harvest as well as enjoying singing some traditional seasonal hymns. The prayer that followed the sermon reflected on the Gospel reading (Matthew 6:25–33):
Look at the birds of the air.
They fly free of our worries:
no fields to weed and harvest,
no barns to fill.
And yet God feeds them.
Consider the lilies of the field.
They grow free of our worries:
no clothing to buy, no shoes to match.
And yet God clothes them in splendour.
So do not worry. Do not fear.
God knows our needs.
We will eat in plenty!
We will be satisfied!
Rejoice! God looks after our needs.
You can read all the prayers Eddie used at this link.
15 August is celebrated in many traditions as the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Rev Dr Michael Paterson took the music in Luke’s Gospel, and the Magnificat in particular, as the theme of the sermon to the St Margaret’s congregation from which this post has been extracted.
When our backs are to the wall and all looks grim, one of the most unexpected and transformative things we can do is sing! Sing out our protests for sure, but also sing out our faith and sing out our hope that tides will turn and blessings will return.
Hope comes into its own when we find ourselves up against the impossible and we can’t fix them on our own. Hope is what we do when we cling by our finger nails to a God who can free the exile, let the slave run free, bring an end to war, and bring down the walls that divide us.
And if you want to learn the lyrics of hope, look no further than the Magnificat – Mary’s song – a song about a world which is about to turn. We heard it in today’s gospel, and we’ll sing it again at the end of the service. But right now I invite you to join me in singing a contemporary version of it called ‘The Canticle of the Turning’:
- let’s sing it today with the people of Plymouth after the shooting,
- let’s sing it with the people of Afghanistan fleeing the Taliban,
- let’s sing it with the people of Greece caught up in the fires,
and let’s sing it with Mary and Elizabeth and with people, everywhere, longing for the world to turn.
Listen to the song we sang and read Rory Cooney’s contemporary version of the Magnificat:
Do read the whole of Michael’s sermon at this link.
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.
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.
At the St Margaret’s Eucharist on 18 July, the 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.
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
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
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.