Music

 

 

And the organist answered in a loud voice to the Angel of the Lord: NO, WE SHALL NOT PLAY ANY NEW HYMNS OR EVEN OLD ONES, FOR THE CHURCH IS THROWING OUT BOTH ORGAN AND ORGANIST SO THAT THEY MAY HAVE GUITAR, DRUMS AND STROBE LIGHTS THAT THE CONGREGANTS MAY BELIEVE THEY ARE IN A NIGHT CLUB AND BE ENTERTAINED, AND SING THE THREE NOTE PATTERNS OVER AND OVER OF THE NEW WORSHIP SONGS, AND, FURTHERMORE, THEY ARE THROWING OUT THE HYMNALS THAT PEOPLE MAY BE FREE TO HOLD THEIR COFFEE AND VARIOUS DRINKS AND DANCE TO THE SOUNDS OF INTERMINABLE, EAR SHATTERING SNARES AND SCREACHING VOICES. AND THE ANGEL OF THE LORD WEPT FOR ALL THOSE WHO WOULD NEVER AGAIN HEAR THE GREAT MUSIC AND WORDS OF THE STATELY HYMNS AND THE MUSIC OF THE GREAT ORGAN!

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Glesga Funeral Fight

 

…….. and all because the organist played the tune “Orlington” to accompany the 23rd Psalm, instead of “Crimond” as had been requested.

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An old Epiphany tradition

There was an old Epiphany tradition in Europe, the “chalking of the door.”

On the 6th January (The Feast of the Epiphany – marking the visit to the infant Jesus by the Magi), friends and neighbours used to go to a particular house to pray  the Magi’s and Christ’s own blessing upon it.

A prayer would be said, or a brief responsive liturgy recited.

Tradition has it that the Magi or Wise Men were called Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.

The initials CMB are also an abbreviation of a house blessing in Latin, “Christus mansionem benedicat” meaning  “May Christ bless this dwelling.”

The guests would then chalk on the lintel of the door to the dwelling these three letters, interspersed with crosses and flanked by the numbers of the present year.

Now, fancy that!

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A Journey (on the threshold of the New Year – 2018)

Some thoughts – as we stand on the threshold of a New Year.

Colossians 3 verses 1-11

Luke 12 verses 13-21

The Journey

As I’ve mentioned before, when I lived & worked in Trinidad, a popular farewell to loved ones (as they embarked on some trip) was “May journeying mercies be granted to you!”

Isn’t that a wonderful phrase? More than a phrase; a hope, a wish. More than that – a blessing!

When I conduct a wedding ceremony, I often use that prayer for the newly-weds as they embark on their marriage journey – a prayer and blessing: “May God bless you as you travel down the years that lie ahead of you. Journeying mercies be upon you!”

It’s not just appropriate for weddings; we could wish the same of the school-leaver or the Graduate as he or she sets off into the workplace or career.

I guess we could use it (though I haven’t – so far!) at a baptism, when the infant begins her or his life as a child of The Way.

I’m reminded of that familiar traditional Celtic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

A wonderful man, Jamie Stuart, died a year or so ago, at the age of 96

What an extraordinary journey his was.

His life story reveals he had to survive endemic poverty, endless disappointment and the death of those closest to him. Yet, whenever faced with a real uphill challenge, he’s raced up them. Literally. In this James Stuart’s wonderful life he’s been a champion runner, a blanket salesman, an actor, an aircraft wireless operator, a social worker, a paper boy (at the age of 68) and a best-selling writer…….

……and, if you didn’t recognise the name at first, then, if I mention “The Glasgow Bible” – the Scriptures written in the vernacular, you’ll know him as the author of that wonderfully accessible work, full of flair, wit, and the insight only a Glaswegian has.

Among the many yarns that he re-tells is that of what is essentially the story of a journey – from curiosity, to interest, to faith……

Listen:

“When Jesus went oan inty Jericho, there wis this man cawd Zacchaeus. He wis the heid tax man for the district an so wis quite rich – in fact he wis really loaded!

“But though he had plenty o money, he wisny whit ye might caw happy, an he wis dead keen tae meet this Jesus he’d heard aw aboot.

“Zacchaeus, bein a wee man, canny get near oan accoont o the great crowd o folk roon aboot Jesus. So he decides tae sclim up a sycamore tree beside the road tae watch.

“When Jesus eventually comes alang, he spies Zacchaeus. Lookin up, he shouts, ‘Hi there, wee man – come doon will ye! Ah’ve decided tae invite masel tae yer hoose for a meal this efternin.’

“Tae say that wee Zacchaeus wis fair chuffed is pittin it mildly!

“But the rest o the folk, by the wey, wir no very pleased that Jesus wis gauny eat wi a bloke they cawd a crook.

“But already Zacchaeus is a chinged man! He says tae Jesus, ‘Lord, see me? Ah’m gauny gie hauf o ma money tae the puir. An ah’ll promise tae look efter aw the folk that ah’ve cheated, so ah will.’

“Jesus turned roon tae the dumfoonert crowd an telt them tae haud their wheesht: ‘This man wis a sinner,’ he said. ‘He’s fund peace at last.’

Of course, not all journeys go to plan. There can be obstacles in the way; there may be detours which we would rather not have taken; we find ourselves in cul de sacs; we may end up feeling that we can’t travel another step.

Sometimes we try to make the best of it, often in our own strength. Although we may succeed after a fashion, only occasionally does it reach anything like a satisfactory conclusion.

There are many stories in the Bible of people and tribes who have made the wrong decision. Some have come to the Lord to seek wisdom and direction; others have muddled on, unrepentant and confused.

Jesus gave some sound advice to his followers in the parables recorded in the Gospel of Luke, including the story of the rich man who stored up his abundant crops.

There is, also, for example, the parable of the beggar, Lazarus, and the Rich Man (“Dives”) who wanted to enter heaven, and the one about the Ruler who wanted to inherit eternal life.

They all wanted the ultimate, but their decision was wrong, and they left it too late to make that “U-turn” as it were on their personal journey.

One of the most gifted players ever to grace a football pitch was the great George Best. Sadly, we still remember how booze and birds eroded what was once a remarkable talent.

Doing the rounds of TV chat shows and the after-dinner speaking circuit, he woul tell a particular story against himself.

One evening he recalled, having won a large sum of money at a London casino, he and his then girlfriend, a former Miss World, booked into a luxury hotel.

He then explained how he spread the money – lots of it, in high denomination notes – on the king sized bed, before phoning room service for champagne to be sent up.

The waiter duly arrived. Open-mouthed, he looked in disbelief at all the cash that was spread over the bed. And agog at Miss World draped seductively over a chaise-longue.

Nervously, in a voice that was barely above a whisper, he said: “Mr Best, I hope you don’t mind me asking – but where did it all go wrong?”

An amusing anecdote (but, by the way, I once recounted this tale to an audience largely made up of wealthy businessmen and high-flying professionals – and their reaction was….. zilch, zero)

However, there is a lot of truth in that story. George Best’s journey began in humble but essentially decent circumstances, with a down-to-earth upbringing in a devout Northern Irish family home.

Blessed with a wonderful talent, he could have continued to travel a road accompanied, as it were, by thousands of youngsters inspired by someone who could have been an ideal role model….but….he chose another route that led ultimately to his own self-destruction.

{btw he was reduced to playing for Hibs as he reached the end of his playing days! Said he who is a staunch Jambo}

How often have we seen glittering careers tarnished by self-orientation, self-seeking, self-indulgence. Ruined because of living for the moment.

“Take your ease” said the rich man in Christ’s parable; “Eat, drink, be merry”

Tomorrow never comes – well, actually, it does….and often when we least expect it.

The sad, but obvious, thing is that you can’t take it with you when tomorrow comes. I’ve yet to see a Securicor van as part of a funeral cortège.

The thrust of Christ’s parable should speak to those who want to shop till they drop, those who put getting to the top regardless of the means to climb there, those so involved in the rat race that family life takes a back seat, those who travel on a personal journey that may be temporarily satisfying but leaves no room for the needs of others.

Does it boil down to faith – this journey?

It depends on how we define “faith” – “Seek the things that are above…” writes Paul; “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”

It’s all a matter of direction and priorities – as both Jesus in his Parable and Paul in his Epistle indicate.

The choice is ours.

Sometimes, we may miss the obvious route to travel; but sometimes – just sometimes, the Spirit may lead us to a better destination.

A story to finish – it’s about a journey; in this case, a voyage that went “wrong”

In Southern Tasmania, there is a promontory of land on the shore of the Huon River.

On one side is Castle Forbes Bay, named after the Irish ship “The Castle Howard”

In 1836, the Captain mistook the entrance of the Huon River for that of the Derwent River a few miles farther along the coast.

The Derwent led to Hobart Town, his destination, one of Australia’s finest deep water ports, and an important centre for the whaling trade.

From the census of the previous year (1835) Hobart Town contained 13,826 inhabitants, and the whole of Tasmania 36,505.

But they missed it; things got worse when sickness broke out on board, and fresh water was running out.

A terrible miscalculation on the ship’s journey.

They made landfall – miles from their original destination – and set up camp.

But there was no drinking water there, and the passengers were suffering.

However, after a while, desperately scouting the area, a fresh water rivulet was discovered.

They erected tents to hospitalise the sick passengers….. and to this day the area is known as Hospital Bay.

Although they settled this place by default, many of the female passengers remained and married the local timber workers.

And they prospered and many of their descendants still live in or around there.

Not all journeys may go to plan…..but God has plans for all our journeys.

May journeying mercies attend you all, wherever your life-travel takes you, especially as we enter this New Year of 2018.

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The Sunday before Christmas

It was a Sunday morning – a couple of days before Christmas- and, as usual, I had a half hour Service to conduct in the Infirmary (part of my role as Healthcare Chaplain).

These (poorly attended) times of Worship for patients were held in the day room in Ward 18; a ward for elderly patients, but open to all who were hospitalised throughout the building.

It wasn’t a cheerful time that year. Helen had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, had undergone a double mastectomy, and was being treated with sessions of chemotherapy.

I was feeling less than festive, and when I opened the door to the day room, it hadn’t been prepared for the Service. Chairs were randomly placed in the room, an empty coffee cup lay on the table where the Bible was usually placed.

Being just before Christmas, as many as possible able patients had been discharged; fewer nursing staff were on duty, and were struggling to cope. And our pianist had phoned in sick with flu.

Depressing and disheartening – yep.

After ten minutes of waiting, not a single patient had turned up.

I was just about to leave, when there was a knock on the door, and this wee ordinary looking wummin came in.

“I hope I’m not too late – I was told that it was a 10.30 Service, but it’s 10.00 isn’t it? I’m so sorry. Do you want me to go back to my ward?”

“No, no! Please stay. It’s only going to be thee and me, I’m afraid. And the pianist can’t make it today. We’ll have a bash at a couple of carols, but it’ll have to be unaccompanied- oh, and I can’t hold a tune. But, listen, let me read the Christmas Scripture first, then we’ll have a wee prayer”

“OK – that sounds good.”

So we did that. Then I asked her to tell me about herself, and we had a cosy chat.

“Thank you so much”, she said, getting up to leave.

“Do you want to try ‘Away in a Manger’ before you go?”

“Oh, please”, she replied. Then added “I can play the piano a wee bit”

“Oh, that’s great; there’s a music edition of CH3 (third edition of the C of S hymn book) in this cupboard”

So she started to play this old out of tune joanna – magnificently, delicately, sensitively, with the touch of a professional……. which, it turned out, she had been, having studied music at Drama and Music College many years before.

Hymn followed hymn. Music drifted down the ward; nurses joined us – some for a few minutes only because of busyness.

We stayed for an hour! All the traditional favourites. Played beautifully.

And that old untidy Day Room was transformed into what our Celtic forebears call “a thin place”

It was a magical, mystical, merry time of joy and celebration.

Oh, although I can’t recall the lady’s name………….

……….I found out later that she was Jewish!!!!!!!!!!!

“God works in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform”

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Dachau – visited December 2017

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December 21, 2017 · 14:22

A wee peep

It used to be the custom, before the popularity of “Chapels of Rest “in Funeral Parlours and, I suppose, because fewer people died in hospital, for the deceased to be laid out on their bed in the bedroom.

Once when visiting a bereaved family at their home, I was asked, “Would you like a wee peep?”

To which I replied, “No, that’s alright, thank you, it’s a bit early in the day for me”

Of course, the offer wasn’t that of a “small refreshment”, but rather a “wee peep” ,or look, at the corpse.

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Nativity

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St. Paul’s Church, Munich (visited 10/12/2017)

 

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December 12, 2017 · 12:08

Sermon for “Christ the King Sunday” – Eaglesfield Church, 26 November 2017

SERMON – CHRIST THE KING

The older you get, the quicker time seems to pass!

I’m amazed that we’ve come almost full circle in the Church’s liturgical year. Next Sunday marks the beginning of Advent again.

Last Advent (as with every Advent) we look forward to and prepare for the coming of the holy child born in Bethlehem, and anticipate the King returning in judgement and in glory.

Then Christmastide, with shepherds, and Magi at Epiphany – soon to disappear from view, returning to their everyday tasks, but changed men, as we are changed folk, having glimpsed something of the divine breaking through to the humdrum routine of life.

Where “BC became AD”

Then we wondered how we were going to spread the light of God’s love made known to us….

But before we could catch our breath, we were walking the road to Calvary once again.

We witnessed the King riding on the back of a donkey into the Holy City. We heard Pilate asking Jesus, “So, you’re a King then?!”

And then a bleak and lonely Friday with a cross silhouetted against the sky, and a sign above it: “the King of the Jews”

And so we mourned – the King is dead! But, wait! On the third day….. the miracle of miracles…. Resurrection, joy, wonder – Long live the King!

we cannot explain it, but he rose again from the dead! But then to leave, in a burst of glory – to reign at the right side of the Father, to use Biblical language and imagery.

But we were not orphaned, not bereft – for the Spirit came. And still comes when perhaps we least expect it, and He teaches, guides, and binds us together and closer than breathing to the King of Kings.

The year continued to unfold, and we listen to, learn from, and struggled with what our faith meant for us in our day to day living.

What a journey! What a road to travel!

Now that journey has brought us to the place where we can sing the praises of the One who now reigns supreme.

…….but we are still left with one nagging and all important question —- “How DO we worship and show devotion to this one who sits on the throne?!”

Our Gospel Reading for today tells us……

Christ’s words: ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; I needed clothes and you clothed me; I was sick and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to visit me…..

And he concludes:‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

 

In his poem “How the Great Guest Came,” Edwin Markham tells of an old cobbler who made elaborate preparations for a dreamed-of visit from the Lord

The Lord never came. But when a beggar came, the cobbler put shoes on his feet.

When an old lady came, the cobbler helped her with her load and gave her food.

When a lost child came, the cobbler took her back to her mother.

Then soft in the silence, he heard a gentle voice:

‘Lift up your heart, for I kept my word.
Three times I came to your friendly door;
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with bruised feet,
I was the woman you gave to eat,
I was the child in the homeless street.’

 

Ours is increasingly a society where even some Christians are less like the Good Samaritan and more like those who passed by on the other side of the road.

Reach out? No! Too risky…. and in many cases we want to Lord it over others.

Let me tell you a story from the Archives….

I was ordained and inducted to my first Charge in 1974. Of course, as part of my pastoral ministry, I visited the elderly & infirm.

One one particular occasion, I called round to see this particular parishioner, an elderly lady who was housebound.

On this day, it was desperately cold and her home-help hadn’t managed to come along that day; as a result, the fire wasn’t lit.

The obvious thing was for me to go to the coal bunker outside, bring in the coal, and light the fire.

She would have none of this! Scandalised: “you CAN’T do that!” Explaining that a “man in your position” should not stoop …. etc

 

But I did. Got the jacket off, rolled up the sleeves, brought in the coal…..

….and after 20 minutes or more, and almost a full packet of firelighters and a box of matches used up…..nothing, no spark, no flame, zilch.

I got a look that said, ‘I told you – you shouldn’t have bothered!’

Of course, the word “Minister” comes from the same root as “minor” – lesser, and so one who serves.

In our ministry, as the people of God and as disciples of Christ, let’s never lose track that we have been called to serve – the highest calling, the greatest honour any of us could possibly have.

Let’s finish with this well-known tale:

There once a 4C Roman soldier – Martin (or Saint Martin as he is known, having been canonised) of Tours.

While Martin was a soldier in the Roman army and stationed in Gaul (modern-day France), one day as he was approaching the gates of the city of Amiens, he met a poor man begging for alms.

Matin, having no money to give him, instead cut his military cloak in half to share with the beggar.

The legend says that that night, Martin dreamed of Christ risen and reigning in the Heaveny realms, surrounded by angels.

Christ the King was not wearing glorious robes…. rather an old shabby cloak – or part of one.

One of his angels asked him, “Lord, where did you get THAT?”

In this vision/ dream, Christ replied, “My servant Martin gave it to me.”

The dream confirmed Martin in his piety, and he was baptised at the age of 18.

“As you did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”

Worship, without deeds being done, isn’t giving Christ the King his rightful and exalted place……

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