Category Archives: God

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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Filed under 100 days, God, The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

God’s Frozen People

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

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Filed under God, Pope Francis, The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

iPod (a children’s story for the Fifth Sunday of Epiphany, Year B)

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I’m sure that all of you will know what this tiny little thing is – an iPod.

Some of the grown ups here might not know what that is. – can anybody tell them?

It’s a great little gadget – and it’s something that is very personal to us…. we choose the songs to put on it…… and we’re the only people who usually listen to it.

We fix headphones to it and only we can hear the music – whether we’re walking along the road, or in our room, or travelling somewhere.

It’s great to cut ourselves off from everything around us.

Jesus did that sometimes – NOT with an iPod! He would go away to a quiet place and, on his own, would listen to God.

Now, here’s a thing. If we come across something really good, we usually want to share it.

My iPod here actually stays in my car all the time. Although the car has a CD player, it also has a little slot into which I can attach my iPod…… and the music plays through the speakers….. so that all the passengers with me can enjoy the songs too.

When Jesus finished being in a place on his own, praying to God and listening to him, he would come back to join everybody else – and most times there were crowds of them – and would share the good news of God’s love with them.

And so should everybody who loves Jesus. It’s great to be on our own sometimes – but how much better it is to share with other folk just how wonderful a Saviour he is.

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Filed under Christ, God, Good News, iPod, Listen, share, solitude, solo listener