Tag Archives: Isaiah

The Found

Scripture Reference:  Luke 15, verses 1-10

A minister, touring in West Germany was invited to spend the night with one of the families of the host congregation. The family consisted of the father. the mother, and a twelve-year-old boy.

The father began to tell the minister something about the family, and especially about the circumstances surrounding the adoption of this youngster whom they had rescued during the war years.

The father said: “The boy was just a poor orphan when we first saw him. He was in rags and very dirty, but his shoes were the worst of all. The upper parts were in tatters and the soles had huge holes in them. When we took him in, we gave him new clothes and threw his old ones away.

“We decided, however, to keep those battered shoes as a reminder of how badly off he had been when he first came here. I keep them on a shelf, and when the boy complains or becomes unruly, I merely walk slowly to the shelf, haul the shoes down, and remind him of how much we have done for him.”

The boy looked hurt, ashamed, and even a bit unwanted.

The guest, afraid to say anything, in case he should offend his host, thought to himself: what a blessing it is that God doesn’t continually drag out our old shoes.

When God’s forgives, He also forgets.

After God has changed us, he doesn’t constantly remind us how we were, he doesn’t point back to the rags of sin we used to wear. He doesn’t point back to the shoes of self pride, we used to wear.

Rather, we live with his love guiding us, caring for us, comforting us, upholding us and trusting us as his children.

God is joyful when one sinner returns to the flock, or one sinner who is lost is found. And notice, if this is a parable about God, who is he in this parable? He is the shepherd and he is the woman. God finds the lost!!

In our opening story, if the father could have truly accepted this adopted child out of love, he would not have had to use the shoes as a reminder of his love for the child. The child could sense his love by the way he was treated and accepted as the man’s son.

Then the father could love him in spite of the wrongs he had done, in spite of the misbehaviour.

We are forgiven each time we wander. Each time we sin and God seeks us out, we are forgiven and returned to the fold.

We try not to wander, to sin, but we do. But through Christ, our sins are forgiven and covered with the forgiveness of Christ,

Nome, Alaska, on the edge of the Bering Sea, is like many villages of the Arctic. The ground on which the community sits is frozen, sponge-like tundra. Burying the dead is a real challenge.

Sanitation landfills are unheard of. Dustbin men don’t empty wheelie bins as they do here.

Instead a typical front yard displays broken washing machines, junked cars, old toilets, scrap wood, and piles of non degradable refuse.

Tourists who visit Nome in the summer are amazed at the debris and shake their heads. How could anyone live like that, they wonder. What those visitors do not realize is that for nine months of the year Nome sits under a blanket of snow that covers the rubbish.

During those months, the little  town is a quaint winter wonderland of pure white landscapes.

The reality of grace is that the garbage of our lives has been covered by a blanket of forgiveness.

The prophet Isaiah declares that the blight of our sin, once red as crimson, is now white as freshly fallen snow. And unlike the situation in Nome, our sin is covered forever! 

We are forgiven people. We are people who are lost and then found. We are lost sheep and lost coins, but at the same time, we are found people, found sheep and found coins because we are forgiven by Christ.

Not far from New York there is a cemetery which has inscribed upon a headstone just one word – “Forgiven.” There is no name, no date of birth, or death.

The stone is unblemished by the sculptor’s art. There is no epitaph, no fulsome eulogy – just that one word, “Forgiven”, but that is the greatest thing that can be said of any person, or written upon one’s grave, “Forgiven.”

Forgiven, that is what we are, we are forgiven in Christ.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

What’s in a Name?

I was talking to someone recently about names.  His name was Bill but he signed himself ‘W’ for William, which, he said could lead to some confusion as to who he actually is.

I can sympathise.  I too have a first name that confuses many people.  I was christened ‘Alexander’ but am known as ‘Sandy’ which is a shortened form – or a diminutive, to give it it’s proper description.  ‘Sandy’ always reminds me of third-rate Scottish comedians or collie dugs.

My uncle was also Alexander, but was known as ‘Alec’ and I have a friend who is ‘Alex’ with an ‘x’

I once looked up a dictionary of names and to my horror discovered that another version is ‘Sanders’ – maybe, on hindsight, it is a bit more upmarket that ‘Sandy’ In Gaelic, Alexander becomes ‘Alastair’ or ‘Alasdair’

Once met a Russian lady at university, who told me that in her country, a version of Alexander is ‘Sacha’ – (Sacha Distel – French singer)

There’s a football player who rejoices in  the name of Zander Diamond, as does Alexander Armstong, the comedian, who is also called Zander.  Rather fancy that moniker!

And I’m sure there are many more variations on my particular name – as there are on so many others:

Robert can be Rob, Robbie, Bob or Bobby, Bert or Bertie.   Catherines are sometimes known as Kate, or Katy or even Renee.

Another friend of mine was James, as far as his family was concerned, but Jimmy to myself and his other friends, even after he changed it himself to Jim.  To wind him up we’d sometimes call him ‘Hamish’ which is the Gaelic form of his name

He was the same person, of course, but others saw him differently – James for his parents, brothers and sisters – the name his mother and father had given him, the name which was registered after his birth, the name given at his baptism – his official name.

But Jimmy to his pals who knew another facet of his personality – Jimmy, a familiar, easy-to-relate to kind of name – the name of a pal, a friend, a mate.

Then he himself started calling himself ‘Jim’ – more grown-up perhaps than Jimmy, more formal than Jimmy, but less so than James.  He saw himself as ‘Jim’ whatever the implications of that were.

Some people see us in different ways and call us by different names, as the case of friend Jimmy shows.

Perhaps something of this was reflected in the different names people had for Jesus.

The prophet Isaiah writing about the Messiah called him ‘wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’

The hymn writer, John Newton, once wrote:

‘Jesus my shepherd, brother, friend, my prophet, priest and king, my Lord, my life, my way, my end’

Jesus is different things, has different names, different aspects for different people – depending on their outlook, depending on their needs.

There is a bridge in an old European town where each archway has a carving of Jesus represented in a different way.

As the workmen cross the bridge early in the morning, they can pause for a moment at the figure of Jesus the carpenter.

The farm workers on the other hand can see him depicted as a shepherd.

The elderly and sick can view him as the great healer.

Those who are feeling tired or discouraged are reminded of Jesus the friend.

So all who cross that bridge can find the picture of Christ which suits their particular need.

And he fills all our needs.

He said of himself ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ and in him we find our direction, and our integrity, and our very being.

He said of himself ‘I am the Door’ and he opens up for us the way to a new kind of life.

He described himself as ‘The Good Shepherd’ and we know that he will protect us, direct us and guide us lovingly through life to the security of the fold.

And he said ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’ – in this life and the next, we have nothing to fear.  He is our Redeemer, our Saviour, and our Friend.

And let us remember this – the Bible tells us that ‘God has engraved our name on the palm of his hand’…in other words, we are as near to God as our hands are to us.  God knows us through and through, every last detail about us (why, even the hairs of our head are all numbered).

God knows us; Christ loves us – whoever we are, wherever we come from, whatever our name! 

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

The Rose – Some Thoughts for Mothering Sunday (Lent 4)

“Say it with flowers!”   I’m sure florists all over the land have been inundated during the last few days with orders for bouquets, sprays, and posies.

Today, of course, is Mothering Sunday, and what symbolises the love we feel today, and the joy we feel today, than the beautiful gift of a flower….and particularly that of a rose…

“Enough the rose was heaven to smell”  – that’s a fine line….

…yes, there is something special, beautiful, almost heavenly  about a rose.

It is a thing of beauty; a thing of joy.  Roses and rejoicing go well together.

The Prophet Isaiah when talking of the future glory of Zion writes:

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose

He seems to link the rejoicing of the people with the blossoming of the rose.

The rose – it symbolises fertility, joy, success – it is something to be prized.

It’s not new, however, this giving of a rose to a worthy recipient at this time of year, you know

On the fourth Sunday in Lent,  a Golden Rose, an ornament was given by the Roman Catholic Church to worthy women as well as men as a mark of special favour – rather like the Oscars of their day.

It’s said that the tradition dates back a long way to the time of the betrothal of Mary and Joseph, when, supposedly, a bud or flower sprouted on Joseph’s staff or rod –  an indication that he was the man Mary should become engaged to & a fulfilment of the prophesy:

There shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him

Somewhere along the line, this tale got less concerned with the birth of the Saviour and more with his mother.  Artists in the Middle Ages liked to depict the happy couple, Mary & Joseph, together at the scene of their betrothal – rod, bud, flower and all.   And a caption was often to be found beneath the picture: “She is the flower, she is the rose” referring, of course, to Mary

The Rose….in her were the virtues of the rose – sensitivity, beauty, serenity.

Think of her life – a life of love, a life of piety

Think on these early years – told that she had been chosen to give birth to God’s own son;

then the journey to Bethlehem;

and the flight to Egypt –

–          all done calmly, faithfully – for the love of God and of  her child.

Then think of all the times when Jesus did or said things that she couldn’t comprehend – and on occasion said things that must have hurt her very much

But the love was still there in Mary’s heart

The whole Jesus-story must have seemed like a ghastly riddle to which there was no clue.  But she accepted it all – in love, in faith.

A mother’s love never dies.  It goes on even to the point of death, even when the crowds and the laughter and the support of the people are gone. There she stands at the foot of the Cross, love still blossoming in her heart.

We learn a lot about love from our mothers.  Jesus would learn about love – not only through our Heavenly Father’s Spirit – but also at his mother’s knee From Mary the Rose – Jesus was much indebted…perhaps more than we would credit him for.

And his too was a love that never died just as Mary’s before him.  Love does indeed conquer all.  Love never gives up.

Let me finish with two different pieces of verse.

The first a stanza from a song which was in a movie called ‘The Rose’   It’s talking about love of a different kind, but we may use it for our own purposes here:

“When the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long;

When you think that love is only

For the lucky and for the strong –

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love

In the spring becomes the rose”

And this – a 16th Century carol:

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming

From tender stem hath sprung!

Of Jesus’ lineage coming

As men of old have sung.

It came a flower-et bright

Amid the cold of winter

When half spent was the night

The Rose    Love It may seemed buried and dead   But the seed is always there, ready to burst forth in blossom, in all its glory.   And after every Good Friday comes Easter morn.

 

1 Comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Isaiah 6 verse 5

The Meenister’s Log

Two Mormon missionaries were asked to speak at the small church in which they were serving. As the first missionary got up to speak, the zip in his trousers broke — unbeknown to the young Elder.

The sanctuary  was so small that they didn’t even have a real pulpit; they used a music stand to speak behind.

It didn’t take long for everyone to notice the young missionary’s problem. In his innocence, he continued to talk, but couldn’t figure out why he was getting so many smiles at first, followed by a few nervous giggles.

Even his companion had figured out the problem by now, so he looked in his scriptures and wrote “Isaiah 6:5” on a small piece of paper and slipped it into his companion’s hand.

Unfortunately, the new missionary wasn’t familiar with the Old Testament, so he figured it must be something his companion wanted him to read. Opening the scriptures, he read aloud: “Then said I, Woe [is] me! for I am undone.!”

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic