Tag Archives: Swindon railway works

The Expert (address – Upper Clyde Parish Church, Abington – 15: February: 2015)

Mark 1 verses 40-45


One evening, the eight-year-old daughter of a single mum was very ill in bed with the flu. She was running a fever, and her mother was naturally very worried.

Her mother, realising that she was out of paracetamol, decided that she would take a chance on leaving the little girl for five minutes, to drive to the chemist before it closed.

She didn’t like leaving her youngster, but there seemed to be no alternative.

She managed to get to the chemist minutes before it shut, and bought the medication.

When she got outside the shop, she realised, to her horror, that she’d locked herself out of her car. And – worse – not only were the car keys inside, so were her house keys!

Panic! What could she do?

She could not get into the car. If she walked, she could not get into the house.

Time was getting on. Her daughter was in bed, and would soon wake and miss her mum.

Standing on the pavement, she prayed fervently to God to help her.

With that, round the corner ambled the most disreputable, shifty looking youth. She stopped him. “Can you help me, please?” she implored him. “Could you open that car door for me?”

“Nae bother, missus” she said, and within twenty seconds had magically released the lock and opened the door.

“Open sesame!” and with a flourish, gestured her toward the now open door.

“You’re an angel of mercy!” she said to him.

“No really, missus” he replied, I was just released from the jail this morning after six months for breaking into motor cars”

With that, the woman closed her eyes in prayer and said “Lord, thank you for sending me an expert!”
Jesus was the expert sent by God to release folk from all that shut them off from the whole and full life God wants for his children.

Jesus is the expert liberator who sets us free.
Many years ago, in the 1930s, there was a man who lived in London, who built up a thriving engineerimg business.

But his main interest was a Christian mission to the deprived areas of the East End. He was heavily involved in this outreach, and quickly developed into an expert preacher.

One day, his engineering job took him to one of the large railway works at Swindon where the
great locomotives were built.

After the manager had shown him around, and business had been concluded, he was escorted to the factory exit. There they shook hands.

Immediately, abruptedly, the visiting engineer pulled his hand away; the manager’s hand was unpleasantly cold and a bit slimy.

Quickly, he realised what a dreadful faux pas he had committed, and became embarrassed and flustered.

The manager looked at him and said, “Don’t worry. It happens often. You see, when I was an apprentice, I had an accident: a nail was driven through my right hand and I’ve never been able to close it since then.”

The visiting engineer stretched out his hand and gently laid it on the other man’s shoulder, and said……

……”many, many centuries ago, there was a young carpenter in a far off place called Nazareth. HE had a nail driven through HIS hand – and he too has never been able to close it since.”

Christ’s calloused hands, the hands of carpenter, were stretched out on the wood of the Cross, stretched out – almost in blessing……

And these rough, chapped hands of the expert – paradoxically gently and tenderly – have blessed, have comforted, have healed.

These broken hands have brought wholeness and freedom to so many.

Today’s Gospel story is about his healing a leper – a man with a dreaded skin disease, as our translation puts it. He freed that man from a life of misery. He liberated that man from being shut in on himself, and shut off from the rest of society.

Jesus is the expert who sets us free. Who unlocks the door to a better life.

And as has been said by many commentators on this passage, leprosy as compared to sin.

Sin is a kind of moral leprosy.

Sin, like leprosy, separates – it shuts us off from each other.

Like Leprosy, it is divisive – it breaks up families, friendships, community living.

Sin fragments.

Sin, like leprosy, breaks up satisfying living conditions, it catches on, it spreads.

But, think again of that story of the leper that we listened to. Jesus made him alive again, whole again. Jesus returned him to normality.

Healing or wholeness came through contact with Jesus Christ. If disease is contagious, so is Christ’s redeeming power. This is the Gospel!

Jesus is the expert healer, redeemer, and liberator. By grace, He frees us from our sins.
His are the hands of the Master

There is an old poem about the touch of the Master’s hand

It was battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
Hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three”,
But, No,
From the room far back a grey haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet,
As sweet as the angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.
“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”
“The Master’s Hand” was written by Myra Brooks Welch, a lady who was a gifted musician – until severe arthritis affected her

There she was confined to her wheelchair, battered and scarred from her illness, which had taken away her ability to make music. Instead, her musical soul spoke through her poetry.
She took one pencil in each of her badly deformed hands. Using the rubber tip, she would slowly type the words, the joy of them outweighing the pain of her efforts.

Her words, a joyous expression of the wonders of life, as seen by a singing soul that was touched by the Master’s Hand

We may not be experts, but if we allow the hands of Christ to metaphorically touch us, we as a result can be HIS hands – comforting, encouraging, guiding, soothing, becalming…… not necessarily bringing about actual healing…… but perhaps restoring something of the brokenness of others, and bringing about wholeness and peace.

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A little boy, growing up in a village where his father was the local minister was outside playing. He was doing all of the things that a little boy does. He was climbing trees. He was swinging on the swing set and jumping out. He was rolling and playing with his dog. His mother called him for dinner and all of the family gathered at the table. His mother looked at him and said, “Young man, let me see your hands.”

There was some rubbing of his hands on his blue jeans before he held his hands up. His mother looked at them and asked, “How many times do I have to tell you that you must wash your hands before you eat? When your hands are dirty, they have germs all over them and you could get sick. After we say grace, I want you to march back to the bathroom and wash your hands.”

Everyone at the table bowed their heads and the father said grace. Then, the little boy got up and headed out of the kitchen. He stopped, then turned and looked at his mother and said, “Jesus and germs! Jesus and germs! That’s all I ever hear around here and I haven’t seen a one of them.”

Our hands can be an identifying characteristic. As you know, every one of us has a different set of fingerprints. (and that’s true apparently even of identical twins)  We are all different, yet we can be identified by our hands.  And the same was true for Jesus. On that first Easter, Peter and John gathered with the other disciples in that upper room to talk about the empty tomb and the possibility of the resurrection.

As they were talking, Jesus came and stood among them. They were frightened, but Jesus reassured them by showing them his hands and feet. How often had the disciples seen those hands of Jesus touch blind eyes so they could see?

How often had they seen his hands bless little children? How often had they seen him reach out hands and lift the cripple up and say, “Walk.”? They saw the hands of Jesus and they knew that he was resurrected from the dead.

The hands of Jesus remind us of his suffering – and they remind us of his love.

In the 1930s, there was particular a man who was an engineer.

He had built up a good business in London, but his main interest was lay preaching.

One day, in the course of his ‘day job’ he had to visit the railway works at Swindon where the great locomotives were built.

A young manager showed him round and after a tour of inspection, the two men walked to the gate of the factory.  There they stood for a few minutes chatting, and then the visiting engineer thanked the young manager for showing him around.

Then he stretched out his hand to say goodbye.  The young man also stretched out his hand.

Almost immediately the engineer dropped it – the younger man’s hand was such a cold, fishy sort of hand.

Quickly he realised his mistake for the other man looked embarrassed.

The young manager then explained that when he had become an apprentice he had met with an accident.  A nail was driven through my hand, he said, and I’ve never been able to close it since then’

The engineer gently laid his hand on the young manager’s shoulder and said:

Nineteen hundred year ago there was a young carpenter in Nazareth.  They drove a nail         through his hand, and he too has never been able to close it since!

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