Tag Archives: words

“Fire”. Sermon preached at Upper Clyde Parish Church on Sunday, 5 August 2018

My late Uncle Alex worked for the National Coal Board in their offices in Edinburgh at Lauriston Place.

At pavement level in one of the windows of the building there was a picture advertising the Coal Board’s principal product, and a slogan along the lines of: ‘There’s nothing like a real fire’

This was kind of ironic as the Fire Station was right next to them!

That Fire Station is no longer operational, but remains as a museum.

It always had an attraction to me when, as a youngster, I would visit Uncle Alex in his offices next door..

I enjoy watching youngsters, girls and boys, at the Dumfries & Galloway Fire Brigade’s Open Day at Brooms Road, as it always brings back a lot of happy memories.

I wonder how many of these kids posing in front of the fire engines for photographs, had, like me all these years ago a great aspiration to grow up and be a fire fighter?

The old fire station in Lauriston Place in Edinburgh contained just about everything there was to engage a young boy’s imagination There were the bright red gleaming fire engines into which we were able to climb. There were the lockers with all the fire-fighter’s coats and helmets There was all sorts of other equipment, each item having some fascinating use for a small and wonder filled boy.

But most of all, there were just the grandest thing – a gleaming fire pole down which the firemen would slide from their quarters above down to the ground floor where the fire engines were. Oh the excitement of it all!

Certainly, to be a fireman would have just about been the best thing ever!

Of course, there are the long hours of training, long shifts away from home, the long boring hours when nothing is happening Then there is the tough physical conditioning,, and oh yes, lest I not forget, the danger of fighting fires!

Well, as a kid, I thought that maybe, I could just pretend to be a fireman.

What if I went out and bought a red fire-helmet and boots and a heavy fireman’s jacket And maybe I could find a used fire truck

And in my house, it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to install a brass pole from the first to the ground floor Then I could look like a fireman, act like a fireman, drive a fire-truck, ring the bell and blow the siren, install a brass fire pole, and slide down it each time I wanted to go to the ground floor. I could even tell fire stories But in the end, I might fool some people, and maybe even fool myself — The truth would be, that if I refused to put out fires, I would NEVER be a fireman.

You can have all the trappings and all the equipment, but if you do not put out fires, then you cannot be a real fire fighter.

What is true of the fire brigade is true of the Church and of religion.
We may sing our hymns with vigour, pray our prayers with fervour, hear the Scripture eagerly, but if we leave it at that and do not put into action what we profess, then it’s a shallow exercise.

We may have the finest of Church buildings and most beautiful of sanctuaries, the most ornate pulpits and altars, and the loveliest of stained glass windows, but if we do not live a godly life outside of these walls, loving God and our neighbour in the name of Jesus Christ, then we are not a Church.

In the Old Testament, in the book of the prophet Micah, there is a famous passage in which the people think that true religion lies in the type and quality of sacrifice they make before the altar.

Micah answers that the real demands of God on humankind are moral and spiritual, and the proper worship of God is a life obedient to them.

He says ‘With what shall I come before the Lord? ….. He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’

And then we hear Jesus repeat so much of this scripture in his ministry and indeed, add to it in an ever deeper call to love God through loving our neighbour when he speaks of the greatest commandment — You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

In the Letter of James, the author likens the tongue to a weapon of destruction, to coin a phrase.

Remember his words, “the tongue is a small part of the body…..”. Then adds “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body”

We worship God with that tongue, and praise him with it. But how many folk have we come across, who do so on a Sunday; then destroy others with their sarcasm, rudeness, slander, mockery, spite and malice – outwith the four walls of the Kirk?

Most Christians would shrink back from sins like corruption, abuse, misogyny, homophobia, molesting children, or murder as being depraved or morally evil.

Yet we tolerate gossip, deceit, half-truths, put-downs, and other sins of the tongue as if they were no big deal.

James says that all such sins have their origin in (as in his words and world view) the pit of hell.

They destroy others. As a believer in Christ, we must confront these evils in ourself and be bold enough to confront them in others.

If we, who claim to be Christians, do not have that fire in our heart, that zeal in our heart, that burning desire in our heart to live for others, as Christ lived for us, then we are like the fire – fighter who has all the gear, all the equipment, all the resources, but refuses to fight fires.

The picture of a laughing little boy on a gleaming fire pole is a joyous memory which is deeply cherished, but it is nothing more than a faded picture when compared to the joyous realm of the kingdom. A kingdom which is revealed to us by a loving Redeemer, when we truly seek to love and honour God. May God give us the courage to seek to worship him in the very best way we can.

And – as a postscript that includes our putting out the metaphorical fires that engulf our world and society: injustice, bigotry, racism, homophobia, and so on.

It includes a burning desire to help end the smouldering disgrace of homelessness, child poverty, reliance on food banks for survival – and I’m sure that we can all add to that list.

We don’t just attend Church. We have to be Church. We have to do Church. With a burning desire.

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Martin Luther King Day: 20 January 2014

“One day, youngsters will learn words they will not understand.
Children from India will ask: What is hunger?
Children from Alabama will ask: What is racial segregation?
Children from Hiroshima will ask: What is the atomic bomb?
Children at school will ask: What is war?
You will answer them.
You will tell them:
These words are not used any more
like stage coaches, galleys or slavery
Words no longer meaningful.
That is why they have been removed from dictionaries.”

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Questions

Some questions…..

Why do doctors and lawyers call what they do practice?

Why is abbreviation such a long word?

Why is it that when you’re driving and looking for an address, you turn down the volume on your radio?

Why is a boxing ring square?

What was the best thing before sliced bread?

How did a fool and his money get together in the first place?

There are indeed a lot of things in this life that we just really don’t understand.

But let me take it to a deeper and more disturbing level. For example, we don’t really understand disease.  Why is a youngster perfectly healthy for 13 years of his life… and then suddenly just happens to be in a place where he suddenly encounters some germ or bacteria that invades his body and destroys it? This happens in meningitis cases.

And we don’t understand accidents.  They are so random and indiscriminate. You start out a day that is like any other day… and then something happens in a matter of seconds… and life is forever different.  You can never go back beyond that accident.

On and on we could go with our list… of things we don’t really understand.

Why is there so much pain in our world? Why do good people suffer? Why do we hurt one another? Why can’t people get along? And why do some of the best prayers seem to go unanswered?

Now, all of these difficult questions prompt us to raise yet another crucial question: What can we count on from God?  When we face the troubles of the world, the heartaches of life, the tough challenges of this existence… what can we count on from God?

Christ tells a parable – a rather strange parable. It involves two people: an unjust arrogant judge and a humble but persistent woman.  The judge ignores her at first, but finally grants her justice because she is so persistent.  She won’t give up and she won’t go away… so eventually he gives in and comes through for her.

Now that’s the parable. Jesus then makes his point and he frames it in the form of a question.

He says, if an unjust judge gives this woman justice how much more will God bring about justice for his chosen ones?

A loving God hears our struggles, hears our cries of help and then responds to them.

WE CAN COUNT ON GOD TO BE WITH US WHEN WE ARE HURTING.

A tragedy left the man homeless, widowed and fatherless. Fire had swept through his house, and all was lost. It took some time for the full weigh of the loss to descend, and when it did, he was nearly crushed.

Like Job in the O.T. he would not be comforted…When the gift of shock was lifted, anger, resentment filled every waking thought.

God had not been fair to him God had not protected his family. He had not come to him with a special visitation to explain the “why” and the “what next”.The greatest temptation was to add to his losses by forfeiting his faith.

He felt justified. No one would fault him. Some might even support him. He prayed angrily now, daring god to hurt him further, challenging him if you like.

He prayed angrily, but he prayed, and God could handle it….The anguish continued to mount until one afternoon he uttered a cry so forcefully, it could only be described as a scream. No word was spoken, just a loud angry scream against the forces of heaven and hell, as if to say, “I’ve hurt all I can, and I’ve paid my dues for love…. Help me.”….

The silence that followed was quieter than silence. A peace was evident for the first time in months.

He believed, at last, that God was caring for those he lost. That God was caring for Him. that God could handle his honest anger, his honest emotions

And God can handle all our pent up emotions, feelings, denials. He is with us in our hurt and our pain.

And, although our questions may not be answered, we can come to know him as the one who always listens, always cares.

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Lao Tzu

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Four letter word?

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Positivity

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Words

The Meenister’s Log

There was a Scottish footballer of many years ago who had a well-deserved reputation as being a hard man and a bully,on and off the pitch.

At one particular International, where the ref was French, he was at his appaling worst – hacking down opposition players in the most brutal manner.

This was before the days of yellow cards, but the French referee had strong words with him, warning him that if there was going to be a repeat of this thuggish behaviour, he’d be sent off.

Ten minutes later and a nasty foul.

Ref: “You’re off!”

Player: ” away and bile yer heid, ye bandy legged wee nyaff.

Ref:  “Thank you, but it’stoo late to apologise!”

Words, communication, misunderstanding – how do we do it?  What umbrage has been taken and what relationsships destroyed so often over a misunderstood word or words?

And so often it is so unnecessary. Words – speak them gently and kindly – and be patient; the person that you’re talking to may not always grasp the nuances of what you really mean to express. 

“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1. 

Sometimes, we have to force ourselves to speak softly and kindly. Silence, when one is attacked, is often the best method to cool wrath. Decisions made when angry, tired, or discouraged are unreliable anyway, so it is best to relax and let anger cool. And when you do speak, let it always be quietly and lovingly

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHLMGBwAbhA&feature=related

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