Saturday, December 04, 2010

Pause for Thought
BBC Radio 2
Saturday, December 4th, 2010

When a trench was dug through the ancient hill fort at Megiddo in Israel at the beginning of the twentieth century it revealed 26 individual layers of settlement separated by what were called “destruction layers”. New cities were built on old ruins. From the top you can look out over the Jezreel Valley and imagine the armies massing out there. You can imagine the fear which must have gripped the defenders - at least 26 times.

I could go through a family photo album with somebody of my father’s generation and he would point to pictures which represented moments in his family history when it appeared that the end was nigh. Hopes and plans had been dashed. Efforts had come to naught. He might have felt, at various moments, as if he lived in the shadow of impending doom. When you’re in the midst of it, it feels like the end of the world. You can’t visualize what life afterwards will look like.

If you walk down through the steep tunnel into the heart of the hill fort at Tel Megiddo you see a remarkable thing. You walk by a spring of water, captured and enclosed thousands of years ago by the hill fort – a free flowing spring - the original reason why Neolithic people first chose this little hill to live on.

More often than not you’ll see a small frog perched there by the edge of the water. In such dry and inhospitable surroundings baked by the sun and blown by the wind it’s the last thing you’d expect. But they’ve been there all along.

There’ll be a healthy dose of “end of the world language” in the Scripture readings in Church throughout the Advent season. It helps, though, to flip ahead a few pages and remind yourself that there are both books and history which follow. The germ of something good survives and resurfaces later. Life, with its testament to God’s abiding presence through history, hope and promise survives and endures.

Solomon and Ahab, have come and gone. So have Pharoah Thutmose III and the Canaanite Confederacy, the Ottoman Turks and General Allenby.

The frogs have seen them all off

An audio link is available for a limited time HERE. PFT begins at 0:21.41 - a little ways along the audio bar.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Bishop will arrive!

Our Bishop is paying us a visit at St Mungo's and St James on Sunday morning. Two baptisms of children "of riper years" and a confirmation (our Stewart) will take place on Sunday at St Mungo's, West Linton at 10:00 a.m. There's an opportunity to meet Brian and Lissa over a bacon butty at 9:15. At St James', Penicuik there will be four confirmations (three teenagers and an adult) and one Reaffirmation of Faith by an adult. I'm anticipating that our 11:00 service will begin ten to fifteen minutes late. A stand-up buffet will follow in the Church Hall.

The preparation has been done, the service has been rehearsed with the young people. They know what they're to do and say.

I hear rumblings of food being prepared in copious quantities.

Problem is the snow.

The bishop's trip to a neighbouring congregation was cancelled last week due to the inclement weather.

This is not to be the case here.

We have two landrovers on call - one to transport the Bishop and his wife Lissa from Edinburgh and another to transport an organist and her husband from Peniicuik to West Linton.

Our numbers may be a little depleted - I hope not too depleted. 18 people trudged up the hill through the snow in boots and hats for choir practise last night looking like Newfoundland fishermen. It can be done. It will be done! We are a doughty lot here outside the Edinburgh Bypass.

Where others succumb we will thrive! We will get our bishop here by hook or by crook.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Mixed in with undiplomatic comments - by diplomats - may be some top-level secrets amongst the 250,000 diplomatic cables shared by the online source Wikileaks.

The volume of the material means that it will take weeks for commentators, journalists - and even some experts - to know what of the material is just embarrassing or whether dangerous and destabilizing information is now in the public domain.

We’re told that 2.5 million people – employees of the U.S. government – already had access to the secure source where these documents originate. That circle of people, who could be trusted to keep shtum however, didn’t include you and me. It didn’t include the major newspapers.

In every company, or extended family, or voluntary organization there is the truth which is known but is never spoken about. You would be considered na├»ve or even destructive were you to pipe up at the dinner table or board table and say what was already in the back of everybody’s mind. Someone, though, might be glad that the truth had finally been articulated even if it caused a major ruckus.

Jesus spoke rather a lot of truth about the powerful – like Herod, the High Priest and Pontius Pilate. He also spoke about the weakness of his own followers. His comments made of Jesus the sort of person who spoke the truth outside the inner circle and one who could not reasonably be expected to keep silence about what a lot of people already knew.

We've all got secrets. And they’re not necessarily shameful ones that ought to be known. Some of them are quite useful secrets. We know things – people tell us things – which we keep to ourselves - because the damage done would be worse if the thing were told.

But the balance between discretion and openness is something which must be periodically tested.

To see what happens when the thing is known as, shortly, it may well be in this case.

An audio link is available for a limited time HERE. TFTD begins at 1:21.44 - about halfway along the audio bar.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's a snow day in Penicuik!

We'd had some snow prior to Sunday's service which dampened our crowd somewhat for the First Sunday in Advent and the Annual General Meeting. But the roads were gritted and the sky relatively clear.

So when the young people at Sunday evening's Confirmation class announced that school was being closed the next day I looked out the window and saw at least two stars and figured they were "at it".

I texted the head teacher and got the reply that, in fact, this was the case. No school today.

And yes, we had a large dump of snow during the night. Now I hear that there's no school tomorrow either.

I've moved my car down to the more-usually-gritted road in the centre of town since I have to be in Edinburgh for 7:00 in the morning. If it's terrible I might catch a lift with the doctor down the road who has an early clinic in town and has a vehicle with four wheel drive and snow tires.

Mrs Rabbit has taken a "carer's day" today and tomorrow. Normally quite duty-bound she's the one who's usually at her post when other people have "carer's days" or days off for this and that. What with today's dump of snow there's really nothing for it but to put the music on, wrap presents and make Christmas cookies.

The dogs are fine with the snow.

The ducks, on the other hand, have very short legs, and really don't appreciate having to wade through the deep snow snow in order to get to the water bucket which has replaced the usual ample wading pool where they preen and make themselves ready for the day.

By the end of each year's snow season they are positively depressed

The Step-Rabblet has been over shovelling an elderly neighbour's drive today and has been up on the hill with his chums sliding.

All appears well.

St Eulalia is the patron saint of snow. A young convert to Christianity she was tortured and executed during one of the persecutions of Christians under the Emperor Diocletian in the early days of the Church.

Cast out into the street following her execution, snow fell upon her to hide her nakedness and to reveal the spotless nature of her sainthood.

It doesn't sound to me like she's the sort of saint who can be appealed to for her intercessions to restore children to their much needed education and spouses to gainful employment though.

It sounds like the snow was a good thing.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pause for Thought
BBC Radio 2
Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Some people change their minds a lot. Some people never change their minds.

Some people who never change their minds have a rugged set of opinions that they’ve come by honestly and which have stood the test of time. Good on them for not changing their minds.

Others – well, we’re still searching for our road in life and a few false starts and redefinitions are bound to come our way. Good on us for not being so stuck in our ways that we can’t change our minds.

A couple of years ago I had the occasion to walk along what is probably the very beach on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus called his disciples. The story has it that they were in their fishing boat with their old dad and were about their business – repairing nets and sorting lead weights - when Jesus spoke with them. They left their work and went with him.

The art of putting things in convincing words is called rhetoric. Years ago people knew the rules. It was important who the speaker was. It was important that the speaker knew who his audience was. But what he said was important too – the germ of the message. Without the last of these three it’s possibly only manipulation.

In one of the first black-and-white silent movies to treat the Gospel stories, Jesus approaches fishermen who are casting their nets into the lake. He raises his hands in the air and you see his lips move. The fishermen immediately drop their nets and put their arms out – walking out of the lake toward Jesus more like zombies in Night of the Living Dead than people who have heard something convincing enough to make them change their course in life.

I don’t think it worked like that. I think that he said something to them there on the lake shore which made sense.

If there is no word out there capable of motivating us – no idea that could conceivably seize us then all we’ve got to hand is what we’ve always had.

That, it seems, would be a lonely state of affairs

in a world where we are not alone.

An audio link is available HERE for a limited time.
PFT begins at 1:15.42