Today was a day when in a quiet moment God reminded me how important it is to remember! That is one of the lessons from Psalm 42. At a time when the psalmist was not feeling in tip top condition, he said among other things, “Therefore I remember…” He remembers joyful times and somehow as he does that, hope in God is reborn.
Today as I remembered to remember, I found myself remembering 2 people in particular and as I did that, I felt a bit like the first time I saw the Niagara Falls. Morag was not with me on that occasion, and somehow the joy of the experience was lessened by the fact that she was not there to see what I was seeing. I so wished she could have seen what I saw and shared in the sheer wonder and blessing of it all. I am glad to say that we did subsequently see the Falls together! Well, leaving places aside, there are people I have met over the years that I wish all of you could have met and been blessed by. I wish you could have seen what I saw in them and been blessed as I was. Let me tell you about the 2 people I metnioned at the start of this paragraph.
The first is the minister who was my “bishop” when I did my probationary time as a Church of Scotland Minister. His name is Rev. Ian Paterson and he is now retired. I learned so much from his quiet wisdom when he was minister of St. Michael’s Linlithgow, as have many other people serving in the ministry. I was remembering one lesson in particular. There was a discussion among the elders about the introduction of individual glasses for communion. I could not believe the passion with which some people spoke, especially those who were against such a thing happening. One elder ranted, his face going red then purple, then worryingly black, as somehow he developed his case that introducing individual glasses was undermining the very existence of Presbyterianism! When he sat down, I asked myself how on earth a minister is meant to handle situations like that and people like that. Mr. Paterson looked quite unconcerned, smiled his usual smile and simply said, “Thank you. Any more comments from anybody?” I was seeing the gift of wisdom in operation, part of which we know from the ministry of Jesus is about not stepping into a trap. You don’t have to automatically go into fight mode over everything! You can avoid confrontations when they are neither helpful nor necessary. So through my time today of “therefore I remember,” I had a look to see whether I was getting het up over anything that really I could adopt a calmer approach to. So since I have looked at myself already, are you getting involved in an unnecessary fight? If you are the type of person who goes to the stake over every blessed opinion that you have, that may be a good question to ask yourself. Can you allow other people to make their comments, to have different opinions from you and be comfortable with that? Right now are you involved in unnecessary confrontation perhaps in your family, your work place or your church? Is there something that you simply need to calm down about? Perhaps your Heavenly Father would actually say to you, “Do you know what my beloved? This doesn’t really matter as much as you think.”
As I continued with my “therefore I remember” private session, I found myself thinking of the islands of Stronsay and Eday in Orkney which was my first charge after completing my probationary time in Linlithgow. I was thinking of a man called Willy. I remembered how if he met me on the roadside he would stop his tractor and speak as though nothing else in the world mattered, or at least could wait. I am remembering the laughter of sitting at a fully laden table with him and his sister eating cake after cake with laughter and without guilt. I am remembering the joy with which he spoke of his annual holiday in his childhood to the village on the other side of the 7 miles by five miles island, and of his one trip off the island to to the nearby island of Westray to buy a horse called Sheila! I am remembering when a mischief making 70+ year old lady was eventually taken on a police barge to spend a night in the cells in Kirkwall that after a good laugh Willy said with tears in his beautiful eyes, “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” I remember him too telling this city boy the names of flowers and weeds on the roadside, delighting in their colours and shape. Life always felt like a good thing after a visit to Willy of Burrowgate. He was considered by many to be an eccentric but there was no house in the island that I more enjoyed visiting. It was so much the opposite of that intensity that marked that elder I mentioned above. There was simply a joy of life about Willy that perhaps not even his fellow islanders quite understood.
As I thought about Willy I realised I had not noticed today that the sky was blue, the sun was bright. I had not noticed the beautiful baby who was looking at me smiling as I sat in Starbucks drinking my Americano. There was so much that I had neither noticed nor rejoiced in…
“Angst” does not make the gospel attractive, yet it seems a common thing among Christians. Knit-browed intensity does not really commend our claim that in Christ we have found Life in al its fullness! So as I remember Willy I want to ask you a couple of things. Firstly, are you worrying about something that Jesus never actually asked you to worry about? Secondly, did you notice today the sky or the wind or people or whatever? Did you hear the birds and notice the flowers which according to Jesus Himself are messengers saying to us, “Don’t worry, your heavenly Father knows.
Well, that is my “Therefore I remember” sharing. Perhaps tonight before you go to bed, you need to let go of undue intensity and start remembering experiences or people that brought you life. There are things of course that need to be forgotten, but in the light of this blog is God reminding you of the wisdom of the Psalmist? “Remember to remember.”
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