All sorts of good thoughts going through my mind today. Was blessed unexpectedly with a beautiful meal in “The Balmoral Hotel” in Edinburgh. Before I share anything else, they say there is no such thing as a free lunch but there is such thing as a free dinner when there are generous and kind Americans around! Thank you…you know who you are… you fed me even though we may disagree about Trump!
Well, a couple of simple thoughts for tonight from many thoughts. These are the two that seem to be coming to the surface. Thought number 1: the Saturday of Holy Week has become incredibly important to me since retiring, in a most helpful way. To be honest there are some things about being a Church of Scotland minister that I am glad to be free from now, but at the same time this has been for me a time of grieving at the loss of ability to do things that were life giving to me. In times past I have always thought of the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday as a bit of a non-event. From a watching the story point of view, there seems to be nothing interesting happening compared with Christ offering His life as the once for all Sacrifice for sin on Good Friday and the joy of resurrection Sunday. However over this last year I have come to treasure the Saturday. You could look upon that Saturday as death increasing its hold and destructiveness of Christ or you can look at it as the womb of His resurrection. At times since retirement I have concentrated on the hold of what was being taken away through ill health, but I am choosing to look upon this time now as the womb of resurrection – to what? I am not sure yet… I would encourage you to look upon dark times you have as the harbinger of resurrection even though at times it may feel as though it is darkness asserting its power. Being an “Inbetweener”, living in the Saturday rather than the Friday or Sunday as it were, is not always easy… that thought has just led to many more which I will leave for the time being….!
Second simple thought. For me it has just been a fact that what has come to mind most readily without any encouragement over this last while have been the harshest interpretations of Scripture that I have heard preached and taught over the years. Today it was, “Do you want to get well?” This was the question Jesus asked a man who had been ill for 38 years in a place where healing miracles happened regularly. I have heard this preached upon several times with a harsh interpretative key, I might even say a right-wing political interpretative key! It goes like this: “Jesus was wanting to know if the man really wanted to get well, because if he did well he would have to earn a living and face up to responsibilities, instead of living by begging and charity” etc. Unexpectedly, I felt the grief of God earlier today that his Son and His compassion has been so misrepresented by those who claim to be preaching the Scriptures. If I had asked my children when they were younger, “Do you want to go to the cinema tonight?” – which, when we were living in the far North, was a rare occasion, and costly in terms of money and time as it meant a roundtrip of over 200 miles from Thurso to Inverness and back, and prior to that 2 ferries, Stronsay to Kirkwall and back, overnight accommodation bills etc. – there would have been no thought in my mind that I was challenging them to get a Saturday job rather than simply offering them something joyful that they could never do for themselves! (Incidentally that has just reminded me of many secret trips of made at this time of the year, up to about 600 hundred miles to get the “must have” Christmas presents!) I would ask that question about the cinema with delight in my heart, despite knowing that I would have to endure “Happy Meals” at Macdonalds in Inverness! I was offering something without demanding anything in terms of changed lifestyle. The very question would be to inspire hope, joy and faith; since someone who loved them had asked that question and said what I had said to them, it was about to happen… if I as an earthly father…HOW MUCH MORE our Father in heaven…So earlier today I said goodbye to the nagging and tormenting question, “So many people have prayed for me, do I really want to get well?” I simply rest in the nearness of Christ who cares with great compassion for my well being and who recognises my not wishing some aspects of ministry back is a sign of perfect sanity rather than malingering! Of this I am certain.
What sermons have you heard that secretly have been a persistent source of condemnation to you? If they are a source of condemnation, even if they seemed to be an explanation of Scripture, they did not come from Christ. He is for us not against us in all our struggles and our weaknesses, our sinfulness and our vulnerability of body, mind or spirit. When there is truth that really does need to be faced up to he helps us do so straightforwardly rather than with riddles: “You have had five husbands and the man you are with now is not your husband”; “Go sell what you have and give to the poor.” More importantly He offers hope should we choose to accept it, the hope of the offer of living water to quench every thirst and the hope of treasure in heaven if we leave what He asks us to leave in order to follow Him. Anyone can offer condemnation and guilt. A Saviour offers hope. So, “Goodbye harsh Christ! ” was what I found myself saying to a devil masquerading as the Christ of light and love today. Perhaps you need to say the same. You will not lose the real Christ if you say such a goodbye…
Well, it is very late, but I guess if you are meant to see and read this, you will.
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