Monthly Archives: April 2010

I am getting worried

Most worrying of all, the Sun will still be able to claim that it won the election, having backed every winner since Thatcher.  Too much power will rest in the hands of Rupert and his son James (who curiously ranted at the Independent’s Simon Kellner on the basis that media proprietors shouldn’t attack each other).  What kind of rule is that: that the most powerful men in this country should be immune from critique; meanwhile the genuinely elected politicans, who despite everything that is muttered about expenses, do have some commitment to a better society left under the hunger for power, have to be force-fed fistfuls of shame every time they gaffe?

There is something deeply troubling about this media elite expecting immunity from criticism, whilst excoriating any politician who has earned their displeasure; or worst still in the Murdoch ladder of merit, seems that they might lose.

If we get David this twisted axis of power will be further cemented into the foundations of our country.  But even if we get David and Nick, there is a chance that it might by wobbled by the winds of genuine democracy.

Four Loves – Part 1

The Four Loves – Introduction

Pages 1-9

Began by thinking that the different between true and false love is the difference between Gift-love and Need-love.

However there are some problems with this distinction:

  1. We would not think that a child was selfish if it ran to its mother
  2. That our needs point us to what is genuine need – that just because we need something, does not mean we do not need it.
  3. That the word is love and we are fools to go against language.

Instead, Lewis takes a lead from the Imitation, that the highest does not stand without the lowest.  Later Lewis says (page 8)

“Much of the grubbiness is clean dirt if only you will leave it in the garden and not keep sprinkling it over the library table.”

Lewis also points out that if love can be Need love, than we draw close to God when we are least like God.

He also makes the distinction between “nearness to God” and “likeness to God.”  Nearness relates to our journey, our calling, the path which we must walk.  “Likeness to God” is the moments in which our loves burn intensely, we are near, we are close.  It is like travelling an alpine pass, and walking a ridge to look down on the village which is our destination.  At that point we can drop a stone onto the village, we are very close, but we are also far, and must travel far away to draw nearer to our bath and tea.

From another writer he says (page 5-6)

“Our imitation of God in this life – that is our willed imitation as distinct from any of the likeness which He has impressed upon our natures or states – must be an imitation of God incarnate: our modle is the Jesus not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands, the interruptions.  For this so strangely unlike we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions”

Martha and Mary

Jesus In The House

Luke 10:38-42

Martha and Mary

Just out of interest this morning I would like to ask who here would consider themselves to be more like Martha and who would consider themselves to be more like Mary.

A Laziness Manifesto

I was about to write this sermon this week shortly after being the bathroom of our house and discovering that there was toilet roll strewn all over the floor.

It was like we had had the Andrex puppy in.

And I did think that I have to go and prepare a sermon on Jesus and Martha and Mary, and the Jesus story is about paying attention to our devotions, so I shall just leave the toilet roll on the floor.

The big thing that prevents this being a laziness manifesto is that the parable which comes before this story is the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is precisely about doing for others and not allowing ourselves to be ignore the needs of our neighbour, in the interests of piety, purity and prayers.

With The Door Open

Last week I lost my temper with a young person in our house, in a way which was loud and combustible, and no doubt slightly terrifying for the young person on other end of that temper, and I do wonder (given that we reap what we sow) what future misfortunes will be visited on me future years, teenage years (I am thinking crashed cars, emptied bank accounts, ruined carpets, failed exams) as a result of such an outburst.

I guess what I should be also concerned about is the way that such temper passes from generation to generation, and what outbursts of temper will be transmitted to grandchildren, because they first came from me.

I have to admit that I did not think of such things too much on the day that happened.

I was preoccupied with soothing the person that I had wounded

But I was also quite worried about something else.

The temper outburst was close to the back door of the house,

And I had accidentally left the back door open,

And as I peeked round the corner of the door, I hoped and hoped that none of our next door neighbours were sunbathing, cleaning their outside windows or worst of all, cutting the hedge.

We are very careful to censor what in our houses is allowed for outside consumption.

One of the painful things about a family breakdown, or bankruptcy, or some other crisis is that it is no longer painful to keep the inside inside any more, some of it has to leak outside.

What would my neighbours think if they spent longer inside our house?

And then another question, posed by our passage this morning,

What would Jesus think if he spent some time in our house.

Jesus With Martha And Mary

The tendency that Jesus seems to spot the most in Martha and Mary is a tendency that too many of us fall victim to,

That we get so harassed by little things,

That we lose the point.

The urgent sucks us away from the important.

What are the things that suck us away from the important.  Why did Martha do what she did?

Martha Invites But Then Gets Lost

Why is it that Martha invites Jesus to her home, but then gets lost in the details of his being there.

There is something in Martha that desperately wants to do the right thing, but then struggles to be able to do that.

What is going on with poor Martha here?

I think, I guess, that she gets tormented, bothered by three different thoughts

These are some thoughts that bother her, stop her being able to relax, to enjoy Jesus.

The first question is this to Jesus “Jesus do you not care?”

When we do not feel cared for by God, if we do not feel that God somehow will protect us, if we feel that it is only our job to protect ourselves, then we will become more anxious.

One of Jesus biggest lessons about worry is that we do not realise that this is a universe where it is profoundly safe for the person of faith to be.  God has his eyes on us.

The one who does not know this – rises too early and goes to bed too late, eating the bread of anxious toil.

The second is in this relationships with her sister,

“My sister has left me alone to serve”

It is the projection onto someone else, that what for them has been a neutral choice, a decision that they did because they thought that something was best, was actually an attack on us.

Think of the last time that you felt hurt by someone, that kind of hurt you get when you think that someone that was having a go at you.

Now is it possible that what they did was not actually an attempt to hurt you,

But an attempt to do what they perceived to be best.

And the third thing, is the inability to say, the inability to tell the other what it is that hurts us.  Martha doesn’t turn to Mary and say “Mary could you help me here”

There is a fear here that she might lose the argument, or there is a need to build up allies.  So she enlists Jesus help, because this is somehow easier.

When we build up resentments, one of the first things that we have to do is build a communication channel with the person that we need to speak with,

Get a time in the diary, Get a meeting, ensure that that outlet is going to be there, otherwise there is no chance of this getting sorted,

Going through third parties is not an option.

There is an interesting dispute in Philippians, which happens in Churches all the time.

It’s between two women called Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2), who both have  contended hard with Paul for the gospel.  It is not the case that one is close to Paul, and the other is not entirely worthy or Church membership.  Both have contended for the gospel, side by side with Paul.

And now he urges them first of all “to agree in the Lord”

It is something that they are going to have to do with each other.

There is a request for one of Paul’s companions to help them,

But ultimately it is between the two of them face to face that peace must be made.

So these things are getting at Martha

–        Jesus doesn’t care

–        My sister has deliberately left me alone

–        I cannot speak directly to my sister.

And what Jesus does to resolve this, is actually to turn things on Martha, and this is what makes the story quite hard.

That sometimes we can get ourselves worked up with self-righteous anger, we think of the things that the other person might have to do to make this right

–        will an apology be enough

–        Or will a consistent month of heavy duty house work be sufficient

–        Or will be always prefer that we are the wronged party, the victim, and they the perpetrator.

And instead Jesus turns on us, and says, think what happens behind the doors of this house, that is destroying you, that is missing the best part.

What is missing the best part.

It is the propensity that we all have to lose ourselves in busy-ness,

And miss the important thing

And that causes these problems – the failure to communicate, the perception that the other has deliberately harmed us, the sense that Jesus doesn’t care.

Busy-ness makes you more liable to these things

–        failure to communicate

–        sense that Jesus does not care

–        sense that the other has deliberately hurt us.

And missing the point.

What is the point?

The point is to be with Jesus.

To live like Jesus, to be with Jesus.

That is the point.

If Jesus were to come in your back door,

What would he see, people with Jesus, people living like Jesus

Or busy-ness?

Stephen Covey in his book “7 habits of highly successful families” writes of family life being like an aeroplane.

An aeroplane when it flies from one airport to another, say for example, from London to Glasgow;

It will rarely be pointing at Glasgow.

There will be all manner of things that knock it off course.

The fact that the run way in Heathrow does not point straight at Glasgow

The fact that there is bad weather or a dust cloud

The fact that there is cloud, or rain

The fact that there are other planes in the sky.

Things happen to the aeroplane that mean it has to change course.

But because the plane knows where it is meant to be going, it knows how to change course.

The lives inside our homes are like that aeroplane.

We get buffeted off course

By money worries, by time constraints, by interruptions, by illness;

And we get buffeted by our own tendencies – the perceptions about others around us, the failure to recognise that Jesus cares

That is life.

But do we know what the course back is?

Do we know that how to correct our course

To choose the one thing that really counts

To be with Jesus

To live like Jesus.

AMEN

For forgiveness you need God

Kite RunnerJust been watching the Kite Runner (like all my films, two years after everyone else).

Like all my favourite films, this was a story of redemption.  What struck me was the way that after he rescued his nephew, and somehow atoned for earlier cowardice with the blood of his beating, and paid for his return, and the commitment to give his nephew a new life; Amir still needed to go the mosque and pray.

This is the only time we ever see Amir in worship.  I guess that what this is about is that to “make things good” (Amir’s task) and to do away with the sting of the past, we always need God.  This is a job that we cannot do for ourselves, and it is the job that God does.  “Ca c’est son metier” as Heinrich Heine famously put it.

Why Christians Should Vote Conservative

Graeme got up to ask the first question, which was something along the lines of:

“There are many things to admire in modern conservatism, and especially in the strand that you live. I am happy to have you as my Chancellor. However, there is a fundamental reason why I don’t think I can ever vote for a conservative party.

It seems to be a movement that is always thinking backwards to a better time and seems to be thinking negatively about the future and is only interested in trying to repair damage [this is the gist I phrased it less coherently at the time]. There are other political movements, although they make mistakes, which seem to want to at least try and harness the joy, the passion and the sheer potential that we have as human beings. As the song went, that Things Can Only Get Better.

I would be very interested if you could outline for me, the ways in which you think the conservative movement is able to fill us with the sense of optimism and potential that many of us felt, with the exception of the people of  Bath I’m sure [where Chris Patten lost his parliamentary seat in that election], in May 1997 [the date of the parliamentary election when the Labour party came to power after 18 years of Conservative rule].”

After first of all correcting my brother on the date that he had lost his seat (which was 1992), Patten answered along the following lines:

my favourite philosopher is Edmund Burke who highlighted cautious pragmatism ahead of promising what you can’t deliver.

I think that is perhaps the greatest appeal of Conservatism, it is about realism, it is about accepting the way things are, rather than expending huge amounts of money and effort in the pointless task of trying to get them the way they are not.

Government should at all times try to step out the way, rather than try to impose itself.

In doing this, government accepts what the parties of the left never do, that they are not God.

Biblical conservatives might list as their favourite verses in the Bible, Jesus’ answer to the tax vexed lawyers, about paying tax; and he held up a coin saying with Caesar’s face and Caesar’s inscription, that we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s;

Conservatives have a keen sense of where that dividing line is;

As opposed to socialists who want Caesar to get what is Caesar, and then try to give a little bit of help to God.

The Conservative manifesto puts it this way

“Despite Labour’s massive expansion of the state, many people’s quality of life is getting worse, not better.  The number of people living in poverty has risen in the last three years and inequality is at a record high.  We have some of the worst rates of family breakdown in the world… So we need fundamental change from big government that presumes to know best – we might add, presumes to be god, … to the Big Society that trusts in the people for ideas and innovation.”

Moral Order

The other big reasons that Christians may want to vote for the Conservative Party relates to moral conviction.  If you are of the belief that Christian Guest House owners ought to turn away gay and lesbian customers, and have the right to do that, then you are likely to find the largest numbers of friends in the Conservative Party.

It may be argued that if the Government has no role in interfering in the workings of business, new enterprises; in playing God with money, then it has even of a less of a role to play in upholding the nation’s morality.

However, the social cost of the breakdown of marriage is not just limited to the front door of the family home.  According to a recent report by the Charity Care, the cost to £1350 per taxpayer (I think per year, but that is not clear).

One idea that parties might support is to reduce the cost of a marriage licence if couples were to attend a marriage preparation course.

This might be the kind of idea which would find greater support if a Conservative government were elected.  It is not likely under Labour on whose behalf Ed Milliband states “marriage is a personal and private decision for responsible adults with which politicians should not interfere.”

If Sanctity of Life issues are at the heart of what it is to be a Christain, then voting Conservative is also more likely to appeal.

The Christian Institute also notes that in 2008, under a Labour government, parliament passed the Human Fertilisation and Embryo act which allowed the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for research, the creation of saviour siblings and the abolition of the need for a Father in IVF treatment.

Also, it might be noted that the Lord Waddington, a conservative inserted a free speech clause into the anti-homophobic hate crime legislation.  It was the absence of such a clause into the Scottish version of this legislation that recently led to the arrest of a street preacher in Glasgow.

The Charities Commission also believes that the Charities Act of 2006 also removed the presumption that religious organisations are for the public benefit, and in 2008 repealed the blasphemy laws (atheists of course allege that blasphemy is a victimless crime; Christians have divided opinions on whether the God of all the universe requires blasphemy laws, or whether society requires blasphemy laws in order to protect the whole society from the displeasure of God).

For those, who feel that smacking of children is an essential Christian issue, the institute also notes that the Conservatives opposed an outright ban on smacking of children.

Generally the conservative party has allowed its MPs freedom of conscience on all kinds of issues such as human fertilisation, time limits for abortion, and free speech in relation to anti-homophobic legislation.

It is probably my assumption that these kinds of pieces of legislation are less likely to be promoted as government policy if a Conservative administration were elected.

Your freedom to take part in society, to do your own thing, will be less limited if you are a business, or if you are a religious organisation.

Those who support the Westminster 2010 declaration, that We the undersigned are Christians who believe that protecting human life, protecting marriage, and protecting freedom of conscience are foundational for creating and maintaining strong families, caring communities and a just society.

Would be more likely to find a sympathetic hearing under the Conservative Party.

I think that is at the core of the Conservative philosophy, a commitment to leave alone, and a legitimacy which would be curtailed under a Labour or Liberal Democratic government.

God is not Santa Claus

A first basement glove

If I can’t have them all I would like to have most of them,

Yours, Eric

PS – I know there is no Santa Claus”

The transparent honesty of such requests amuse us, but such approaches to God, as Santa Claus are not what Christianity is about.  God is not some way of God meeting all the things that you want.”

Goes on to talk about God calling us to be like Jesus, and let him decide our needs, and his identity.

The Shepherd And The Butcher

There was once a party of American theological students on a tour of modern day Israel. They were accompanied by one of their professors who was eager to show them the land and its people, so that the students would have a better understanding of the land that was home to the people of the Bible.

One day the students were in the hills around Bethlehem.  The same hills where shepherds had been watching their flocks that first Christmas night.  The same hills where David had looked after his flocks and now doubt received the inspiration for the 23rd Psalm.

The professor had just explained to his students that in the Middle East the shepherd always walks ahead of the sheep, unlike our country where he always walks behind.  No sooner had his explanation finished when one of his students, one who had a contrary nature and was always wanting to catch the professor out, pointed out that coming over a nearby hill was a shepherd with his flock, and he was walking behind his sheep.

The shepherd was a little put out by this and wandered over to the flock and the shepherd to work out what was going on, and had he been talking rubbish every time he had visited the Middle East with students.

Twenty minutes later he returned to his students with a satisfied grin on his face.

“That wasn’t the shepherd” he said, “That was the butcher”

Grace and Commitment

From sermon by Ian Macaulay this morning at Queen’s Park Baptist Church.  We were on Joshua 24.  Headings were:

Past Grace

– Surprising Grace – v2

– Slow Grace – v2-7

– Mystifying Grace – v4

– Mighty Grace – v6-13

Future Commitment

– Rational Commitment – v14

– Exclusive Commitment – v14

– Considered Commitment -v19

River Runs Through It and John’s Gospel

From a sermon by Graeme Glover, bringing together John, Thomas and A River Runs Through It

Sermon – Loving without Complete Understanding – April 2010

Intro

  • There is a book I have been reading again recently called A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean.
  • You may also have read the book or even seen the film.
  • The author was already in his seventies when he wrote it and it was his first book.
  • It tells the story of Norman and his younger brother, Paul, and their Mum and Dad and is mainly set in the year of 1937, when the brothers are both in their early thirties.
  • The story takes place in Montana in the western United States, which sits on either side of the continental divide in America.
  • On one side, rivers make their way towards the Pacific and on the other they flow to the Atlantic.
  • Much of the landscape has been cut into high narrow canyons by the world’s greatest flood, which took place at the end of last ice age when the ancient glacial dams burst their banks.
  • Norman’s Dad is often in awe of the fact that there remain rocks from the beginning of time in the rivers that flow through the canyons, and that some rocks still have on them, the markings of ancient raindrops.
  • Even though the book is set entirely in America, I would describe it as my favourite Scottish book, as the Macleans Scottish background is often referred to.
  • I can also relate to the description of growing up in a manse – the son of a sometimes preoccupied, sometimes strict but ever loving Dad
  • And I can also relate to being a younger (and sometimes) rebellious brother.
  • It is a celebration of family – and all its challenges and like Norman, it is something that I can only truly appreciate by looking back.
  • The book is dominated by the family’s love of fly fishing, and fly fishing is used a metaphor for the mastery of something that requires discipline and grace.
  • Norman’s father believed that you should learn to live in accordance with the rhythms of God’s grace.
  • And so the father taught his two sons to fish Presbyterian style – by first mastering the disciplined art of casting. With their mother’s metronome he taught them to cast using a four-count rhythm.
  • It is a book, that finds grace in some of the coarsest aspects of life, and it is a book that helps illuminate today’s Bible readings.
  • John’s gospel begins with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
  • A River Runs Through It begins with these words:
  • “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favourite, was a dry-fly fisherman.”

Part I

  • Whether indeed John, was the favourite disciple mentioned in the Bible, or indeed if it was actually John the apostle who wrote the gospel, is, I believe, still conjecture.
  • The gospel starts by establishing the existence of the Word (as Jesus), the relationship of the Word to God and then that the Word was God
  • The rest of the book is spent validating this first verse.
  • By Chapter 20, we are in the evening of Easter Sunday and the disciples are fearful and in a locked room.
  • Jesus enters the room and, after he shows his hand and sides the lives of the disciples are changed forever as they see that Jesus has indeed come back from the dead.
  • After the agony and pain of Golgotha, this must have been a moment of unimaginable excitement.

Part II

  • Although, there is doubt that it was John who was the beloved disciple, there is no doubt that Paul, Norman’s younger brother, was the favourite in his family.
  • Norman – the more serious reliable older brother was much loved – but it was the younger brother lit up their lives.  At family gatherings it was always Paul who was the centre of attention through his infectious character and the way that he made those around him happy (particularly his hard-working Mum) feel happy.
  • Paul was also an artist with a fishing rod, the finest fisherman that Norman ever saw,
  • but he struggled in other parts of the life, he was often in trouble with the police and his biggest struggle was with gambling.
  • Norman knew that his brother was heavily in debt to some dangerous people and yet Norman did not know how to help him.
  • This book shows a non-fisherman such as me, that fly fishing is about thinking through answers to questions. Why is there no fish in this fast flowing stretch of water – perhaps because one large fish is keeping the others away?  Why do wet flies work in one part of a river but dry flies work elsewhere?
  • The Maclean’s are excellent at finding answers that allow them to catch fish, yet cannot find answers to the most important questions in life.
  • What they desperately wanted to do was help the younger brother Paul, but they did not know how to do this.

Part III

  • If we go back to that locked room in Jerusalem, as Thomas enters, we see someone who can inspire us in trying to find answers.
  • Thomas is of course referred to as Didymus or twin (so we know that he also has a close sibling).
  • Thomas could have been forever referred as Brave Thomas. As earlier in John, we see that it was Thomas who encouraged the other disciples to go back to Judea with Jesus to help Lazarus – despite the threats of violence towards Jesus. “Let us go also, that we may die with him” he said.
  • Thomas could also have been referred to as Thoughtful Thomas –  as it was he who had the deep conversations with Jesus.
  • However, it is as Doubting Thomas that he has become known.
  • Thomas was not in the room when Jesus appeared the first time, and so he still doubts and asks for physical proof that Jesus is resurrected.
  • A week later, Thomas is with the disciples in the same room when Jesus again enters.
  • And this time Jesus offers him physical proof of the resurrection, which allows Thomas to believe.
  • And yet this is not a negative story about a doubting Thomas
  • For what we see is that Jesus is not shaming Thomas but grace because it was not just Thomas that had doubts.
  • It seems that the other disciples required proof as well.
  • For they were still in a locked room, fearful, on Easter Sunday even though it is likely that Mary Magdalene has already told them about her encounter with the risen Jesus.
  • And it was only after Jesus had shown his hands and sides that they believed.
  • And if we were to read the great commission at the end of Matthew’s gospel – where the eleven remaining disciples are told by Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations – it tells us that some still doubted.
  • So Thomas was not alone in having doubts. And if it is fine for those who saw physical proof of the resurrection to have doubts then it is also okay for us also.
  • It is okay for those of us who rely on faith, not knowledge
  • Those of us who Jesus  blesses – who have not seen but have believed
  • It seems that God asks us to be faithful to what they are already capable of believing For example, if you and I believe without doubt in Jesus’ teaching that it is better for rich to give to the poor, Do we live this as well as we should?*
  • And that if we search for answers to our doubts then it can lead to an amazing growth in our faith.
  • For what we see, through Thomas’ doubts being met, is the most powerful and complete confession of Jesus in the gospel.
  • “My Lord AND my God” Thomas proclaims.
  • Thomas’ proclamation acknowledges that Jesus’ return to the Father is now complete, that Jesus shares in God’s glory
  • The language of this confession, in the aftermath of Easter, affirms the first verse of Johns Gospel – The Word was with God and the Word was God.
  • Although Thomas is not the beloved disciple, although he was not in the room, it was he, through challenging his doubts and questioning, that recognised Jesus as being Word and God.

Part IV

  • A key moment in a River Runs Through It is a fishing trip that Norman and Paul take with their now elderly father.
  • At the end of a perfect day, Norman sits with his Dad on a bank as they listen to the river go by and admire Paul as he fishes.
  • Norman’s dad is reading a book and it becomes clear that he is reading that same first verse of John.
  • “In the part I was reading it says that the Word was in the beginning, and that’s right. I used to think that water is first, but if you listen very carefully you will hear that the words are underneath the water.”
  • The climax of the trip is the joy they share in watching Paul catch a big fish –
  • Norman’s final memory is of his brother, the artist, with a broad smile, dripping with water, holding a fish.
  • Just give me three more years to think like a fish – says the master fisherman
  • However, Norman goes on to say:
  • A river, though, has so many things to say that it is hard to know what it says to each of us. As we were packing our tackle and fish in the car, Paul repeated, “Just give me three more years.” At the time, I was surprised at the repetition, but later I realised that the river somewhere, sometime, must have told me, too, that he would receive no such gift. For, when the police sergeant early next May wakened me before daybreak, I rose and asked no questions. Together, we drove across the Continental Divide and down the length of the Big Blackfoot River over forest floors yellow and sometimes white with glacier lilies to tell my father and mother that my brother had been killed and his body dumped in an alley.

My mother turned and went to her bedroom where, in a house full of men and rods and rifles, she had faced most of her great problems alone. She was never to ask me a question about the man she loved most and understood least. Perhaps she knew enough to know that for her it was enough to have loved him. He was probably the only man in the world who had held her in his arms and leaned back and laughed.

  • Norman and his father frequently question what happened as there is so much they do not understand. Is there anything they could have done to help. Eventually Norman comes to the conclusion that “you can love completely, without complete understanding”.
  • “That I have known and preached” says the retired minister.

Part V

  • What both Thomas and Norman does is probe the relationship between that what is constant and this is temporary.
  • They both ask questions about things that are temporary – whether it is flight of a fly or the passage of nail through someones hand, or whether it is about a death it makes little sense. It is through asking questions about temporary things that they discover the depth of what lies beneath everything.
  • What Norman Maclean, like Thomas before him, comes to realise is that “through it all, through us all, through life itself, there runs without end a river of grace. It is grace sufficient for us to love completely even when we do not completely understand. Through all the mirth and mourning of our lives, all the grief and gladness, runs the river of grace. Sometimes it seems like only a trickle and, at others, a flood. But it, the deep river of God’s grace, never dries up”**
  • It is through questioning the temporary that we come to understand more about the constant.
  • Norman tells us that, as kids, each Sunday afternoon, before they were allowed to go fishing, he and Paul had to study the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
  • I do not know if any of you at Sunday School ever had to study the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It was originally to educate church members and contains 107 questions and answers.
  • However, Norman says, our father never asked us more than the first question in the catechism: “What is the chief end of man?” “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever” This always seemed to satisfy him, as indeed such a beautiful answer should”.

  • As we heard earlier, Psalm 150, the last Psalm in the book, is this call to praise God
  • Where all the voices of heaven and earth join in with triumphant music.
  • The final Psalm is an eloquent reminder of the book’s pervasive message: to praise God is to live and to live is to praise God.
  • Our praise to God should be through living true to the faith that we already have, and continuing to live a life that seeks answers where there is doubt.
  • Our praise to God should be to enjoy God through the world around us – whether that is through fishing, or gardening or walking
  • Our praise to God should be through appreciating the gift of dear family or friends
  • And as Norman Maclean shows us, our praise to God should be through remembering that we are never too old to be filled with the vitality and possibilities of God
  • Because in praising God, even when we do not completely understand, we are fulfilling the meaning of the Word.
  • The Psalms close with these words…Let Everything that has breath praise the Lord. Hallelujah!!
  • Norman Maclean finishes his book with these words:

  • Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.

Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn’t. Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.

Jesus Christ, the died on a cross and was rose again told us that “Who ever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within them”.  Amen.

* Taken from a sermon by John Ogbert ??

** Quoted from a Sermon: (based on Revelation 22: 1-7) by Revd Thomas A. Sweet

*** Much notes re Psalms adapted from Albert Weiser.


Keep Me Reasonably Sweet

17th Century Nun’s Prayer

Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will some day be old
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject, and on every occasion
Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.

Make me thoughtful but not moody: helpful but not bossy
With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all,
But thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details
Give me wits to get to the point
Seal my lips on my aches and pains:
They are increasing and of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by
I dare not ask for grace to enjoy the tales of other’s pains
But help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for growing humility and a lessing cocksureness.
When my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet:
I do not want to be a Saint- some them are so hard to live with
– but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places,
And talents in unexpected people
And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

AMEN