Monthly Archives: November 2010

How to prevent Church Gossip

Mildred, the church gossip, and self-appointed monitor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several members did not approve of her extracurricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.

She made a mistake, however, when she accused Frank, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town’s only bar one after noon..

She emphatically told Frank (and several others) that every one seeing it there WOULD KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING !

Frank, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away.  He didn’t explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing.

Later that evening, Frank quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred’s house … Walked home .. . .and left it there all night.

(You gotta love Frank!)

Giving Folk A Blessing

The temperature of the good doctor’s vexatiousness continues to rise as he discusses the practice of saying the Grace (2 Corinthians 13:14) at the end of the service.  This, he claims, deprives the people of “the blessing from God to which they are entitled”.

Closing the list of benedictory crimes is the practise of sharing the blessing with some not present at worship by, for example, closing with “May the Lord bless you and all whom you love.”  This is “inappropriate” because a blessing is solely for those who have been engaged in worship.

That God is so concerned about such malpractice as is page 31 of “The Constitution and Laws of the Church of Scotland”, I am not fully convinced.

Verse For A Steel Works

I was delighted when I heard back from our contact at the steelworks:

“As an aside you picked a very pertinent verse as Clydebridge made munitions for both wars and also melted down thousands of ton’s of scrap munitions army surplus, vehicles etc well after the second world war,  And now one of the current users of the steel made at Clydebridge use the steel for JCB type digger buckets ( ploughs )”

Some thoughts for Christmas

Christ Birth PlaceGraham Duffin of Loanhead has been collecting Christmas ideas for some time now.  He is keen for fresh thoughts and ideas, which at the momment are almost coming from the keyboard of the mercurial Robin Hill.  Not there yet, but hopefully coming is Robin’s account of the Christmas story containing over 60 shops names.  Robin is evasive when quizzed on how “Waitrose” was shoe-horned in there.  “Virgin” one suspects was not quite so difficult.

Anyway Graeme’s very own grotto of aposite sketches and sideways entrances into the truth of the incarnation is here.

Community, context for change

10th October 2010

Magnificent tour round the scriptures from John Ortberg.

This a talk on community, and living together, and mostly when we do such a thing we start with the ethics, with the need simply to love.

Instead what Ortberg does is ground this in the being of God, and then the plan of God (Lukan fans of Salvation history are on home ground here, indeed as we all ought to be – how come salvation history got marginalised as an idea, here’s to you Oscar Cullmann).

He begins with ancient societies – hierarchies of kings, nobles, artisans; then peasants and slaves; and the way that the king was said to bear the image of God, this is how is rule was authorised and respect was due.  And then looks at the revolutionary nature of the Genesis verse (Genesis 1:27) which is so radical in saying that all bear the image of God.

Here we pick up the idea from Tom Wright that the king used to send his image to different parts of the empire, so that the people knew who was in charge; and that the image was to represent the king.  But here it is all of us who represent the king, who bear that image.

Here he makes the central theme of the sermon that we bear the image, we represent the king, and we reflect the glory back to God and the image to creation.

Then Ortberg goes through the fall (and the break down of community and enmity between man and woman); through to the story of the Exodus and the giving of the law.

At this point a connection I had never noticed, that with Moses on the mountain top there are seven speeches from God, over seven days.  This is not the only Genesis resonance but also tabernacle (which measured only 45 feet across) in the smallness it was not mean to be the home of God, but to represent a mini cosmos.

Once again here you get the idea of glory (there are allusions to looking forward to the day when the glory of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea) and of things being finished.

Then to the life of Jesus who tabernacled amongst us (John 1:14), who inaugurated a kingdom and who declared at the last “it is finished”.

Then to 1 Peter 2 – you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood – the idea of being kings and priests is present again;

And finally to Revelation (cannot get the reference) where the people will be with God and reign with him.

And in this context, we are to be community; a community of God’s people, a royal priesthood, a chosen race, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.

Eric Liddell and Christ the King

Jesus Remember Me

21st November 2010

This Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year is called “Christ the King” Sunday.

And I don’t really get so excited about kings.

The romance has gone.

Last weekend we were staying away in Kelso in an old farm house, which was decorated with all sorts of old memorabilia of the family that had lived there.

Next to the stairs there is a box of old stuffed birds, collected by a member of the family in the late 1800s, in the farmland around us, thrushes, blue tits, great tits, and then a poignant note that says the boy who did this was killed during the first world war, as the birds died, so did he.

And then up in the room that we were in, was a picture of an old sailor on a warship, probably taken about 80 years ago, and the man is very smart, his face familiar, he looks solemn, and dapper, like his is on the ship, but that he is made for better things,

And underneath the picture it says “Edward, Prince of Wales”

It was Edward the Prince, who became a king, and then abdicated, because of his love for Mrs Simpson, and there was a sense that this man was found out, he was not found to be anything special, and history has been unkind to him, he was possibly a closet Nazi, he was somehow implicated in a notorious murder when he was governor of the Bahamas, and at his funeral the Queen Mother attended with a bitterness there, called a king, but no real magic there.

And then with William and Kate, this week, there were comparisons with Charles and Diana, the ring, David Cameron saying he that remembered (and then you could see him pausing as he tried to work out how to phrase this correctly) camping out on the Mall when “William’s mother” was married,

I remember that day seeing a poster that said “Love is…” Charles and Di

I remember being bought a ladybird book that told me all about the wedding

Some of you will own Charles and Di memorabilia.

But this time we are wiser, we know not expect the very definition of love in William and Kate,

People will not be waving signs saying “Love is William and Kate”

Ladybird books will not be read

Sales of commemorative mugs will probably still happen but probably be down.

And newspaper articles ask the question “Will they last?” should she sign a “Pre-nuptial agreement”

There is a magic in kings which has gone,

And somehow to call Christ King is to demean him

Is to lump him in with the man that abdicates and turns out to be closet Nazi

Or the one who conducts and affair for many years

Or the one who has just got married and is at pains to point out that he is just like one of us.

Jesus shepherd … yes

Jesus light of the world … yes

Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world… yes

Prince of Peace… yes

King… not so sure.

We Always Have  A King

One of the things in Christ the king Sunday is to be reminded about a curious thing in our human nature.

For all that days have changed

For all that the Romance has gone

For the declining numbers that watch the Queen’s speech

We still like to have kings.

These days we don’t want anyone deciding our king for us,

We want to choose one for ourselves – be that Eric Cantona, your particular favourite member of the Rangers or Celtic Nine-in-a-row team, Elvis, Simon Cowell or Rupert Murdoch.

We always want to give someone charge,

And odd thing

There is part of us that wants us in charge, but we like to give the respect to someone else,

And Christ the King, the whole name Jesus Christ, Jesus King

Means a realignment,

That bit that you want to give to Elvis, to the guy at work who you idolise, to Simon Cowell,

You give that to him.

To this guy.

No matter how staunch a Republican you might be,

There is a part of you that has to have a king.

And the question is, “Who’s it going to be?”

That’s what these icons are about,

They are for people to reflect on, to think about who the king is in their life

Who has their chief allegiance.

There is a telling scene in the film Chariot’s of Fire.

Chariot’s of Fire is about one of Scotland’s Greatest Sons – who is also recorded sometimes as the first Chinese person to win Olympic Gold

Eric Liddell was the son of the a Scottish Missionary.

He was an extraordinarily gifted sportsman, a runner and a rugby player for Scotland,

In the 1924 Olympics, where Eric along with the runner Harold Abrahams was one of the key members of the British team, was expected to run in his favourite event the 100m.  However, he discovered that one of his heats for the 100m was to be run on a Sunday, so he withdrew from the 100m, to run the 400m, not his preferred event.

There is a scene in the film when an Aristocratic member of the Olympic committee, Lord Birkenhead, challenges Liddell to change his mind,

He attempts to intimidate Liddell in this vast drawing room, scoffs at his faith as something naïve, as something immature, as something that real men don’t indulge in.

Birkenhead says “For King and God” and in that order.

The King is to be obeyed, but Liddell faced with his King,

Faced with the forces in his life who would intimidate him

Faced with the threat that the newspapers will be unforgiving

Faced with the threat that the sports authorities are accusing him of unpatriotism

Faced with the thread that all that he has worked for three years of his life might be lost.

He still chooses his king.

He chooses the king, the one who understands life,

The one who is to be obeyed even when we don’t understand,

Because he rules to bring the best of life to us all,

And never to deprive us.

That king is to be obeyed

And I challenge you in the moments in which you live

With your family

In what you do with your time

In what you do with your money

In what you eat

In what you think about

There are pressures to obey other kings

Other authorities nudge us and cajole us

They sometimes go under names like



“Everyone does it this way”

“I am telling you to do this”

“If I don’t do this, I will not look good”

“I have to do this because I deserve it”

“I don’t want to do this, but its more than my life’s worth not to”

When we choose the easy option over the right option.

And the reminder here, is that he is the king.

He is the one who reigns and in that reign is life.

Liddell At the Olympics

As you know, the story is that Liddell switched events and ran the 400m,

An event he had run in the past but which was not his favourite,

He qualified for the final, and was up against the favourite, the American, Schultz,

Just before the race one of the Americans, in actual history I think it was the trainer of one of the Americans, and they gave him a quotation,

It’s a quotation from the book of Samuel, 1 Samuel 2:30, in the middle of a tragedy when a family of priests exist not on truth but on bribes and corruption.

** Watch clip**

The Shock Of Kingship

The shock of kingship is not just at that their might be a life giving authority in our life

An unseen, ever present, utterly wise king whose precepts, whose rules are to be trusted.

But the shock of the story today is where that kingship is discovered,

It is discovered in a brutal place of human violence.

I don’t know what the worst of human violence is that you have ever seen,

In India once I saw a few guys getting beaten up

And it was a sight that made me sick

Made me feel utterly dehumanised just watching,

Recently I read a book about a woman from Belfast who had lived through the concentration camp at Auschwitz/Ravensbruck and who witnessed the beatings of other prisoners, and said the other inmates had to watch, and this too, this act of being witness to violence was utterly degrading

It is a scene like this that the gospels take us to,

And in this bout of violence

There is a debate about who is a king.

Five times the word for King is mentioned,

There are two versions, there are the times that Jesus is called King

And the times that he is called Messiah.

So the rulers stand and mock

He saved others, let him save himself, if he is the Messiah, the chosen one (v35)

And the soldiers join in

“Save yourself if you are the king of the Jews”

And above his head, an inscription

“This is the king of the Jews”

And the criminal saying

“Aren’t you the Messiah , Save yourself and us”

And in all this is the contrast between the king,

And the one who cannot save himself.

In the spitting, and the mocking, there is the claim

“There is no king here”

And that is the way we too often life

There is no king here,

There is no king,

Who cannot save himself

Who cannot save others.

Who cannot save me

And since there is no king

We will mock and we will destroy and we will protect ourselves

And we will protect our positions

And we will shore up our reputations but rejoicing in the downfall of others

And there is no king here

No one in charge

No one that understands what life is like in its true brutality

In the weak that get broken and the strong that triumph

That is the only law at work here

There is no other king here.

And then a thief, the kingship of Jesus is always spotted by the most unlikely

A thief says to Jesus,

“Remember me when you come into your kingdom”

And Jesus says “Today you will be with me in paradise”

There is some mighty faith, some might courage to sense that there is still a king here,

In the worst of circumstances.

Eric Liddell

Shortly after he stood on that Olympic podium and took the applause of the Parish Crowd

Liddell obeyed his king

And went back out to China to proclaim the good news of the King who had stayed him

He wrote a book for his Christian Churches.  It said each morning we should ask ourselves 6 questions

1. Have I surrendered this new day to God, and will I seek and obey the guidance of the Holy Spirit throughout its hours?
2. What have I specially to thank God for this morning?
3. Is there any sin in my life for which I should seek Christ’s forgiveness and cleansing?  Is there any apology or restitution to make?
4. For whom does God want me to pray this morning?
5. What bearing does this morning’s Bible passage have on my life, and what does He want me to do about it?
6. What does God want me to do today and how does He want me to do it?
(Coughery p. 174).

And China was not a safe place to be in the first part of the 20th Century.

Liddell was captured by the Japanese and placed in a prisoner of war camp.

Liddell arranged for his wife and children to go to safety in Canada

With the words

“Those who love God never meet for the last time.”

Eventually Eric and his fellow Missionaries, in the end over 2,000 of them were put into a tiny internment camp

The camp was a dreadful place,

But Eric’s nobility shone.

There are accounts of that period from people who were not Missionaries

Sally Magnusson’s biography searched for flaws in the Scotsman’s seemingly irreproachable character.

“I happened on a disillusioning eye-witness account of the behaviour of some missionaries in the Japanese internment camp where Liddell spent the last months of his life – tempers lost, and heavy moralising, exclusiveness and selfishness,” she recalled, adding: “The author scarcely had a good word to say for anyone, least of all the Protestant Christians [and] then I turned the page and found this:

“`It is rare indeed when anyone has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he comes as close as anyone I have ever known.’

“Of course, he was talking about Eric Liddell.”

But Eric was different

The children loved him

He built them toys

Even though he was exhausted himself, in dreadful pain because of  a brain tumour.

And in that brutal place he died

On the 21st February 1945

At the start of that day he was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp

And later that day he was in paradise,

Of Eric, it was said at his funeral

His was a God-controlled life and he followed his Master and Lord with devotion that never flagged and with an intensity of purpose that made men see both the reality and power of true religion…Our friend, whose happy, radiant face…will surely live on in the hearts and lives of all who knew him (Coughery p. 200).

Sixty years later, in August of 2005, Chinese officials, old friends and fellow inmates laid a wreath at a memorial marking Eric’s grave during a ceremony remembering the anniversary of the liberation of the internment camp.  During the occasion, Stephen Metcalf, 78, gave testimony to Eric in these words:  “He gave me two things.  One was his worn-out running shoes.”  (It was winter, and like many boys Metcalf had nothing to wear on his feet.)  “But the best thing he gave me was his baton of forgiveness.   He taught me to love my enemies, the Japanese, and to pray for them” (Spencer).

The king can be trusted

He obeyed him in front of the crowds

He obeyed him under pressure from earthly kings

He obeyed him when other missionaries around him failed to obey

He obeyed him when

And later that day he was in paradise.


The Sin Beneath The Sin

The Sin Beneath The Sin

6th October 2010

Ortberg takes the Romans 1, from verse 19 onwards, and talks about this diagnosis of the human condition.

Among his insights are:

  • The sharpness of Paul’s diagnosis
  • The blindness that many of us have to our own disorders
  • The paradox of idols – that they are incredibly weak (they can never deliver to us what they promise; yet they are so powerful and cannot be turned away from simply by our force of will)
  • An idol Quotient test (round about 19 minutes) to test our own addiction to idols
  • The contrast with contemporary psychological therapy – which is so often about finding our own solutions to the issues that we face.

Jung At Heart

It is the insistence that there is nowhere that God is not, and that where God is, life is; that lies behind Jesus insistence on the resurrection.  He could have proof texted from Daniel, but instead Jesus grounds his argument, his death and his life, in the irresistible vitality of God.

Jung proclaimed a similar insistence.  On his grave is the epigraph he chose “Bidden or unbidden, God is present.”

Abraham Is Our Father

Abraham Our Father Through Faith

Hays make a detailed, and complex exegesis of Romans 4:1 and the preceding paragraph in Romans 3.

He recasts the argument, in my mind in a way that is much smoother.

His starting point is to argue from the law that we God is one, and that he is the God of the Jews and Gentiles, and that Abraham is our Father through faith, and that we are justified (Jew and Gentile) through faith.  This is from the law, and confirmed in the gospel.

In the background is a narrow Jewish interpretation that God is the God of the Jews only and that Abraham is our father according to the flesh.

Page 73 contains a helpful paraphrase

“Is God the God of the Jews only and not also of the Gentiles?  Of course not!  He is surely the God of the Gentiles also, But that means that if God who justifies Jews on the basis of faith is consistent and whole, he must justify Gentiles also through faith.  Then through this faith are we invalidating the Law?  No!  Instead we are confirming the Law.  What then shall we say?  Have we found (in this chain of argument) that Abraham is our forefather according to the flesh – ie that we belong to the physical family of Abraham.”