Tag Archives: Assurance

Interview with Eduardo Galeano

From July/August 2013 – back page

On exile – it opened doors for me to the many worlds which the world contains.

Which political or social movement in today’s world inspires you most?

All the movements that are flowing from the indignants in opposition to the undignified; the right of indignation against indignity imposed like the fate of destiny.

Where do you find cause for hope?

From day to day, hope is incubated, little by little, and in a while will rise up to teach us to fly in the dark, like bats.

On protests against the dismissal of a judge investigating the military dictatorship

The Highland Clearances

It is the story of initial fierce resistance given by the highlanders, which would melt to defeat after the first skirmish; and noble and progressive intentions on behalf of the proprietors which would turn to brutality, cold-heartedness and sadism which saw toddlers cast out into the snow and roof timbers burned in a land where trees were scarce.  It is the story of the ship owners who starved and dehydrated clans below decks, feeding them with rotten water and promises about land in the New World which were utterly empty.


To read the story of the Highlanders after 1745 is to ask how much one people have to take – to the defeat in battle was added the betrayal by their chiefs, the prohibition of their culture, the eviction from their land by owners with whom they felt a bond, it is of the harsh winters that arrived when they were most vulnerable, the lies that they were told by their factors, the thinness of the soil on the clifftops they were given to resettle upon, the shocking sea journeys, and the arrival of first the potato famine and then cholera.


The injustice of this is shocking, the sense of unremitting calamity, the prosperity of the callous and the suffering of the innocent.  In all of this, the role of ministers and religion (Romans 13 hovering in the background and the absence of any theology which is about understanding when to resist and when to submit – I guess if we need to know the importance of theology then it is in stories like this).


There are some ministers who stand for their ability to be different from the Establishment of the Church.  There was Donald Sage, of whom (page 96) it is written:


He himself received notice of eviction.  He was thirty years of age and had been born in the manse of Kildonan beyond Ben Griam, where his father was still Minsiter.  He was a warm-hearted and generous man, weak in the ill-deserved admiration he felt for the gentry, bu strong in his concern for the common people.  His memorabilia edite and pubclished by his son seventy years later, contain his bewildered indictment of the great landowners and the policy of removals, but there is no evidence that he spoke out against them at the time, and when his people expected him to follow where they went, he abandoned them.  For this, perhaps he should be understood rather than blamed.  He had to cut his clerical cloth according to the tailoring demanded by his superiors.  He had a conscience and a sense of injustice, and they were rare enough among his profession.

Donald Sage was to have eventually emigrated with the people, but due to family pressures and other reasons which are never known, he never joined them.  Without our minister, one emigrant said once in Canada, “we would not have come!” (page 115)


There was also the stern disapproval of the Church.  The Reverend Alexander Macbean, in whose parish of Kincardine, Strath Oykel was, had not sympathy with his parishioners in their scandalous defiance of the laws of God and he threatened them with certain damnation if they continued. (page 125)


Robert Burns seemed to have a better conscience than many of the ministers.  Regarding one Alistair Ranaldson, the classic Highland gentleman of Walter Scott mould, Burns despised him for his “arrogance and his indifference to the true condition of the people.”  Yet, remarks Prebble “it is the myth created by Glengarry and by Scott that inspires may of those who drink to the poet’s immortal memory every January.” (page 144)


Another more heroic character of these times was Donald Macleod, a stonemason from Strathnaver, who fought and wrote against the evictions.  He was continually persecuted by the authorities in Sutherland, including one case when he was prosecuted by a gentleman who was also his judge.  Macleod needed an investigation into this clear injustice, but would gain little without a certificate of good character from his minister

‘he asked his minister the Rev. Mr. Mackenzie for a certificate of good character without which Loch [the representative of Lord Stafford] would waste no time on him ‘Some days after I waited on the Rev. gentleman… His manner was contemptuous and forbidding.  At last he told me that he could not give me a certificate as I was at variance with the factor, that my conduct was unscriptural, as I obeyed not those set in authority over me…


Macleod prepared his own certificate and persuaded some of the elders and parishioners to sign it, which says much for their courage.’ (page 153-154)


‘Middle class women of England and the Lowlands, who had recently had their emotions aroused by the abolition of slavery in the colonies, and by Lord Ashley’s campaign fo humane factory legislation, now gave their support (with decency and discretion) to meetings appealing for funds [to support the Highlands during the period of starvation].  Speakers from the Highlands were welcomed to Londond, and one of the most popular was the handsome, white-haired Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Norman Macleod.


He was a Highlander with a rich and musical voice that charmed more guineas from the purses and reticules of his audiences than the sense of what he said.  He was one of the few ministers of his church who was beloved in the Highlands.  He liked to roam Morven in a kilt of his tartan, talk in the Gaelic of the old days and old ways, but at the London Mansion House in March 1837, he was dressed in the black of his cloth.  He told the Lord Mayor and a great audience that when he had been a boy rent had been of secondary importance to men, but that sheep had changed all this with fearful consequences.  He was inclined to exonerate the old lairds, which was more than they deserved, but in his description of the present famine he was passionate and angry.


‘There are many parishes without meal, and having no more potatoes than sufficient to keep the people in existence for a few weeks, while a fearful portion of them are without peat to burn, or an article of food to maintain life except the miserable subsistence obtained from shellfish and sea-weed… The means of emigration they do not possess, and from their ignorane of the English language they cannot now compete with the myriads of Irish labourers who flock for employment to the Lowlands from whence the Highlanders now find themselves almost excluded.  Heaven forbid, my Lord, that I should dare to make one statement which I do not believe to be true!’ (page 164)


On the enquiries of the Duchess of Sutherland about the welfare of her people (they were starving)

The Cathedral [Dornoch] that was fast becoming a neo-Gothic nightmare.  But she was also genuinely concerned about the condition o the people.  Her ministers reassured her.  The Presbytery of Tongue, for example, headed by its Moderator, Hugh Mackenzie, sent her an address of joyous welcome.  Mr. Mackenzie had some personal reasons for joy unconnected with her visit.  During the worst days of the famine he had exchanged part of his glebe for more extensive property.  ‘But in consenting to the change,’ said Macleod [Donald Macleod of Strathnaver, an arch-opponent of the Sutherland Improvements and its agents], ‘he made an express condition that the present occupiers, amounting to eight families, should be removed, and accordingly they were driven out in a body.’ (page 165-166)


‘On one of his last visits to Strathnaver before he left the north for Edinburgh, Donald Macleod went to a service in its parish Church… a deeply religious man though fiercely anti-clerical, he was shocked by the expericne, and his description of it vividly illustrated the changes that had taken place since Donald Sage preached his first sermon to three hundred people at the foot of Rowan Tree Hill.


‘The parish Church was now reduced in size and appearance of a dove-cot.  The whole congregation consisted of eight shepherds with their dogs to the amount of 20 or 30, the minister, three of his family, and myself.  I came in after the first singing, but at the conclusion, the 120th Psalm was given out and struck to the famous tune Bangor, when the infernal chorus of hearers became excited and raised a most infernal chorus of howling.  Their masters attacked them with their crooks, which only made matters worse, the yelping and howling continued until the end of the service.’


During the cholera epidemic and potato famine of the 1830s, the Rev. Normal Macleod, a distinguished moderator, a native of Mull, and later to be the great-grandfather of Lord George Macleod, preached eloquently on behalf of the people.  Later on he would write to ministers:

‘The Reverend Norman Macleod, now Chaplain in Ordinary to Queen Victoria, was active in stimulating the charity of the lowlands and England.  To obtain material for his many public addresses, he wrote to ministers and factors all over the igland asking one question; ‘What is now doing for the poor?’ (page 177ff)


When the Rosses of Strathcarron were brutally evicted in the 1840s, they looked to Gustavus Aird of Glencalvie who “was a young man of twenty eight and new to the parish, but his influence over his congregation had been deep and strong since the first day of his arrival.  He had come in a snowstorm thirteen months before, and before he entered his little manse byt eh Black Water he had led the people in the singing of a psalm of joy.  Though he understood the bitterness of his parish and shared it, he did not believe that Kindeace intended to turn the people out.” (page 212)


These men stand as a minority, against many other ministers, who sided with the gentry, persuaded them to leave the land, who pacified protesting villagers, who persuaded them to leave their homes, that this was God’s will and a punishment for their sins, who preached little against the Lairds, who enjoyed enlarged manses and glebes for their trouble including one particularly awful example of a minister who for his support of the Laird asked that his manse be enlarged and that the families living on the land be evicted to make way for this new expansion.


The Bible Jesus Read


Next year country

Key Words Hope Future Prophecy
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 187
Quote Kathleen Norris, who lives in the farm country of South Dakota, speaks of “next-year-country,” a landscape farmers know well; next year the rains will come, next year hail won’t fall, next year winter will hold off a few weeks. Yet, continues Norris, she doesn’t know a single farmer who uses the idea of “next year” as an excuse not to get out and do the work needed now.


On apocalypticists

Key Words Apocaplypse Prophecy Future
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 187
Quote From Hans King:The apocalypticists asked about the kingdom of God, the absolute future, in the light of the present situation of man and the world. That is why they were so concerned about the exact date of its arrival. Jesus takes the very opposite line: he asks about the present situation of man and the world in the light of the imminent advent of God’s future kingdom. That’s why he is not concerned about the time or manner of the arrival of God’s kingdom.


Wisdom, wealth and might

Key Words Wisdom Money Knowledge Might Power
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 189
Quote According to Abraham Heschel, ancient society cherished three things above all else: wisdom, wealth and might. (Has anything changed since then?) The Hebrew prophets blasted all three of these values, any of which could become idols. None provides the kind of foundation a society needs; only trust in the living God can do that. The moral view of history differs markedly from the newspaper view, which tends to focus on fame and power – tokens of the very wisdom, wealth and might that the prophets denounced.


Joy beyond the walls

Key Words Joy Happiness Glad
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 194
Quote The prophects call us to a vision of a deeper, underlying reality, to “joy beyond the walls of the world, more poignant than grief” (Tolkien’s phrase). By giving a glimpse of the future, and of the cosmic present, they make it possible for us to believe in a just God after all.


Interupting ourselves

Key Words Prayer Worship Praise
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 127
Quote From Eugene Peterson, Leap Over A WallWorship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God. Worship is the time and place that we assign for deliberate attentiveness to God- not because he s confined to time and place, but because our self-importance is so insidiously relentless that if we don t deliberately interrupt ourselves regularly, we have no chance of attending to him at all at other times and in other places.

Those whose first language is numbers

I enjoy this because I enjoy statistics, and because (to paraphrase Churchill) they are the least effective method of understaning what is going on, apart from all the others.  People trot out “lies, damned lies and statistics” and “you can get statistics to prove anything you want”.  Such maxims are a license of personal prejudice and Daily Mail-esque urban myth which always seem to favour the conservative and the elitist.

Statistics are about trying to find the right indicators, manipulating the numbers intelligently and understanding the robustness of our process.

Homelessness Prayer

Homeless prayer

Key Words Homelessness Lost Poverty
Source Scottish Churches Housing Action
Quote God of justice,

Have mercy on those who sleep…
On the streets or in hostels,
on the floor or on the sofa,
in store rooms or offices
and those who know their friends’ hospitality is at breaking point,

Help us to build a farer society

Where having no home does not exclude anyone from work and health and respect.

Help us to build a society where all may “dwell in safety”

In the name of the homeless Saviour Jesus,


Expensive Defence

Expensive defense

Key Words Peace War Justice Conflict
Source New Internationalist
Quote November 2005

It is reported by the world policy institute that the The Star Wars initiative has taken up $130bn in spending and yet has failed to produce a single device capable of stopping a single missile.

It is also reported that since 9/11 80,000 people have been detained by the United States from Afghanistan to Cuba

In December 2005 George W Bush reaffirms his support for the death penalty following the 1000th execution since it was reintroduced in 1976.

To Love and Serve Humanity

I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question.  I want you to be able to say that day, that i did try to feed the hungry.  And I want to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked.  I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison.  I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.” (from Common Prayer page 226-227)

Righteousness in Romans 3

Righteousness in Romans 3 and Psalm 143 (pages 50-60)

Hays begins his chapter looking at the background argument between the dominant reading of Romans 3 (since Luther) that the righteousness being discussed is an alien righteousness imputed to the believer, and the reading put forward by Kasemann that the righteousness here is a “salvation creating power”.

Hays comes close to agreeing with Kasemann but without resource to the Qumranic sources used by Kasemann.

Hays continues by noting the antitheses in 3:3, 3:4, 3:5 and 3:7. and that each of these represent a synonymous statement about the character of God, and the contrasting nature of humanity.

Hays then summarises the logic of the chapter as something akin to

3:1-8: Has God abandoned his promises to Israel?  Is he inconsistent or just?

3:9-20: All such objections are invalid.  God, not humanity is guilty of injustice.

3:21-26 God has not abandoned his humanity.  He has not revealed his righteousness/justice in a new way, overcoming human unfaithfulness by his own power and proving himself faithful/just.

Psalm 143 invokes a salvation that will be invoked by God’s righteousness, and it is this meaning that is brought into Romans 3.

Hays concludes (page 60)

This the problem in view here is not, as Hans Conzelmann thinks, “the subjective question for salvation” but still as Romans 3:5 the issue of God’s integrity, God’s justice the persistently overcomes human unfaithfulness.

Jeremiah and the Potter

The Threatening Text

This is a threatening text,

A text that holds you at gun point and says “If you don’t behave I’m going to pull the trigger”, and then at some points seems to say “I’m going to pull the trigger anyway”

It is text that tells us the difference between God and Santa Claus

It is a text that we want to run from, and yet the greatest condemnation is reserved for those who attempt to silence it.

It shocks us out of our complacency

Takes away from any form of faith that attempts to buy God off with well intentioned gestures.

And calls us to deep change within ourselves

Invitation Potters

The text begins with an invitation for Jeremiah to go and hear the word of God down at the potter’s house.

He goes there, and he sees the potter make a pot,

And when the vessel is not good, he takes the clay again and remakes the pot,

He breaks it down and builds it up

So that it might be right in his eyes.

Creative God

The first thing I want to note is that God is like a potter

It is the point that we were making earlier

That God is a maker, a creator

One who loves to bring from nothing something

To bring from chaos beauty

Who is immersed in the life of this world

Planning, measuring, pouring, igniting, plunging, hurling, moulding

The idea is of the potter, hands covered in clay, shaping, skilfully moulding the life of the world

In a way so intimately that it’s like the way you cannot tell sometimes where the pot ends and the hand begin.

There was a debate this week in some of the Newspapers when Stephen Hawking had said that Physics had explained the big bang and there was now no need for God.

Except people just wrote back and said “Well how do you explain the thing that caused the big bang”

And no one believed that the only thing God did was light the blue touch paper for the universe, and then take a holiday of 13 billion years.  God is always creating.

And so also should we.

This is one of the philosophies behind the work of Carol Marples.

Have a look at some of these pictures here.

It is our job to be creative, and to find ways where we can create.

A life which has the creativity suffocated out of it has one of its main outlets for joy taken from it.

That is one of the reasons we want to think about creativity on Sunday.

But God’s care of creation is intimately bound up with the fact that he is the creator, the maker

Creator Makes Demands

A creator also makes demands.

You know the image of the stroppy film director, Michael Winner, making demands

You know the way that artists will rip up a canvas that is imperfect

Or a novelist will write and rewrite a novel until it is right.

It is the creator who makes demands over us.

And this is the Word of the Lord that goes with it

It is in the form of two statements of the form

If, and if, and then

If I intend to destroy a nation that I will pluck up and break it” – remember that plucking up and breaking are at the heart of Jeremiah

And if that nation at any point turns back to me

Then I will relent of the disaster”


If I intend to bless a nation that I will plant and build it” – remember that building up and planting are at the heart of Jeremiah

And if a nation becomes complacent

Then I will relent of the good that I intended to do”

This is behind the image of the prophets we have been holding throughout these last few weeks.

The wall, and the plumline,

The parts that are straight, the parts that are bent towards justice,

That parts that are bend towards compassion

Be that something as organised as the Eva Burrows

Or the quiet unassuming goodness of someone who goes in to clean for an elderly neighbour

God makes demands of us, that we be true.

That we be of the right shape

And the threat of God is against evil in the sight of God

Private evil that only God can see

Evil not as it is judged by our relaxed double standards

But the standards of God

Which are so often geared towards the vulnerable and the asylum seeker

The ones who slip through the net

As well as geared towards a kind of sacred morality that treats sexuality and life, and our bodies as sacred gifts, to be enjoyed and not be abused

That is what God the artists demands of us.

That we be truly a vessel of God.

Parking Ticket

A few years ago when I was at University, training to be a minister

A poor student for the second time in my life

I had parked my car for too long on University

And had got a parking ticket

The ticket said on it “£25 if you pay within 14 days, £50 if you pay after that”

My systems of personal organisation were not in those days the models of well oiled efficiency that surround me today, and I forgot about it;

Then one morning two weeks later I woke, worrying about the thing,

And looked at the date, it was 15 days overdue

I was distraught, £25 had become £50 entirely from my own stupidity

I was raging, not only £25 but £50 completely wasted.

Later on that morning, I did phone the parking folk at Glasgow City Council

I gave the number of my ticket, and asked the fine

“£25 she said”

I kept quiet

“Are you sure?” says I

“£25 she confirm”, and the second time I keep my mouth quiet

She then asks my address, “Flat 3/1 1 Elmvale Row Springburn”

“Thank you very much, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to put you on hold for a few moments”

As I was waiting, a friend of mine, a fellow student came along

“Who are you on the phone to”

“I’m on the phone to the parking folk.  They’ve made a mistake,

“I could barely conceal my delight”

“they’re meant to be charging me £50 but they made a mistake are only charging 25.”

“I’m not on hold and I can hear everything you’re saying” says the woman at the parking.

In the end she still let me off.

But what do we gain in moment like these, these sly moments of getting ahead

We gain the £25, we get the new phone even though it was under warranty

We get the drugs we wanted the doctor to give us, even though we keep quiet about all they symptoms

On a bigger scale we get to live in more comfortable communities,

Able to not to be confronted with the deep pain of those who lives slip through the net

On a bigger scale we might get lower taxes

And freedom to be entrepreneurs

Or travel at higher speeds in bigger engined cars

But what do we lose

We lose the shapes of the vessels of God

We lose the rightness of creation

We lose the beauty that gave the creator such delight

We lose our character

And the threat of the episode at the potter’s house,

Is that in such circumstances we will be remade.

There is a part of us that says we are beyond redemption

There is a part of us that will silence the threat

And if do that, we risk not only being remade, we risk being discarded.

Being remade is painful

Being remade is extremely painful.

For Israel they were remade, they were cast into exile into Babylon

It was a trauma that still haunts the nation today,

But curiously it was also the making of Israel

It was out of their exile that their faith was remade into the form that kind of exists in today

Much of the writing of the Old Testament comes from the pain of that time.

In Jewish religion today, the most holy book, the Talmud, exists in two forms;

The Jerusalem Talmud, the writings from the capital city

And the Babylonian Talmud, the writings of those who were remade, were thrown into exile

And do you know which of the two is the most holy,

It is the one of the exiles, the ones who underwent the excruciating pain of being remade.

I want to ask, do you know anyone who in their live is enduring excruciating pain

Who is haunted, broken

Who has lost all that they once had

Who speaks frequently of giving up, of ending it all

Who has been a source of exasperation, of exhaustion in your life for a long time

Or who has visited upon them circumstances which they have not deserved.

This is not guaranteed, but it is possible

That they are undergoing the excruciating pain of being remade

During the initial writing of this sermon yesterday we had a phone call from someone in desperate pain




And you pray, let it be the pain of the potter,

Of the spoiled clay, that has to be remade

For it is a better thing to be reshaped in the hands of the creator

Even mysteriously remade in death

Than to be left untouched, and also alone.