Tag Archives: Feminism

It’s about joy, stupid

And Jesus had this way of transmitting this acceptance – and from his fullness we have all received.

From Dallas Willard:
“Joy is not pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of well-being.  Hope in the goodness of God is joy’s indispensable support”

Joy is not a pleasure.  Not a mere sensation.  Not just feeling happy in the moment because of something that’s going on.  it’s a pervasive and constant knowledge of well-being that all ultimately is well with me and not just with me but with all things.  That’s joy.

Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord” and Nehemiah says “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

2. Sustenance

It is important to engage in the things that cause us to be sustained – worship, scripture, friendship, finding the things that give us joy.  For Jesus this included partying with non-religious people.

3. Significance

The idea of significance is that I was made to make a difference beyond myself.  Satan’s temptation was to find the significance outwith the identity of God.

4. Achievement

For Jesus this is “my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to do his work.”

Jesus tells us all these things so that our joy may be complete in him.

Our temptation is to reverse the cycle, to begin with achievement, then significance, then sustenance, then identity.  Jesus reverses this which is why he was able to sustain massive personal rejection.

Comes back to this phrase “In a little while”, in a little while we will  receive all the answers.

Bultmann “It is the nature of joy that all questions go silent and nothing needs explaining.”

In a little while our joy will be complete.

Grace Alone

Or looking good. How attractive enough. Comparison with George Clooney.

Grace is enough. Paul in Ephesians 2

What would grace say to this area ? Stop

All this success looks like idolatry

In the bible the opposite of grace is salvation by works. It is ironic that a generation that does not believe in God still believes in salvation by works.

Grace is good news but it is not soft. It teaches us about sin. Amazing grace it was grace that taught my heart to fear

Grace would say that that uneasiness you feel cannot be healed by achievement or messages of self esteem. You need to be saved by what sin is doing to your soul.

Tell story of girl who disobeyed. Girl says you had better spank me now because I have disobeyed. The human will has rebelled.

And we have just got used to this world because it is all of us.  But god never gets used to it. Never says that’s okay. Gods standard is the sinless position in which he dwells. In gods eyes sin is the real horror of our soul.

Reads list of sins and asks people to honestly deal with where they are.

Spiritual sanity begins by saying something is broken in me

Grace came one day (John 1)

All have sinned (Romans 3)

Grace would say you can have the acceptance you have always craved. Just humble yourself and check out of the culture of performance.

You can affirm this and still not be a follower of Jesus.

Take a pencil out. What does it mean to give my heart to God.

My only hope is this man Jesus.

I want to receive your forgiveness and love and I want to surrender.

I want God to fly the plane

Jumping Off A Cliff


The ultimate “I can’t believe I haven’t died moment” still awaits us, and belongs says John – “but to those who did believe he gave the right to become children” – to those who have faith.  To have faith is to jump.

My favourite illustration still remains Indy in the Last Crusade.

And some fine poetry from Michael Symmons Roberts’ “Anatomy of a perfect dive” (From “Corpus”, page 67).

…Feet on the brink.  Avoid brushing earth
from your soles.  Some trace of it

can cross the border with you;
flecks of other people on your skin and hair,

…reach up with your arms, as if this was
less dive, more surrender,

less surrender, more ascension. Stretch
until your heels lift from the sandstone

…You’ve left the world. There. The land
was thin.  The land,
let’s be honest, was dying.

…Technically, this is the crux.
You are living a half-life between

two elements.  You may wish at this stage
to be photographed or painted.

Now you know what your solidity is for:
so gravity has something to work with.

Old Year Sunday

The first was to imagine an edition of the X-Factor, and against the backdrop of this year’s show where viewers were urged to vote for Mary and save her from going back to Tesco.

So imagine the X-Factor, we have just had the theme, the sonerous voice-over, the reminder that the contestants will giving the performance of their lives, the portentous background music of Carmina Burana, Dermot appears, talks up the show, and then announces the arrival of the X-Factor judges.

The dry ice-pumps, the doors draw back, the fireworks descend from the ceiling, and the judges appear.

“Louis Walsh” says sonerous voice-over man – Louis grins inanely

“Danni Minogue” – Danni smiles, savouring the moment, she might not be here next year,

“Cheryl Cole” – Cheryl stands, salutes her an public

and “Simon Cowell” – the camera cuts to empty space on the stage, dry ice, sparklers but no Simon.

Dermot rushes onto stage, an envelope is thrust into his hand, Dermot opens the envelope, white with shock, reads out it’s contents.  Simon has left the show to spend the next thirty three years working on a checkout at Tesco.

The other illustration related to the news that 14,000 families had been displaced fleeing violence in the Ivory Coast.

I had shown my concern about the situation by making the effort to drag my mouse across other more frivolous stories on the BBC webstie to click on the headline.  Furthermore, in a remarkable demonstration of International solidarity, I had pressed paged down repeatedly to reach the end of the article.

If I wanted to demonstrate further commitment, I might endeavour to send some money.

I may even take out a direct debit, to ensure my giving was regular.

If I was even more commited I might undertake to pray on a regular basis for the people of the Ivory Coast.

If the depth of my love stretched to its limit, I might choose to leave my job, my family, my home; I might invest my remaining savings in a flight to Nigeria and then on to the Ivory Coast, and resolved to spend the remainder of life with the people of Sierra Leone.

As I left, people might comment, “See how much he cares for these people.”

What must the angels have said the day that the Word left the side of the Father to enter the womb of Mary.  “See how much he loves those people… see how much he loves.”

And nine months later they sang

“Glory God in the Highest and Peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

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.

Fear Of Religion

Jesus among Other Gods

His tug on my life

His name and his tug in my life mean infinitely more now than they did when I first surrendered my life to him.  I cam to him because I did not know which way to turn, I have remained with him because there is no other way I wish to turn.  I came to him longing for something I did not have.  I remain with him because I have something I will not trade.  I came to him as a stranger.  I remain with him in the most intimate of friendships.  I came to him unsure about the future.  I remain with him certain about my destiny.  I came amid the thunderous cries of a culture which has three hundred and thirty million deities.  I remain with him knowing that the truth cannot be all-inclusive.

(Page 6)

India has the veneer of open-ness but it is highly critical of anything that hints at a challenge to it.  It is no accident that within that so-called tolerant culture was birthed the caste system. (page 7)

From Oscar Wilde

For he who lives more lives than one

More deaths than one must die…

How else but through a broken heart

May Lord Christ enter in?

(Page 16)

Where do you live?

(Page 24)

Where do you live? Seems the most absurd question (John 1:35-42). This was a serious investigation through a seemingly absurd question.

Heaven and hell (Page 36)

From C.S. Lewis

Heaven understands hell and hell does not understand heaven… To project ourselves into a wicked character, we have only to stop doing something and something we are already tired of doing; to project ourselves into a good one we have to do we cannot and become what we are not.

Virgin born (page 38)

The popular talk-show host Larry King was once asked whom he would choose, if he had the choice to interview one person across history.  Larry King replied that he would like to interview Jesus Christ and that he would ask him just one question: “Ar you indeed virgin born?”  “The answer to that question”, said King, “would explain history to me.”

From G.K. Chesterton (page 46)

A child in a foul stable

Where the beasts feed and foam;

Only where He was homeless

Are you and I at home:

We have hands that fashion and heads that know,

But our hearts we lost – how long ago!

In a place no chart nor ship can show

Under the sky’s dome.

To an open house in the evening

Home shall men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome.

To the end of the way of the wandering star

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all mean are at home.”

Suppression of the evidence (Page 50)

The scriptures categorically state that the problem with such people is not the absence of evidence; it is rather the suppression of it.  The message of Jesus Christ shifts the charge of insufficiency from the volume of evidence to the intent of one’s will.

(Page 50)

Notice for example the words of Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy of New York University.  This is how he explains his deep-seated antipathy towards religion…

In speaking of the fear of religion.  I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility towards certain established religions… in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines… Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition… I am talking about something much deeper – namely the fear of religion itself… I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed I know are religious believers.  It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally hope there is not God!  I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Love one another

God Is Not Seen

John 13:33-35

One of the hardest things about having faith,

Is that it is faith in someone which is unseen.

I don’t know if you have every prayed the “God if you there…” prayer.

One of the best ways to maintain faith in God is to say “God if you are there, I would like you to let me know.”

But there is a close relative of that prayer, the “God, give me a sign prayer”

God if you are there, give me a sign

God if you are there, let this free kick go in the back of the net

God if you are there, let this drive stay on the fairway,

God if you are there, let this coin land heads

God if you are there, move this tree.

God if you are there, please just show up

God chooses not to be seen.

And we say why, why be such a difficult puzzle.

The response would seem to be that if God is seen, then we would be blown away by God,

If you were to go to a desert on the equator, and have the sun directly above you, that would be hot, it would be like having a 1kw heater on to you, that’s the heat of a the sun, about 1kw heater on to every square meter of the earth.

In fact it’s not just the earth, but the this huge sphere of 1kw heaters.

In fact I worked out that this is probably 235,000 million million million heaters on the sun.

In each galaxy there are 100 billion stars.

So that then makes 23,500 million million million million million heaters in the galaxy

Hubble deep field took a picture of the sky, one 5p piece at 75 feet.

And took a photograph to see how many galaxies in that spec of sky

10,000 galaxies, not stars, galaxies.

Which led them to estimate that there are 125 billion galaxies in the universe.

So the number of heaters in the universe,

2,945 million million million million million million million heaters in the universe.

And that is just a speck in comparison to the power of God.

So that is why we cannot see God.  We would need more than sunglasses to deal with the power of God.

No one has ever seen God.

Two places where John cries out

“No on has ever seen God.”


No One Has Ever Seen God – Part 1

And the first one, in John 1:18

“No one has ever seen God, it is God the only son, who is at the father’s side he has made him known.”

Jesus lets us see God.

And you are saying, that is a cop-out, because we can’t see Jesus.

It’s not a total cop-out, because he is written about here

By people who were convinced that he had risen from the dead.

No One Has Ever Seen God – Part 2

But there is a second part,

A second moment when the writer of John, or someone close to him

Write “No one has ever seen God.”

And it is in a letter that they wrote, in 1 John 4:12

No one has ever seen God

And you know that behind this lies all the “God if you are there prayers”

“No one has ever seen God”

But if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us.

God Has So Ordered The World

God has so ordered world that we cannot see him, directly.

But there are two avenues, two paths to seeing of God.

  1. is Jesus – no one has ever seen God, it is God the only son who is at the father’s side, he has made him known
  2. is love- no one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us.

Jesus and love

Or 785 million million million million million heaters. Plus

Another Word For The Heaters

Now another word for those 2,945 million million million million million million heaters Plus

Is “Glory”

When the shepherds in the Christmas story saw the angels, the Angels first of all said “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to all God’s friends”

And then the glory of the Lord shone around them.

Not the full amount, but a hint of glory, is on the very limit of what humans can bear.

And it is that glory that came in Jesus.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory.

Jesus Is About To Leave

The passage we read this morning, is from the last moments that Jesus has with his disciples before his death.

And the glory is about to disappear in a way that is painful.

Do you remember a few weeks ago we spoke about the story of Eli and him dying, and his sons dying, and his daughter in law dying

And in this painful moment, what do people say “Ichabod”, the glory has departed

That’s what is about to happen here.

The glory is about to go.

Now the Son of Man’s glory is revealed; now God’s glory is revealed through him. 32 And if God’s glory is revealed through him, then God will reveal the glory of the Son of Man in himself, and he will do so at once. [1]

Like a firework, a roman candle, that burns brightest before it burns no more

My children, I shall not be with you very much longer. You will look for me; but I tell you now what I told the Jewish authorities, ‘You cannot go where I am going.’ [2]

And they are about to hit the “No one has ever seen God problem” again.

You have the glory

And you have Jesus

And in that you know God,  perceive God,

God if you are there, — oh there’s Jesus

And then Jesus is gone, so what are you left with,

You are left with “Love one another”

And this is what Jesus says

“And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”[3]

You will love

And you will know that I am there, because it is the love that I have for you that you live out for others.

And others will know

They will pray the “God are you there prayer” and instead of the tree moving,

Or the free kick going into the back of the net

They will see these people who love each other,

In shocking, stunning, unpredictable ways.

They love, they love, they love

Only Jesus could have let them love like that.

I have shared with you many times one of my favourite quotations from Minutius Felix, someone who hated Christianity and the Christians:

*** Quote here from Minutious Felix ***

These Christians, they loved, they loved.

They loved one another as God had loved them.

Crudely put, God has a three way choice, to reveal his glory, himself

  1. A lot of heaters 2,900 million million million million million million million – a lot heaters, a lot of burning
  2. Jesus – and for 33 years, that is exactly how he did that, and in the stories of Jesus, and in the Spirit of Jesus, this is what God continues to do;
  3. Love – in us.

God wants us to love

To show that we are Jesus’ disciples.

We Are Never Going To Manage That

I reckon that when the disciples heard that the glory was going,

That there no longer 2,900 million million million million million million million

That there is no longer going to be Jesus arguing with Pharisees and healing blind men, and spotting the potential in the outcast and walking on water

Now the burden of bearing witness to God is going to fall on you

They thought, We are never going to manage that?

Jesus – after you have gone, half of us are never going to see each other again

Jesus – you have no idea how hard I find it following you

Jesus – it is obvious that people have fallen in love with you, when we are around, they are going to disappear

Jesus – I don’t mind loving some of the people that are in this room with me, but no way I can handle it with all at least five of them, we have so little in common, and when they speak I cannot believe how daft they are, how pointless their words, and how blinded are their egos.

Us doing the job of the heaters – no chance.

But Jesus reckons we can do it.

It’s like Roy Hodgson at half time says to Fulham, very simple, you can do this.

Jesus is the same, you can do this, this love.

And The Christians did.  They loved.

Love is what you do for close family, and you extend it out:

‘When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore.
So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.’

Rebecca- age 8

‘When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.
You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.’

Billy – age 4

‘Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.’

Karl – age 5

‘Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.’

Chrissy – age 6

‘Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.’

Danny – age 7

‘Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.
My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss’

Emily – age 8

‘Love is what’s in the room with you if you stop opening presents and listen.’

Bobby – age 7 (Wow!)

‘If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,’

Nikka – age 6
(we need a few million more Nikka’s on this planet)

‘Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.’

Noelle – age 7

‘Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.’

Chris – age 7

‘Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.’

Mary Ann – age 4

‘I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.’

Lauren – age 4

Yesterday I was at a wedding in Fife.

And we thought about three days.  We thought about yesterday, the day they were married, and love is easy on that day.

And then there would be another day, when they would wonder if yesterday was a good idea, and love would not be easy on that day.

And then there would be a third day, a day with God, a day of reckoning, when all the love would be witnessed and they would know something on that day, They would know the worth of love.

And we too will be there on that third day, those who have faith,

And we will see the worth of love:

In Fife

And we look back on life of life we will say that the best of energy was given to the noblest of callings

When we discover that a thousand small kindnesses amount to magnificent beauty

That in the choice to love, we touch the very fibres of the meaning of life

That in the giving to the other we discover the joy of cherishing, passionately holding, , being bound to someone other than ourselves.

That love does not shirk sacrifice, does not aver pain, but always emerges victorious.

That love forges us, births us, hews us, renews in a better likeness of our maker

That the seemingly fleeting moments of love are written into the history books of the universe

The love is the path to the deepest joy, the most courageous hope, the finest life.

That we at our most, when we love most,

And someone might just come to us, to us a congregation and say

I knew that there was a God,

Because you loved.

[1]None: Good New Translation – Second Edition. electronic ed. : : ,, ., S. Jn 13:31

[2]None: Good New Translation – Second Edition. electronic ed. : : ,, ., S. Jn 13:33

[3]None: Good New Translation – Second Edition. electronic ed. : : ,, ., S. Jn 13:34

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


  • 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.

Ordinary Things

These I have loved:
White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,
Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, fairy dust;
Wet roofs, beneath the lamplight; the strong crust
Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food;

Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood;
And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers;
And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours,
Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon;

Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is
Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen
Unpassioned beauty of a great machine;

The benison of hot water;
The good smell of old clothes; and other such–
The comfortable smell of friendly fingers,
Hair’s fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers
About dead leaves and last year’s ferns. . . .

Dear names,
And thousand other throng to me! Royal flames;
Sweet water’s dimpling laugh from tap or spring;
Holes in the ground; and voices that do sing;
Voices in laughter, too; and body’s pain,
Soon turned to peace; and the deep-panting train;
Firm sands; the little dulling edge of foam
That browns and dwindles as the wave goes home;
And washen stones, gay for an hour; the cold
Graveness of iron; moist black earthen mould;
Sleep; and high places; footprints in the dew;
And oaks; and brown horse-chestnuts, glossy-new;
And new-peeled sticks; and shining pools on grass;–
All these have been my loves. And these shall pass,

Whatever passes not, in the great hour,
Nor all my passion, all my prayers, have power
To hold them with me through the gate of Death.
They’ll play deserter, turn with the traitor breath,
Break the high bond we made, and sell Love’s trust
And sacramented covenant to the dust.
—-Oh, never a doubt but, somewhere, I shall wake,
And give what’s left of love again, and make
New friends, now strangers. . . .