Saturday, 31 October 2015

With all the saints...

Hebrews 12:1-2a
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith...
To understand the present, we have to look to the past. Many of the traditions in our congregations that bewilder, challenge or comfort us today are rooted in the stories of communities evolving and growing together. Each congregation has a unique story of how it came to be in a particular time or place, how it developed its foibles and quirks and, if we want to move into the future together, we must first listen to and understand the stories of the past.
The Church of Scotland has a rich heritage, serving every part of Scotland and "furth of Scotland". Each parish has a story to share, a story to be honoured even and especially in times of change. Being reformed and constantly reforming involves finding creative ways to celebrate and, where necessary redeem the past as we move into the future.
Journeying with scripture, we gain the awareness that we do not journey alone, each of us builds on the work of another and, together, we stand in line, part of a continuum. A continuum of love, of persistence, of adaptation and of blessing.
We are empowered by the Spirit of God to continue the journey in the company of saints - the living and the dead. We are encouraged by that same Spirit to forge new paths, not with disdain for the old but out of the cognisance that God continues to relate to each new age in unique ways, inviting us on a journey of discovery.
As people of God today, we are called to honour what has gone before by following God on a new path in company with all the saints, past, present and future, discovering God, already there.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

God in the neighbourhood

John 1:14
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.

We've just moved to a new home and are enjoying exploring our new community, especially the plethora of coffee shops and restaurants.
Our daughter was excited to discover, the week after we moved, that the local Episcopal church was hosting a Pet Blessing service. At the service, our Border Collie was blessed, along with a number of other dogs, 8 cats, whose pictures were presented on their humans' mobile phones, two rabbits and a goldfish. The life of St Francis of Assisi, whose feast day was approaching was remembered and celebrated in story and song.
Over refreshments after the service, a pet psychologist was on hand to answer questions.
It was a lovely introduction to the community of pet owners living around the church and, in particular, the dog walkers, some of whom we already recognised from our outings on the seafront.
We discovered that the church has built quite a rapport with the dog walking community, providing teas, coffees and snacks on Fridays in the church hall, where dogs and their owners are welcome. It is gaining a reputation as a dog friendly church.
The leadership team saw an opportunity to connect with the community around them and have engaged in effective mission.
In discussions about the Path of Renewal,  we often speak of the need to discern what God is doing in the neighbourhood and then go and join in. That will more often be in the small and quirky than in the big and bold. It seems that, in this neighbourhood, it is amidst the doggie tales that grace abounds and love walks on four legs as well as on two.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


Mark 3:13-14
He climbed a mountain and invited those he wanted with him. They climbed together. He settled on twelve, and designated them apostles. The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out to proclaim the Word

How will we know when we have achieved what we set out to do? What will it look like? What are the markers along the way?
These are just some of the questions we have been grappling with in this discernment phase of the Path of Renewal.
For some, Outcomes are an essential part of the journey.
Others are content to proceed with less discernible direction.
In an age of quick fixes and off the shelf solutions, that can feel like a risky place to be.
Scripture gives us countless examples of journeys undertaken with no idea of the destination or even direction in some instances: The journeys of the Patriarchs into unknown, sometimes hostile, territory.
When Jesus called fishermen to leave their nets or tax collectors to leave their businesses, he didn't offer route maps or travel guides. Rather, he warned of hardship and loss. Yet the disciples were compelled to follow. Gods Spirit called to their spirits, tugging them out of all that they knew, propelling them to embrace an uncertain future.
However risky, that place of uncertainty, where we wait on Gods Spirit prompting us on, is a sacred space, filled with possibility. We cannot dwell there but are invited to sit awhile and listen to the One who invites us on this journey of discovery into and out of the communities and the neighbourhoods that God inhabits today. And, even in those spaces where we cannot see any evidence of God, we are called, simply to be, to practice faithfulness in our frustration.
At present, we may not be able to nail down the outcomes, but we can pinpoint practices that will prepare us for the journey and help us in our discernment of God's path to renewal.