Today's PAYG was based on Matthew 16: 24 - 28:
Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’
The reflection focussed briefly on "what will it profit them if they gain the whole world bur forfeit their life?" and asked about the temptation to 'sell out'
There is no getting away from the fact that the next few weeks in Scotland are going to see massive media coverage of matters relating to the upcoming referendum on Independence. Emotions are already running high in both 'camps' and I have folk at church equally strongly committed to each view for all sorts of reasons, some more 'heart', some more 'head' some more 'fear' some more 'equality' some more 'it ain't broke' some more 'it's utterly broke', and so on and so on. As an 'undecided' (apparently we account for 7% of the population) I find it really hard... people I love of both views telling me how the other side is dishonest or devious, or that they haven't heard the views that I refer to. They didn't teach you this one a vicar school! What they did teach us is that you can't separate out politics (issues of power) from faith so I know that open engagement with the subject is vital.
It isn't, for me, a head-heart battle, since both my head and heart are divided and undecided here! It isn't a theological struggle - I don't believe in earthly nation states at that level, and whatever the rhetoric on either side the values of justice, equality etc. are not so easy in practice, no-one is convincing me (yet) they are better placed to achieve them.
I was clueless, five years ago, when I moved across a humanly defined border, in response to God's call, what the issues were, or how both Scottish and English (no one ever seems to mention Wales of Northern Ireland, let alone Isle of Man or the Channel Islands) audiences are equally misled by the media. Five years on I am tired of defending each to the other, tired of being told the A is better than B when actually it seems to me, at least some of the time, they are simply making different choices.
Come 18th September of course I will vote - but I honestly haven't yet decided, and if I choose the 'winning' side it will be a first... Come 19th September I will get behind whatever decision is made and do my best to work for the good of those I serve, irrespective of the outcome.
"What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose their life?" What if we get whatever we think we want and in the process lose our humanity? What if we become more polarised more partisan, more sectarian, more us-over-against-them, more smug? What if it goes well and we become arrogant? What if it goes belly up and we become bitter ansd twisted?
When I got to the end of PAYG this morning something strange happened... something very rare given I'm a tough non-emotional type: I started to cry.
The call to follow Jesus, to deny self, and follow is very costly. Deny self... not what serves me or mine best, not what makes me or mine happy or more fulfilled... I think I was crying because I hate division and avoid conflict, I think I was crying because the body of Christ is being wounded, I think I was crying because I did leave what I knew and understood to follow the call of Christ, and unless, until, God suggests otherwise I will remain here, even if that may mean being a resident alient with a work permit (for all my theological claims I'm not going to change my birth nationality for anyone!), I think I was crying because God was touching somehting inside me.
I'm still not sure which way I will vote. I still find myself being a chameleon and questioning whichever view people express. But I will continue to walk in the footsteps of the one who died on a cross, and in whom there is neither Scottish or English, Union or Indpendence, Salmond or Cameron, or, indeed, any other divisive identity.
PS to Gatherers... this doesn't mean don't share your views with me, nor does it mean don't try to covince me of your stance (I need all the help I can get and enjoy the debating/discussing/challenging) just don't expect me to find it easy... and I doubt very much I'll ever let on which way I vote in the end!