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  • Good Friday

    When I was growing up, we had a family tradition for Good Friday. My Dad would get up and cycle to the bakery in the village and come back with a dozen hot cross buns, still warm from the oven. In his last few years the bicycle gave way to a mobility scooter but still the same warm , tasty buns.


    The last time he can have done this was in 1989, because Good Friday 1990 he was in hospital, just days from the end of his life. This year, Easter lands just one day different from 1990, so there is a special poignancy about keeping the tradition alive.

    On the Wednesday after Easter, around midday, my Dad died..so that, rather than the date, is when I tend to remember. This year, his anniversary of death lands on Tuesday, so a kind of double remembering.

    I know quite a few people for whom Easter brings memories of those they have loved and"lost" so my thoughts and prayers are with them today.

  • A Tale of Two Women

    On Tuesday evening, I led the evening reflection as part of the Holy Week series of services.  I chose to tell a story, based on the the accounts of the widow's mite and the anointing of Jesus as told in the gospel of Mark.  So here, for anyone who's interested, is the script (which I broadly followed!)

    I wonder what image comes to mind when you hear my story, the nameless, poor widow in the Temple?  Probably you imagine me as advanced in years, clad in dark clothes, maybe even leaning on a wooden stick for support as I shuffle through the Court of Women to drop my two tiny coins into the offering before I leave, penniless to go home to, well who knows what?  Maybe you are right.  And maybe you are wrong.

    Anna was my heroine when I was growing up… widowed at a young age, with no sons to care for her, she went daily to the Temple to pray.  A young widow, beautiful inside and out, she always had time for us children.  A shared grin when some of us, bored by the sobriety, dared to run around mimicking the teachers.  A gentle word of encouragement to shy ones, huddled close to their mothers, over-awed by the grandeur of this place.

    She lived to a ripe old age, did Anna, passing on her wisdom to a new generation of younger widows like me.  I can recall her face when she told me about the young couple from the north who arrived with their new-born son, and she, prophet that she surely was, had recognised in him something very special.

    A still miss her, old Anna, and it’s been nearly thirty years now.  Now I am one of the old, childless widows who is to be found here day by day, smiling at the mischief of bored children, reassuring anxious first time parents, and then slipping away, unnoticed at the end of the day.

    Of course I wish my husband had lived.  But it wasn’t to be.  I don’t have much, but what I do have, my time, my love, my friendship, I give to the service of Yahweh, the God who saves, the God who heals, the God who provides.  Today I opened my purse and all I have left is a couple of copper coins… I can choose: buy flour to make bread or drop them in the Temple offering.  I smile to myself.  There is no choice to be made.  I do the only thing I can do… There, now, it’s done, I can slip away, with a light heart and an almost imperceptible spring in my step.  I’ve gladly given away all I have left, and no-one but Yahweh has seen…


    He said the story of what I’d done would be told over and again, that I would be remembered.  Who knows?  I mean, no-one is sure who I was, except that I might have been called Mary, and I might have been a ‘sinful woman’, and I might have shared a home with my siblings.

    When I was a girl, we would go sometimes to the Temple, an enormous place full of colour and noise.  People from all over the world would come to see this wonder.  For us, this was the house of Yahweh, the most holy place on earth, and to be honest, it scared me.  It was so easy to get lost, and there were fierce looking officials everywhere.  I remember a time when I got separated from my parents, and stood sobbing in the corner of the Court of Women.  Through my tears, I could see people dropping money into the different offerings.  Some gave a lot, some a little.  No-one seemed to notice me, a small weeping girl in the corner.  Then I heard a gentle voice, and looked up.  It was one of the widow women who seemed to live here.  She dried my tears, took me by the hand and, together we found my parents.  I’ve never forgotten her kindness, even after all these years.  I’ll make sure her story is never forgotten!

    Strange things have been happening recently.  A couple of days ago the northern rabbi, Jesus and his followers held some kind of procession into Jerusalem, attracting a huge crowd.  Apparently, he created uproar in the Temple, scattering coins everywhere and freeing all the livestock.  I wish I could have seen it – all those religious officials scowling and trying to stay calm in the chaos!

    Yet, the next day, it seems, he was back there, as if nothing had happened, teaching his followers and watching what was going on.  My widow friend tells me she saw him; said he smiled at her knowingly as she dropped her coins in the offering.  That’s so like her – quietly watching what’s going on and, equally quietly, giving away everything she had to live on.

    When I realised he was coming to dinner at Simon’s house, I realised I just had to be there… a Pharisee with leprosy is almost as much an outsider as me, I felt sure I wouldn’t be turned away.

    Well, you know the rest of the story, of course, it did get passed on, even if it got a bit muddled along the way. 

    I don’t know what came over me, I just knew what I had to do.  I broke the seal on the alabaster jar of expensive perfume and joyfully poured it out… his head, his feet, the memories are blurred, but I just recall the exhilaration I felt as the sweet, heady smell filled the room.  Finally, finally, I understood what it meant to live like the Temple widows.  Finally, even I could pour out my love and devotion, freed from the shackles of security and respectability.  My all, poured out for the one who came in the name of the Lord, the one whose words transformed my life.  I couldn’t wait to tell my friend the next time we were at the Temple…

    A tale of two women.

    Two women on the margins of society. 

    Did we ever really meet? 

    Is this story true? 

    You will never know. 

    But what we did, each in our own way, expressing total, utter commitment to Yahweh… maybe that is a story you will remember, a story you, too, will tell others, a story whose truth endures.

  • Palm Sunday

    For our church, Palm Sunday is a really 'big thing' in which we share in an interactive telling of quite a bit of the Holy Weeek story.  Moving out from our premises to the hotel where we now meet meant that we had to do a bit of rethinking... how could we offer something that was in continuity with past practice, but which authentically reflected our present situation.

    On the basis that the room in which we meet is one floor up from the main reception of the hotel, we chose to set the service around the table of the Last Supper ... table set out in a horseshoe and laid with nibbles, pitta bread and grape juice.

    In order to gain access to the service (unusually via a closed door!) people had to give a password to the disicple (steward) on duty.

    We time travelled back from the Last Supper to Palm Sunday and then travelled forward again, hearing stories from four people along the way - Rachael, a witness to the events on Palm Sunday, the apostle John and a pharisee called Abdiel in the Temple, and Mary of Bethany.

    We waved palm branches, we had our gold coins swapped for tiny copper coins, we rehomed the sheep that had been rescued from the Temple by 'Jerusalem Animal Welfare', we anointed each other with oil, and we shared bread and 'wine'.

    We watched, helpless as Jesus was arrested (complete with proper police caution!) and ended the service in silence, with images of the road to Calvary and a crucified Jesus.

    As always, it was a wonderful experience to be involved with.  A lot of hard work beforehand with my co-conspirator/planner, AM, and in the end something memorable for all the right reasons.

    Thanks to HM for the photo, and to everyone who entered into the spirit of the service... we even had to squeeze in extra people, it was wonderful!

  • Then sings my soul...

    Today was spent out walking with around 30 other people from churches all over Glasgow (and beyond).  After 31 years, the leader of the group has decided it's time to step down, and had invited me to lead a short open-air communion along the way.

    We sang 'The Lord's my Shepherd' and 'How Great Thou Art' amidst the trees, under a clear blue sky and accompanied by birdsong.  It was a precious moment, a moment to treasure; one of those moments when it is impossible to "not believe" because surely this is as good as it gets.

    Very honoured to be part of this day, and very much enjoyed the sunshine (burned cheeks to show for it!), the chat and the scenery.  A good way to spend the last day before Holy Week gets going...

  • What is Ministry?

    Yesterday was one of those days where you never stop, moving on from one thing to the next, to the next, switching mode and mood, and doing whatever is needful.

    It began with a one hour dental appointment to have some fillings replaced (my mouth was not happy to be open for so long!).  Next was a quick train ride out of town to lead a Home Communion for a lovely couple, trying not to drool or to slur too many words in the process!  Back on the train to the city centre and a quick lunch (my mouth now more or less thawed out) before my regular Pastoral Supervision meeting.  A lift to the south of the river for an important technical meeting.  Then back to the city centre and on a train home to grab tea and then make a Peer Support phone call.

    What is ministry?  This was the question raised by my Supervisor, partly in response to her recognition that I spend a lot of time on practical, buildings matters, surely this wasn't what I anticipated/imagined when I started out. 

    My response was two-fold really.

    The first is that I still don't know what ministry is, what ministers do - I know what I do, what my ministry looks like, but how that compares with any definition or model, I really don't know.

    The second (although I voiced it first) is that I do see all this as part of my ministry, that I use skills and knowledge, experience and insights from my past employment, etc. within this role.  That the ministry to which God has called me is the ministry for which I am also equipped; that ministry is simply about the intent with which those gifts and skills are employed, viz in the service of God.

    My Supervisor recalled a line from a hymn, and after a few minutes the context was recalled.  Like so many old hymns, it carries important truths of which we need to be reminded:

    Teach me, my God and King,
    In all things thee to see,
    And what I do in anything,
    To do it as for thee.

    A man that looks on glass
    On it may stay his eye;
    Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
    And then the heaven espy.

    All may of thee partake:
    Nothing can be so mean,
    Which with this tincture, 'For thy sake'
    Will not grow bright and clean.

    A servant with this clause
    Makes drudgery divine;
    Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
    Makes that and the action fine.

    This is the famous stone
    That turneth all to gold;
    For that which God doth touch and own
    Cannot for less be told.

    George Herbert (1593-1633 NS)

    Ministry is all the things I do, and more than the sum of any of them.