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A Skinny Fairtrade Latte in the Food Court of Life - Page 4

  • Forgive us our Debts...

    Several months back, at an evening service, someone from the Gathering Place led an evening reflection on the theme 'forgive us our debts', drawing on the Lord's Prayer in various translations.  It was so good, I asked them if they'd be willing to share it with a morning congregation... time passed and today they shared a freshly prepared reflection exploring the concept of debt and indebtedness, rooting their thoughts in Nehemiah 5: 1 - 13.

    Obviously, I have read this passage before; many years ago (at least ten because I recall where it was) I even preached a series on Nehemiah, but somehow this passage had never struck me until it was read for us today.

    It was a very thoughtful, and thought-provoking reflection, rooted in a real-life story of debt-induced suicide, naming the complexity of the inter-relatedness of insititutions and individuals, and calling to mind the words of the Lord's Prayer, according to Matthew, forgive us our debts as we forgive those indebted to us.

    The intercessory prayers, led by one of our younger adults, used the framework of the Lord's Prayer and picked up some of the same ideas and nuances along the way.

    It was, for me, and I am sure for others, a great service.

    I was thrilled to see others exericsing their considerable gifts, and it was a delight to receive rather than to give out.  I was - and am - proud of our Worship Planning Team and their gently increasing role in helping to shape our worship life both visibly and invisibly.

    Next week I have two services to construct for Remembrance.  Being blessed with the gift of receiving this morning has encouraged my soul as I being to think about a whole other set of complex topics.

  • The Old Lie...

    At yesterday's Bible Study we had a wonderful conversation about poppies, the reasons for white and red poppies, the uncertainty we felt at the glittery 1918-2018 Poppy Scotland offering (there are others of a similar nature e.g. sold by supermarkets etc.) and so on.  With fresh eyes and clear minds, our Iranians quickly grasped the danger of triumphalism, of the potential for accidentally offending or shaming those who are German or Japanese or Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi and so on.

    We had a wonderful conversation around the great hymn of Philippians 2 - and the self-emptying of God in Christ.  Although we did not link it to poppies or Remembrance, the connection arises quite naturally, I think.

    Today, the radio tells me, is 100 years since the death of war poet Wilfred Owen, just days before the end of the Great War.  When I was at school we were made to learn by heart his poem 'Dulce et Decorum Est'.  Although it is mostly now buried deep in my subconscious, I was struck by the truth it expresses, and especially 'the old lie' that it is is sweet and beautiful to die for one's country.

    It isn't sweet, it isn't beautiful, it's terrible and ugly, but, in our broken and disordered world we still send young men and women to far away places where they will kill, or be killed, in the name of powerful nations, rulers and governments.

    One hundred years ago, and just before the 'war to end all wars' didn't, a prophetic voice was silenced.

    One hundred years later, the freedoms I enjoy are inextricably linked with that reality.

    Next week we will mark Remembrance Sunday, and will hold the tension expressed in poppies red and white, between shame and honour, and we will pray for peace, the rule of the one called the Prince of Peace.

    Oh, and here's the poem...


    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
    Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime...
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.
  • Hyddiw...

    This morning it's definitely 'old clothes and porridge' - four hours work under my belt and a few more to be done before the day is done.

    I had a good, restful, restorative and reflective time in Wales, managed to read no less than four books (two fiction, two non-fiction), listened to an audio book, completed a craft project, and walked miles.

    Hyddiw, the name of the cottage in which I stayed is Welsh for 'today' or 'now'.  I like the word, not least because it defies every conceivable English pronunciation, and also because it has a sense of "present continuous active"... being as much a verb as a noun; as a state of being as much as a defined period of time.

    The weather was amazing - mostly clear blue skies by day - and lashing rain by night!  The temperature dipped below freezing - and peaked into the teens. 

    I was reminded of the words from Hebrews 3:13, 'while it is still called today...' To have spent time in a place called 'today' or 'now', to have centred on being present rather than active (though plenty of activity did happen), and to have enjoyed creation - all was good, and God-given.

    Now, though, it's back to 'business as usual' and a couple of utterly crazy weeks in prospect!