An elder's perspective...
A university professor managed to precisely calculate which day is the most depressing one of the year! This is apparently the third Monday of January every year and it has been given this accolade due to a combination of cold dark nights, the sense that Christmas is over and the arrival of credit card bills with our Christmas spending!
By the time most people read this, it will be a distant memory, but as I talk to people after two years of the COVID pandemic, there is a level of uncertainty and anxiety which fuels a sense that our world is out of control. It can feel much the same in church with numbers and activities curtailed in many places and recovery feeling very fragile. Uncertainty in our lives can make us all feel somewhat anxious about the future, and when we feel that we are not in control, that can lead to worry and doubt. Jesus reminded his disciples that God understood their needs.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Jesus’ teaching is very simple, as his followers are to live simply a day at a time and recognise that whatever our circumstances, his love and mercy offer hope for the future. We are called to look for the Kingdom to find those places where God is at work in our world and join in. Even when we do not feel we have anything to offer or the gifts and skills to make a difference, we can pray, and our presence can be a calming influence.
We also need to recognise that ultimately, we are not in control. If we call ourselves Christians, then we have voluntarily passed control of the direction of our lives over to God. The Holy Spirit lives within each of us to equip, empower and sustain us on the journey of faith and to be a guide for daily living. Paul understood better than most what trouble and anxiety mean, yet he wrote one of the most encouraging passages in the New Testament.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor heavenly rulers neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Given that God cares for us so much, we need not doubt that there is a better future, and our role is to point people to the hope that is within us. We all feel ‘blue’ from time to time, but it will never overcome our hope in Jesus, as Peter tells us in his letters:
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...”
1 Peter 3:15
If I decorate my house perfectly with strands of twinkly lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my neighbour, I am just a decorator. If I slave away in the kitchen baking cakes and arranging food on a beautifully adorned table, but do not share the true meaning of Christmas, I am just another cook. If I volunteer at a soup kitchen, sing carols in hospital, and donate to charity but do not demonstrate simple kindness to strangers, it profits me nothing. If I attend Christmas lunches, with party hats and crackers yet fail to be awestruck by the Christ who gave everything to come as a vulnerable child, I have missed the point.
Love stops cooking to hug a child and to be still in the presence of ‘God with us’. Love sets aside decorating to kiss a loved one. Love is kind during Christmas, even though sometimes tired. Love does not envy another’s home that has perfectly strung outdoor lights or a flawless tree. Love does not ask family to get out the way, but is thankful they are in the way. Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return or those on our lists, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t and those who aren’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.
...Even at Christmas.
- Contributed by a church member
Flowers for 2022
Thank you to everyone who has helped with putting flowers in the church since it has opened. They really do brighten everyone’s spirits.
I intend restarting the Flower Rota from January 2022 and would be delighted for anyone to give me her/his/their name to fill a Sunday slot or two. May I remind you do not have to be an expert flower arranger: a bunch of flowers from a supermarket, a small posy in a vase, a pot plant or a full arrangement as you wish - all are enjoyed, and variety is nice. Some people wish to do flowers for a special occasion or anniversary, others just when it suits. Men are as welcome and able as ladies to do this, and we welcome families and children doing flowers together. Please just have a go, you may surprise yourself and enjoy it. Your help would be much appreciated.
If you wish to put flowers in the church but cannot do so yourself, please ask someone else if he/she could do them for you. If you wish to give money to a flower fund, please give it to me or Lesley Donald.
0131 261 4908
This year the displays have been especially lovely, maybe because of the ‘dark’ times that Covid has presented us all with. But have you also noticed the vast array of sunflowers that have greeted shoppers entering Marks and Spencers, Tesco, Waitrose or those gardens touched by warm walls and long exposure to the sun. Now sunflowers have a lovely capacity to delight the eye of adult and child alike. Better still when they are growing in a large field, standing several feet tall, the land, a sea of yellow as far as the eye can see. You will notice that growing sunflowers confidently tilt their heads to always face the sun. Once fully grown they still maintain an eastward facing position.
The Christian church is no stranger to the significance of facing eastward for prayer and worship. It is rooted in ancient tradition—the Garden of Eden planted in the East (Genesis 2:8) and a belief that the Messiah would approach Jerusalem from the East. In the 2nd century, we know that both Syrian and Romanian Orthodox Christians hung a Christian cross on the eastern wall of their house, symbolising ‘their souls facing God, talking with him, and sharing their spirituality with the Lord’.
Perhaps the sunflower models a deep truth for us, that growth into maturity comes through orientation towards the sun’s light and warmth. As Christians we are called to prayerfully orientate our lives in the direction of the Son of God, whatever the weather. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has written a recent book entitled ‘Looking East in Winter.’ It’s an evocative title. The winter of covid is not yet past, our lives may have held other ‘wintry moments’ in recent times, but let the sunflowers inspire us to keep ‘looking east’, to keep praying for the transformation of our lives and our world.
Written by an Elder
People were very generous, including the congregation at MUC, and I managed to raise £14265. So, a massive THANK YOU to all of you who supported me.
Other colleagues at SMC participated in the fundraising also, and together we have raised £31328, well on our way to our £42000 goal. This will make a huge difference to all the young people the charity is able to help at this challenging time, and our grateful thanks on behalf of them to all our supporters.
For more information about the charity, you can visit www.mindroom.org.
If you would like to donate https://mindroom-walk-in-my-shoes.raisely.com/judy-wagner
- Judy Wagner
During lockdown, I have found time to re-look at familiar stories from the Bible. Three have really resonated with me -The parables of the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Son. Each is familiar to us, but they always reveal something new when we re-read them.
During the pandemic, the words LOST, and LOSS seem to have had a greater meaning and made me look with fresh eyes on these stories Jesus told us. In the dictionary, the words have many meanings. The ones that stood out to me were: “to be deprived of”, “to be separated from”; “to become unable to find”; “to go astray”.
Many people have suffered the loss of their loved ones this last 15 months and have been deprived of and separated physically from those closest to them who could share their pain and give them the most comfort. Many of us have been separated from our families, missing hugs and kisses that mean so much.
We have all in some ways found life hard, being unable to concentrate for long periods, not being able to plan, with our minds drifting and thoughts going astray, and the inner peace we all need so much being hard to find in the turbulence around us.
Many have lost their jobs, their security and self-esteem. I thought of the lost son –what sort of homecoming was he expecting after he had gone astray, and how his searing loss of self-esteem made him feel?
Then my mind drifted from the words “loss” and “lost” to the words “found” and “gained”.
We have gained the gift of time to reflect and rethink, to dream of a better world post-Covid. We have found that as St David wisely said, “small things matter”: kindness, forgiveness, gratitude, sharing and caring, and having had the gift of time to realise with fresh insight that these small things really are the big things after all– the vital firm foundations on which to rebuild our world and cherish our brothers and sisters.
And... like the Lost Son, we have been found and forgiven. Like the Lost Coin, we are each of the greatest value to God. Like the Lost Sheep, we all go astray but our loving shepherd joyfully welcomes us back again and again.
I have found these lines from a hymn so comforting, “I looked at Jesus and I found in him my star and sun”.
("I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" by Horatius Bonar, 1846)
I am holding onto those words as each day begins for me, especially when I am feeling a bit lost and wondering what day it is!
Contributed by: Anonymous
The Link is a monthly publication by members and staff of Morningside United Church.