I thank God daily, not just for the beauty we see each day that surrounds us, but also for each other, those we share our lives with. I say this because I have just come in from a lovely walk along the back of Blackford Hill with New College friends; it has been a wonderful afternoon, with the sun shining in a fading winter sky. On the way we saw emerging displays of spring flowers, snowdrops, aconites, crocuses and budding daffodils, standing out against the soil and grass. There was a real lightness in the steps of those people I passed, all enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. There was a sense of Spring in the air and subliminally maybe a sense of new beginnings. Our circumstances are changing and hopefully we can look forward to warmer and longer hope filled days.
It got me thinking, March is just around the corner and the season of Lent is upon us and, for us as Christians, it is significant that the season of Lent always coincides with the arrival of spring; all around we are seeing signs of new beginnings as the earth wakes up from its winter sleep. But the purpose of Lent is traditionally more than just a period of beginning again, it is also a period of reflection, a time for taking stock of our life and our relationship with God. It begins with Ash Wednesday, when we start on our Lenten journey with Christ to the cross, and then on to the joyous Easter dawn and his resurrection. Many Christians, under normal circumstances would celebrate Ash Wednesday saying sorry; resolving with the help of God to turn around their life, change in life’s direction, with the intention to be different from this point forward in a renewed decision to live as disciples of Jesus serving others and renewing efforts to pray. March therefore is a busy month, what with Lent, Mothering Sunday, the clocks going forward an hour, and looking forward to Holy Week and Easter. It is with this in mind that we have much to be grateful for in our parish.
Like many of you I am very relieved that COVID-19 and its effects are slowly dissipating and that we can gather as a worshipping community each Sunday. The work of the congregation continues, many groups are now returning to use the building and the issues of the Presbytery Plan are slowly being resolved.
On a positive note, we hope to appoint Brigitte Harris as our new organist. She has a great deal of experience and was formerly organist at St Andrews and St George's. She is an excellent musician and will work with Evan Cruikshank to re-establish a singing congregation. I am especially happy with the news from the Government that we don't have to wear masks after 21 March. This means people can participate fully in worship and sing and read with gusto, and best of all, we can celebrate the sacraments in person.
March will also see us kick off several new events and groups that will hopefully deepen the spiritual life of the church and congregation.
These events that I have outlined are all part of a bigger plan that I believe the Lord is leading us into this year. The church doors at MUC are open to allow people into the building ecumenically serving people of the parish and University. It is my prayer that we will see more doorways open into the church for those in our community who do not yet know the redemptive love of Jesus. Because that, dear friends, is why we are here: to share that same love with our neighbours, so that they may find themselves caught up in the great story of God. So may you find a way to become a “door” for someone else this Spring so that MUC becomes a true place of welcome in Christ’s name.
With every blessing,
Prayer habits and routines are key to life. Not having to think first thing in the morning; alarm…cup of tea…ablutions…dress…breakfast…action! Just think what life would be like if we had to work out our options every day! God has graciously given us a routine for prayer too, not to pray thoughtlessly, but to follow a pattern known as the Lord’s Prayer.
We start with God who Jesus reminds us is ‘our father’, and in this individualistic world we are part of something - and someone - bigger than us.
He is in heaven, the place that is our destination, where the ‘father’s house ’is, as John reminds us. And although God is spirit and has no gender, embodying both male and female characteristics, Jesus has revealed him as father, not mother, for psychologically very specific reasons.
To hallow the name of God is to treat it with due reverence, and this first part of the prayer brings us to worship. So as part of your worship, why not sing songs or hymns celebrating that we are part of the family of God and he watches over us. Give thanks for who he is, what he’s done, and begin to find that meditating on this takes us to God’s kingdom and his will, which our worship will encourage us to want to see on earth.
It gives us the reminder to pray for our world, its leaders, people and circumstances, and particularly our brothers and sisters under persecution.
The short sentence in the middle brings our daily needs before God. What are your daily needs, and it’s possible they may stretch beyond bread. How do you need your father’s provision for this day?
Jesus takes us on into one of the key elements for our healing; forgiveness. Confessing our own failures before God and being forgiven is immensely freeing; but the condition is that we forgive others. We should do this on a daily basis and not let things build up. Where people have irritated, hurt or upset you, give your feelings to the Lord and let them go in forgiveness. For those severely hurt this can take time, and your Father in Heaven knows.
Then we look at our journey for the day. Bring your plans to your father for his guidance, blessings and involvement, seeking protection from the evil that is in the world, and also in us! In Psalm 23, God leads us in paths of righteousness, but they also include a trip through the ‘valley of death/deepest darkness’. The paths of righteousness are not always easy. We finish with remembering that the kingdom to which we belong, the power/ dynamic which empowers and enables us, along with the glory of our daily walk with Jesus, is all about him, not us, and hopefully it keeps him in our thoughts, words and deeds through the day. Another time of gratitude and praise. Jesus knew how busy life would get, and gave us a pattern we can use in our chapel (!), front room, bus, car, coffee shop or work place canteen. The key is to make it a habit so that the pattern needs no thought, but the prayers flow from our hearts to our father.
Thank you so much for the generosity of members and friends alike, who, although it was a difficult year, continued to make donations throughout 2021. It is really appreciated by everyone who benefits from our fund raising. Our Lent collection and our Advent collection both raised an incredible amount, and we cannot thank everyone enough for your support and kindness.
Those who have been joining our coffee mornings that recently restarted, helped to raise £180 for Save the Children’s Afghanistan appeal, and a concert arranged by our previous organist, Max, raised £95 for Marie Curie.
Once again, thank you.
Thank you so much to those of you who have offered to do flowers this month and to those who have helped in previous months. As we approach Spring it is lovely to see the daffodils, tulips and snow drops. If you would like to help arrange the flowers one week, please speak to Maggie McKenzie on 0131 261 4908. Your help would be much appreciated.
The Print of the Nails by Hugh Hillyard-Parker (Ed.)
Enjoy this book – it will illuminate the Easter season for you, not just in 2022, but in the years to come.
All royalties from this book will go to the Church Homeless Trust.
Women of Holy Week: An Easter Journey in Nine Stories
The Christian Aid Week activity that MUC hosts is the annual Booksale.
Before Covid, we were able to raise sums in the order of £15k, and obviously, Covid has prevented us from being able to run any kind of sale over the last two years. However, now there is a plan to run the Booksale in 2022. The sale is organised by a committee that spreads wider than MUC, who have spent time thinking and discussing what might be possible.
The aim is of course to raise as much money as possible for Christian Aid. And to this end we really need help in moving the large volumes of books up and down from the basement. If you can help to move books before and after the sale, it really would be appreciated. There are other less strenuous tasks as well, but that is the main need.
More information is available from David and Lesley Donald if you are interested in helping (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also use the contact form on the Booksale website. (https://holycornerbooksale.wordpress.com/)
Other Christian Aid week activities may be planned later along with Marchmont St Giles and St Catherine’s Argyle in our cluster grouping.
Eternal God and Father,
We thirst for your love,
We long for your presence,
We yearn for your peace.
Come, Lord, refresh, renew and restore us in your service
That we may live to your glory;
Through him who gives us the water of life,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
The 1st of March is St. David's Day.
I was asked to write about the saints in the Link for the next few months. It seems good to start with a fellow Celt and Patron Saint of Wales. St David stands among the British and Saxon saints of the early days of Christianity in the UK. Much of St David’s life is today a mix of mystery and legend, but he lived in Wales in the 6th century, preached the Gospel to the Celtic tribes of western Britain, and founded several religious communities, notably one at what is now St David’s. His rules for the monks were austere, even by the standards of the time, and legend has it that, as happened to St Benedict, his strictness made him so unpopular at one monastery that his monks tried to poison him – but, as with St Benedict, he came to no harm.
It is also said that St David travelled as far as Jerusalem and that he was consecrated Archbishop by the Patriarch there – a story that may have its roots in later propaganda, as it would have indicated that the Welsh church need not be expected to take instructions from Canterbury. Be that as it may, he appears in many Welsh churches wearing headgear different from what we expect to see on an Archbishop, and about his neck is a priestly breastplate of the kind we associate with Aaron. These features seem likely to have a connection with the Jerusalem story. In Wales, St David is often depicted with a white dove on his shoulder – for it is said that once, when he was preaching outdoors, the ground miraculously rose into a mound so that he could be seen and heard more easily, and at the same time the dove alighted upon him.
Happy Saint David's Day to all with Welsh connections.
The Link is a monthly publication by members and staff of Morningside United Church.