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Recently I was speaking to a minister friend who was feeling exceptionally low, and questioning why he was still in the ministry.   He felt he had no support from his congregation; that all the things he did, both seen and unseen, were taken for granted.  Nobody seemed to be encouraging him or looking after him and his family.   But I think the thing that was making it almost intolerable was the fact that the only time people wanted “a quick word” was to say something negative.  It reminded me of a story I used at the ordination of one of my friends …  

A new minister preached a sermon on the parable of the talents … He urged his people to place at God’s disposal the gifts and abilities given to them by God.  After the service a man came up to him and said “Minister, I’m not a particularly gifted man.  I don’t really feel capable of teaching in the Sunday School, or visiting the sick, or any of the other things you talked about this morning.  But I do have one talent that might be of use to the church.”

 “And what is that?” asked the minister.

“Well” said the man … “I have the talent of criticism.  I can criticise your sermons.  I can criticise the organist.   I can criticise the choir.   I can criticise the work people do for the church.   What should I do with my talent?”

The minister remained silent long enough to pray for wisdom then he replied … “Do you remember the man with one talent in the parable?   He buried his talent … I suggest you do the same.”

Part of me wanted to go to my friend’s church and (as they say) “give them a good talking to”.   To remind them they called this man and his family to be part of their church; that at his induction they promised him their “encouragement and support”, just as they promised to work alongside their “minister in Christian witness and Christian service”.

So if you are reading this and wondering what you can do to support your minster, why not ask this simple question – “What is the best way I can support you?”  Why not invite them and their family to your home for a meal? (Don’t assume everyone else is doing this).   Or why don’t you write them a letter telling them that you appreciate them and all they do?   

And here are a few things you can do that there should be no question about: Pray for them –  Ministry is a big job with big expectations and big stresses. Whatever strength your minister has, it will be unequal to the task.  They will need power from beyond themself.  Love them – The call of a minister is a covenant, not a contract.  A contact is when we hire someone. A covenant is – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.  Remember the concept of team ministry – the minister can’t do it all on their own.

Baillieston: St Andrews

Me, I’m off to write to the minister* who was leading the church I used to belong to as I was growing up, to thank him for his contribution to my journey of faith.  It’s never too late to say thank you.

*Rev Tom Houston (now retired) came to Baillieston: St Andrew’s in 1980.  His teaching, example, encouragement and quiet faithfulness influenced me greatly, and it was during his ministry, and through his Bible Studies that my understanding and faith began to grow.  

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Some time ago a minister was approached by a couple who expressed a desire to become members of his congregation.   The man said of course he wanted to join the church, but the minister must understand he was rather busy and couldn’t give any time to anything like teaching the children or singing in the choir.   The wife added that went for her as well, and not to look for them too often on a Sunday as they both played golf and spend a lot of time away at their weekend cottage.   Of course they couldn’t join the envelope scheme or commit to a set amount of money every week because of all their many other financial obligations, but they would give whatever they could whenever they were there.

 

Gone out of business

The minister thought for a moment and replied, “I think you stopped at the wrong church.   We understand the purpose of our church somewhat differently here.   The church you want is in the next village.”  The couple got in their car and drove to the next village.   They found the other church – abandoned and boarded up – “gone out of business”.

 

Back in May I was at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.   It was, in my opinion, an Assembly that if you weren’t paying attention you could be forgiven for thinking nothing much happened.   You see on one hand it was a very muted affair, on the other hand, the change that was agreed was almost unparalleled in recent times.   Why?   Well, I guess because the National Church is trying to ensure that we don’t “go out of business”.   However, I feel the coming changes, are something that should encourage us all, rather than frighten us.  

 

Many of the reports at the Assembly focused on what it means to be the Church and reminded us that the work of the church isn’t just for the one (the minister), or the few (who faithfully volunteer), but for all the members.   You see the church, the family of God, was designed by Him to be a team working together, in unity, for one purpose:  to share His message in our community, our nation, our world.  This is a biblical model: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are a team! They work together as one, in relational harmony, to bring about God’s plans and purposes.  And we, the church, are part of that team. The Apostle Paul describes the family of God here on earth as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27), and he reminds us that when each vital, and separate part of the body works as it is intended, ‘the whole body grows and builds itself up in love’ (Eph 4:16), and when that happens – nothing can stop us.

 

So, in the weeks and months ahead, prayerfully consider where God might be calling you to do your part, to ensure that His Church (wherever it might be in the world) continues to fulfil its mission.   And let our response be – “Here I am, send me”, rather than, “Here I am, but please send someone else I’ve just got so many other things going on in my life”.

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Do you remember this joke? Question: “How do you make time fly?” Answer: “Throw a clock out the window.” Today I had that feeling again – Time flies!

It’s eight years this month since I became minister of Banchory Ternan East, two days after the events of September 11th. For many of the people who lived in the aftermath of that particular day I’m sure that their perspective on time will be different, just as their perspective on life might now be different.

In the movie “Love Actually” Hugh Grant’s character says in the introduction, “When the planes hit the twin towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were all messages of love.”

There’s something about tragedy that gives us insight to what really matters and what we value most, as individuals. But we seldom ever share those thoughts and feelings before a tragedy draws us up short.

There are some things in life that you cannot influence or change. Like accidents and terrorist attacks. There are some things in life you cannot influence or change by yourself, like governments and their policies. But there are some really big, important things you can do single-handedly: You can make sure the special people in your life know who they are and what they mean to you.

Take some time today to send a message of love. If you don’t know how to say it, maybe you can begin with Paul’s words to his friends in Philippi, “I thank God every time I think of you.” (Philippians 1:3)

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AlfWe are fairly new to cruising, but one thing we’ve enjoyed as part of this relaxing and educational type of vacation, is meeting and talking to a wide variety of people. When it comes to mealtimes, we usually request that we be seated at a table with other people, mainly because we find it interesting, sometimes entertaining and occasionally challenging to meet new people and hear a bit about their lives, and on the whole our experiences have been pleasant. However, on our last cruise, we ended our meal with the decision to request a table for two for the rest of our holiday; because we had made the frightening discovery that the spirit of Alf Garnett (Archie Bunker if you’re American) lives on, and he’s out there on the high seas.

During the course of the evening the two other couples at the table found they had a lot in common as they criticised Americans, “Jocks” (i.e. the Scottish, not sportsmen and women), Essex women (apparently they can be spotted even if they’re not dancing round a handbag), vets and dentists (because they are too highly paid), coloured people (because they came into areas and lived in ghettos and formed gangs), and the finally the untidy mess that some Chinese refugees made by simply existing and sleeping in a park in one of our ports of call. They spoke of the famous people they had met – Jonathon Price, the Manchester United Football Team, Ryan Giggs and Sir Geoff Hurst to name the ones I can remember. Oh yes, and for some reason it seemed imperative that we knew that these people were “just living their lives”, but it was said with some disgust, because it meant that they didn’t come up to their imagined mark of celebrity status. They reeled off the hotels they had stayed in on various holidays over a number of years and in a multitude of locations around the world, each time going further upscale to ensure they received the kind of service they so rightly deserved, and which they couldn’t possibly receive on this cruise if they chose to eat with the riff-raff in the buffet section.    (We didn’t tell them the “deal” we got on our holiday!)

It took all my strength to fight the urge to:

(a) scream at them “Get a life! Who do you think you are?” or

(b) do a Basil Fawlty and hit them on the back of the head with my plate.

My husband was equally and uncharacteristically restrained. Turns out we both had ulterior motives: disbelieving what we were hearing we wondered if it could get any worse.   It could and it did.

What is it that makes people hold these type of views? Is it that they’ve heard these types of stories since they were children? Is it that they have been exposed to it in the reading of their preferred daily newspaper?

What is it that makes people think they are in some way superior to others? Again, is it something they’ve heard since they were young? Is it that they actually voice these things to make themselves seem like people of worth?

What made me want to challenge them about their views and attitudes? Is it because I’ve heard a different story since I was young? Is it because I have read something that has exposed me to an alternative view? Is it because I know that every person is a person of worth?

So what story have I heard and read that can change views and attitudes, and help us to come to the realisation that every human being is a person of worth? Oh yes, it was that God has imbued each of us with worth by placing His image in us.    Each of us has been created in the image of God, and God has ordained that his image be respected.  

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