I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalm 121: 1-4 NIVUK)
“There are two seasons in Scotland. June and winter” (Billy Connolly).
As I write this letter for our summer congregational newsletter, I cannot help but feel that summer is already here. We have enjoyed an incredible transformation: we’ve gone from snow in April to temperatures of 25 degrees plus in May. We can only hope that the Big Yin’s predictions don’t come true, and that our summer is over before we are even aware that it has begun!
Regardless of the weather, we are all preparing for summer. For the months of June to August, things seem to slow down. Organisations finish, people visit other parts of the world and we often make more time to enjoy hobbies and activities that are not work. This can be especially true of churches: during these months a kind of contented slumber falls, as groups and events pause for a summer break.
It is this kind of halting that caused Ministers across the land to often remark, “God doesn’t take a summer holiday!” Indeed, the LORD whom we love and serve, “neither slumbers not sleeps”, according to Psalm 121. Just because church activities take an often-well-deserved rest doesn’t mean God does! And thank goodness for that: our world is bad enough, never mind if God decided to take time off from looking after us!
The same is true of being a Christian. Following Jesus and serving God are not part-time things. We don’t get holidays from being a Christian. This is a calling which is to shape our whole life: mind, body and spirit. Just because church life is quieter doesn’t mean we take a break from living for God, sharing the Gospel, reaching out in Christian love. Just as God never sleeps nor slumbers, so our living out of our faith never stops.
The fact that we are to never stop serving God relates to some changes we are exploring at Clincarthill. Many of you will be aware of the proposal to change to the Unitary Constitution. I know this may seem like a rather dull thing, but it is my sincere hope that making this kind of change will enable more people to use their gifts and respond to this never-ending calling to serve God. We’re creating teams to enable people to serve where they feel gifted. I cannot give more detail in this letter, but the information is available: might I encourage you to seek this out, and find out how you can serve?
That being said, I know that not all of us are able to serve as we once did, and that’s ok: just as the church sometimes rests, so too do God’s people. Yet, we are still called to serve God, and there is something we all can and must do for God’s Church: pray! As such, can I suggest that, over the summer, you might pray for the following things:
- For the ministry of Clincarthill: that it would follow God’s plan and direction;
- For the people of Clincarthill: that we would hear God’s call, and use our gifts for Him;
- For me: as I seek God’s leading, and guide everyone as best as I can.
Thank you for your prayers, and may God bless you this summer,
Feed the Fans – Saturday 2nd June – 3pm – 7pm
Coming to see Ed Sheeran in Hampden on Saturday? We’ll be feeding the fans from 3pm – 7pm! Our church building will be open, and we’re providing tea, coffee, refreshments, snacks, a place to sit, and facilities to use. If you’re in the area, you’re welcome to pop in!
I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob,
honour him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
(Psalm 22 NIVUK)
I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.
(Psalm 35 NIVUK)
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.
(Psalm 40 NIVUK)
This month sees another first for me: as a commissioner at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. As such, I decided to look up the various occurrences of the word “assembly” in the Bible. The word appears in the NIV translation of the Bible 161 times. Three of these caught my attention, and I’ve quoted them above: all from Psalms written by David.
In these 3 quotes, we get a sense of the purpose of assemblies of God’s people. When we gather together, we are to praise God; we are to give thanks to God for all He has done; we are to proclaim that our God is one of salvation, faithfulness and love. These are wonderful reasons for assemblies of God’s people: they focus on God and remind us of His goodness to us.
While the General Assembly meets for several reasons, it is still a gathering of God’s people; therefore, one of its primary purposes is to glorify God in the way David describes. I think this is why I am sometimes disheartened by the Assembly: there are elements of this gathering which seem far removed from the glorification of God (and I don’t just mean the decisions which go against Biblical principles, although these are obviously troubling).
The Assembly retains, for whatever reason, the pomp, ceremony and pageantry from decades (even centuries!) past. This strikes me as, at best, an institution trying desperately to hold on to tradition; and at worst, self-glorification. These things should trouble us: they appear to have no connection to God, the Gospel, or our call to minister in this world and build His Kingdom.
The Assembly is, however, at its best during those moments when God is glorified, the Gospel is proclaimed, the Church is equipped, and God’s people are called to go into the world and build His Kingdom. As such, and in keeping with our theme of prayer, I wonder if you could pray for the General Assembly this year? Some suggestions:
- That God, and His glorification, would be at the heart of all the Assembly does;
- For wisdom, clarity, and stamina for myself and the other commissioners;
- That the decisions this year would equip and empower the Church in the spread of the Gospel.
Thank you for your prayers, and may God bless you,
30Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20: 30-31 NIVUK)
25Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25 NIVUK)
Holy Week is a special time for me, and not just because it centres around the vital moments of our faith! With worship occurring almost daily, and with regular opportunities to share the message of Jesus in other settings (e.g. school assemblies), I must, out of necessity, set aside some of the other aspects of full-time ministry and focus on these times.
I am grateful to those who helped and supported in the leading of our Holy Week services, and I give them my thanks. Even so, I find I still need to pour a great deal of time and energy into these times of worship, and it is liberating to do so. I personally find it an enriching experience.
I hope that you had a blessed Holy Week, and through it you were able to reconnect with the central moments of our faith; namely the death and resurrection of Christ. I hope this because this is one of the reasons behind Holy Week: to allow Christians and the Church to get back to our foundation, to reorient ourselves around Jesus’ death and resurrection, and prepare to go back out into the world, proclaiming His love and Kingdom.
Holy Week reminds us that Jesus truly was the Messiah, the Son of God. This was also part of the reason John wrote his Gospel: in the first quotation above, he makes it clear that he has written that his readers might believe Jesus is the one who brings salvation to our world, and that through Him we might receive life. The experience of Holy Week helps us to believe that Jesus is our saviour.
The second quotation helps us to understand what we are to do now that Holy Week is over. While I doubt this was John’s thinking, I tend to think that part of the reason Jesus complete work cannot be contained within books is because He is still working today. If we were to try and write it all down, we’d never finish, because He is still working; through the Holy Spirit and through the Church, calling people back to Himself and God.
As a congregation, this is our calling: to respond to God’s call to work for Him, retelling the message of Holy Week, reaching out in love with the Gospel. I’ll be giving you more information soon, about how I hope we can ALL be encouraged to participate in God’s work. For now, I hope we can take the message of Holy Week to heart and be ready to respond when God calls.
May God bless you
Easter is fast approaching and we are having a number of events (some shared with Langside Church). We warmly invite you to any or all of these.
Monday 16 April—Clincarthill Parish Church—10am-3pm
This day will be an opportunity for older people and their carers to find out about local support and advice on a range of subjects. There will be a free drop in cafe as well. I would encourage all in the church to invite a friend or neighbour to this event.
The event is free and to date the following agencies will be there:
Glasgow Old Peoples Welfare
South Seeds Energy advice
Solicitors ‘re advice
Clincarthill lunch club
Cathcart Trinity Dementia Project
Food Train and more
We are looking to get a good turn out of local people so any help to let your neighbours know would be good.