Saturday, 31 October 2015

Soul Cakes

Bakers... some biscuits for after worship tomorrow, perhaps? 
(said the Minister, hopefully!) 

A seasonal recipe from our friends at Hoddom, Kirtle-Eaglesfield and Middlebie Parish Church...

If you have time today, why not try making traditional Soul Cakes? 
They are a rich, buttery biscuit and the tradition seems to go back close to a thousand years. It seems these were once widespread across all of England. I'm told that they are only for eating on Hallowe'en, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day (Monday) - any left over after that have to be given to the birds! 

Take 6oz butter, 6oz sugar and cream them together; 
mix in 3 egg yolks; 
mix with 1 lb plain flour, pinch of salt and teaspoon spices; 
add warm milk to make dough; 
roll out and cut or shape. 
Mark each 'cake' with a cross, like in the photo. 
Bake at 180C (160C for fan ovens), or Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 minutes; 
sprinkle with sugar whilst still hot. 
I am not sure how many this recipe will make, but I am guessing quite a lot! 
Thanks to Laura Sinfield for the recipe.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Sermon, Sunday 25 October: 'Jesus, interrrupted'

Our sermon on Sunday considered different ways of seeing, or not seeing, as we thought about the story of Bartimaeus and Jesus...

READING: Jeremiah 31: 7-9
READING: Mark 10: 46-52

SERMON ‘Jesus, interrupted’
Let’s pray:
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Just because I can, let’s start this sermon off with a fairly diabolical ‘knock knock’ joke - I’ll need your help:

‘Knock knock’
  [who’s there?]
Interrupting sheep
   [interrupting shee...]    BAAAAH 

Well, I warned you it was bad - or should that be baaaahd.
And I confess, I stole it from 'The Vicar of Dibley'!

There you are, getting on with doing something
and the phone rings:
probably yet another one of those automated calls that want to sell you a new boiler...
Or you’re off on a jaunt to Edinburgh,
walking along Princes St minding your own business when:
‘excuse me...’
and you’re asked for directions,
or to donate to a charity,
or, at Festival time, find yourself constantly stopped or slowed down
to be given leaflets to this or that or the other ‘truly groundbreaking new show’...
when all you really want to be doing is heading into Jenners or some other
establishment for a cuppa.

Interruptions - they happen all the time,
and we generally respond in different ways
according to the frame of mind we’re in,
and what we happen to be doing at the time.

Our gospel reading this morning is a story of interruption -
and there are a couple of quite different responses to that interruption.
Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem.
There are mixed feelings within the group about going there,
and conversations are had about
suffering and pain,
death and resurrection.
It is ...alarming talk.
Conversations too, are had about greatness,
as James and John jockey for positions of favour with Jesus and
seem to miss his point entirely.
Again, suffering features - for greatness is redefined to mean ‘service’,
not ‘Lording it over’ people:
'whoever wants to be great, must become least.'

Their conversations carry them along the road,
until at last they arrive at Jericho.
Our bible passage doesn’t give us much detail at all
of the time actually spent in Jericho, the only detail we have is that,
as they leave, there’s a mention of a large crowd -
‘Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd...
were leaving the city.’

They’re on the outskirts, the margins -
a place we often find Jesus in the gospels.
There, sitting on the roadside,
on the margins, in more ways than one,
is a man called Bartimaeus.
He knows something’s a-stir: he can’t see what’s happening,
but given it’s a large crowd, I suspect they’re not exactly tip-toeing past.
And, I also suspect, that as they make their way out,
conversations begin once more.
‘What do you think he’s up to?’
‘Why are we heading to Jerusalem?’
‘Say, did you check out that great trinket stall in the market-place -
I picked up a neat toy camel for my kid...’
As this large group passes, Bartimaeus works out that in amongst
them is Jesus. He’s heard about this teacher -
from snatched conversations as people walk by,
and maybe in conversations with those who stop to put a coin in his alms-dish:
giving to beggars being seen as an act of piety -
as part of the working out of the commandment to ‘love your neighbour’.

As Jesus, the disciples, the crowd, pass along the road,
a voice cries out and interrupts them as they walk and talk:
‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
‘Shhhh! Stop it! Be quiet!’ come voices from amidst the crowd.
But the more the disciples, the crowd tell him to shut up,
the more desperately Bartimaeus calls out,
until his cries reach Jesus,
cause him to pause,
and he, in turn calls for Bartimaeus to be brought to him.

It’s interesting - a couple of pages back in the Gospel of Mark,
you have the disciples shooing away the children all eager to see Jesus...
Here again, the disciples are putting themselves into the role of bouncers -
or trying to at least.
Trying to control access to Jesus.
Partly they do this to look after their rabbi and friend -
to protect him a little from the many who want access to him with their vast sea of need -
...but partly, I wonder, is there a small power thing happening?
Might they be trying to show to others their own importance, their status -
which is deemed to be seen to determine who can or who can’t see Jesus?
There’s fascinating undercurrents here, I think,
in the way they appear to try to micro-manage Jesus.
However, as with the children, who Jesus calls to come to him,
so here, Bartimaeus gains access to Jesus.
And the tone of the crowd, the disciples, changes to a hearty ‘cheer up!’
One moment they’re hostile and unwelcoming,
the next it’s all smiles and loveliness -
while probably wondering what on earth Jesus is doing allowing this beggar
to hold him up -
to interrupt his important work...
to interrupt their time with him.

Bartimaeus is not one to miss the opportunity however.  Note how quickly he responds:
‘throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet.’
Let’s pause there for a second.
Bartimaeus is a beggar.
He throws his cloak aside.
His cloak.
Probably his most valuable item - possibly his only item.
Valuable to him because it keeps him warm in the winter
and provides shade from the blistering sun in summer -
he may even use it as a blanket within which to sleep.
But faced with the opportunity to see this man Jesus, he doesn’t think twice:
nothing is as important as seeing Jesus.
Another wee detail in this encounter are his words,
interrupting the flow of the group as they move out of Jericho:
‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
He knows the name of the rabbi.
He believes the stories growing around this man: this ‘messiah’.
He asks for...
well, initially, nothing as specific as being healed from his blindness.
He asks for mercy.
Having got Jesus’ attention, Bartimaeus is then asked:
‘What do you want me to do for you?’
Only then does Bartimaeus become specific: he wants to see.
But in a way - he has already seen more than the disciples,
more than the crowd have.
His faith gives him the ability to see in a way they haven’t yet been able to.
He knows, he understands who Jesus is,
what he might just be able to do.

In this brief encounter, there are many ways of seeing - or not seeing at all.
Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was virtually invisible to the group
as they passed by - the only way he impinges upon their consciousness
is when he plucks up the courage to shout out.
As they hear, so they are forced to actually see, this man, to engage with him.
Their response to the interruption is not just to ignore him,
but to actively stop him from getting anywhere near Jesus.
He’s an irrelevance.
He’s unimportant.
And, he’s in the way.
They don’t want him here.
The barriers go up so that the darkness can stay.
...But the disciples, and the crowd don’t reckon on a Messiah
who refuses to be micro-managed;
they don’t reckon on a messiah
who pulls down the barriers and invites all who want to approach him, to come near.

I was having a conversation the other day with someone.
As we talked, I noted that something that strikes me, time and time again,
when watching how the church - how Christians -
are portrayed in the news is that so often we see, we hear, the angry voices -
voices trying to shut people down...
redefining the word ‘love’ into some kind of weapon to beat people down,
and keep them in the dark -
the light of God’s love being viewed as something to be hoarded -
as if there’s only so much that can go around.
Time and again, in the media, we see, we hear people professing faith
trying to micro-manage God, acting as God’s gate-keepers,
because perhaps he can’t quite be trusted
on the matter of who he allows to come to him:
heck, he might let anyone in.
Anyone who dares cry out:
‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’

As we think of the encounter between Bartimaeus and Jesus,
perhaps it is good to take stock of our own faith.
Where are we in that story?
Are we in the midst of the crowd, rebuking a blind beggar
on the sidelines for interrupting our special time with Jesus?
Or are we on the sidelines, with Bartimaeus:
either feeling marginalised ourselves or/
standing there, in solidarity with the marginalised,
the sidelined,
the invisible?
Saying ‘I see you - you’re God’s beloved’

Ultimately, this gospel story is one of mercy - of mercy at the margins.
Of seeing those who the world ignores,
those who the world refuses to see.
Of bringing them into the centre and the light of God’s love,
grace, and mercy...
Of seeing, of understanding, that Christ is our light -
and sharing that light with others:
a light that the darkness can never put out,
a light in which there’s enough room for all to shine and
rejoicing that there’s light enough for anyone who dares to cry out:
‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’  Amen.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Harvest updates

Harvest sunflower welcome
in the vestibule
On the principle of better late than never...
a wee update on our Harvest Thanksgiving service on Sunday 11 October, mostly in pictures.

An all-age, interactive time was had during our service, which included some dire punning using fruit to give an overview of some major bible themes.  And with no shame at all, yes, in places, it was berry, berry bad - with Adam and Eve as the first pear/ pair of humans, with Christians encouraged to produce grapefruit/ great fruit in their lives...okay, I'll stop.
Our church singing group provided us with a musical call to worship, and along with our young people, helped to create the sound effects used in our 'story of Creation' bible reading.

Harvest gifts were brought and left around the Communion table - with some provided by our friends at Abington and Crawford Primary Schools, who held a Harvest service in the church on Thursday morning.
flowers l-h side

The windows were stunningly decorated by our nine different villages, with an amazing variety of flowers and scents. All in all, the place looked fabulous.  A simple Harvest lunch followed the service.  Thereafter, fresh produce was sent to Clannalba, and around various homes in the parish, while dry and tinned goods were taken up to Clydesdale Foodbank.
flowers r-h side

Huge thanks to everyone who helped make our Harvest great!

Saturday, 10 October 2015


Harvest Thanksgiving Service
11 October, 10.30am
in the parish church at Abington

Join us as we celebrate the Harvest, this Sunday.

And, after worship, why not stay for tea/coffee, and thereafer, a simple soup lunch? 
Everyone welcome!

All dried/ tinned food will be taken to our local area foodbank in Carluke.
Big thanks already to both Abington and Crawford Primary Schools for their 
very generous donations for sharing with others.
A large box of fresh produce will be donated to Clannalba, and the remainder
will be put on a table for folk to take away having made a small financial donation to 
raise funds for the church.

Friday, 9 October 2015

The Big (community) Gig - update

Junction 13 and St Silas' Community Choirs, with Leadhills Silver Band, after the finale
The Big (community) Gig exceeded all of the planning team's
expectations.  A great night, great music, good fun, and an excellent audience.
Within the programme for the evening, toes were tapped to the 'Rythm of Life',
we asked 'Can you feel the Love Tonight',
pondered the words of 'The Oracles' as Spartans prepared for battle.
There was also the drama of 'The Phantom of the Opera', as well as
Holst's 'Mars' and 'Jupiter' and some 'Swinging with the Mountain King'
in all their Silver Band glory...
Huge thanks to our performers and for what was an evening of super
and wide-ranging musical choices:
St Silas Community Choir, Glasgow
Leadhills Silver Band
and Junction 13 Community Choir, GANDL area.

Thanks, too, for the huge efforts undertaken by the Upper Clyde Parish Social Committee,
who fed and watered around 60 hungry singers and musicians over the course of
afternoon rehearsals and concert setting up. Hugely appreciated.

And, a concert is not a concert without an audience - and what a great show of
support from our local village communities. Well over 100 people turned up
to cheer everyone on.  Having managed to get full funding to hold the event,
we were able to raise £335 for Mary's Meals through a tombola and donations at the door.
That amount will help to provide a proper meal for 27 kids over the course of a year.
Brilliant result folks!
Beware, there's vague conversation already beginning about the possibilities of
having another of these gigs next year...
St Silas' and Junction 13 Community Choirs 'Let it Go'...
Junction 13
Leadhills Silver Band

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Sermon, Sun 4 October: 'mind the gap'

Focusing upon the story of the meeting between Jesus and
a rich young man...

Earlier in the service, the minister told a story about a
king who liked receiving presents. He demanded that his people
gave him the best and the prettiest of things.
One day, he heard of a quiltmaker who made beautiful quilts.
He went to her, demanding a present of her quilt.
She refused, saying her quilts were only ever given to the
poor and the needy. 'What must I do to get a quilt?' he asked.
In the end, she told him that he would recieve a
quilt only after he'd given all of his presents away.
Eventually, the king agreed...
and in the process not only gained a quilt, but found happiness.
[based on the story 'The quiltmaker's gift']

Exodus 20:1-21
Mark 10:17-31

Let’s pray:
may the words of my mouth, and the meditations
of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, our strength and our redeemer, Amen.

A greedy king and a clever quiltmaker.
A rich young man and Jesus.

Two stories that run on parallel lines.
The king and the young man have something in common -
yes, great wealth, but something else:
for all that they have, all that they own,
they both live with a great sense of lack:
neither are completely satisfied with the very many possessions that
they’ve managed to gather around themselves.
It’s almost as if, by being so absorbed by all they own, they’ve lost sight
of what really matters in life.
You can almost hear them ask:
‘Surely, there must be ...something more?’
They can’t quite put their finger on what that might be,
and so they seek solutions to fill the lack, the gap in their lives.
The king thinks that his niggling emptiness will disappear by gaining that one,
hard to come by, quilt, and that he’ll be happy, satisfied at last.
But, he’s greedy, and greed is never satisfied:
there will always be a gap.

The young man is not necessarily greedy -
we don’t know how he’s come by his wealth,
and there’s no value judgement given here:
being wealthy, in and of itself is not a bad thing,
that’s not really the point of this passage.
So, what do we learn of this young man from our gospel reading?
He’s physically able.
Unlike the many others in Mark’s gospel who approach Jesus,
he’s not in any need of physical healing.
He runs.
When he hears that Jesus is on the move,
he gathers himself up and races to catch up
with Jesus before it’s too late.
A couple of week’s back, we reflected upon the parable of the prodigal son,
and, a wee bit like the father in that story,
the young man in our text today is not afraid of losing any dignity:
remember, respectable folk - people in positions of power -
did    not    run, everyone else ran after them.
And, having run to Jesus, the young man is also seemingly not
too bothered about potentially losing any social status:
he kneels at Jesus’ feet - a classic posture of submission and humility.
he’s young,
he’s fit,
and he’s not worried about loss of dignity or status.

We learn from the conversation that the young man
is not setting out to trap, or mock Jesus.  Unlike others in positions of
power have been wont to do elsewhere in Mark’s gospel,
there’s a genuine respect for this rabbi.
You can see it both in his posture and in the manner that he addresses Jesus:
‘Good Teacher’.
Even when he’s challenged by Jesus over the use of the word ‘good’
he re-frames his approach, still using a title of honour: ‘Teacher’.
We learn that he’s pious - he does his best to follow his religion.
When Jesus talks to him of the Commandments,
the young man claims to have kept them since childhood.
And it’s not a boast - which is why Jesus simply accepts his claim:
after all, the Commandments are designed in such a way
that they should be able to be kept.

And just while we’re on the subject of the Commandments:
interestingly here in this passage, we don’t get all Ten.
The Commandments Jesus talks of are the 2nd part of the Commandments
given to Moses.
Thinking back to our Exodus reading to remind ourselves:
the first section of the Commandments centre upon God
and our relationship and attitude to God.
The second section focuses upon our relationship and attitude towards our neighbours.
So something subtle is going on here with Jesus in reference to the Commandments -
a wee, unspoken comment, perhaps, on the young man’s attitude
to keeping the Commandments, and where he may, or may not be at,
in his relationship with God - on what he prioritises. 
He may be fine in relationship to neighbour, but has he created false gods elsewhere?
But perhaps that’s just idle speculation on my part!
What else does the text reveal about the young man?
Given that wealth was considered a visible sign of God’s blessing,
and given the importance placed upon social status and pecking order,
it’s interesting that it’s only at the last,
in the account of this encounter with Jesus,
that we learn that this young man has ‘great wealth.’
Why is the most socially and culturally important detail about this man
only given at the end-point?
Here we have another unspoken but significant detail:
the person hearing this story is almost invited to ask what this might mean,
what it might reveal about God’s values and human values;
and what should be treasured, and where true value lies...

In our text, it’s because of his great wealth that the young man
finally walks away from Jesus and not away with Jesus.
Our particular translation uses the term
‘went away sad.’
‘Went away sad’ is okay, but it does rather lose the full impact
of the original.  The young man went away mourning:
his response is one of great grief and loss.
A feeling coming from understanding that,
for him, the gap in his life was never going to be filled
because he was never going to do this ‘one thing’ that Jesus asks of him.

But let’s go back and look at the question he asks at the very beginning.
I think we may learn a little more about the young man,
and about the way he thinks about his faith.
‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
Hmmm, the clue is in the word ‘do’.
For this young man thinks that if he only does this or that or the other,
if he makes sure that he ticks all his boxes,
and lines up all his theological ducks in a row, it’ll be okay. 
What must he do...?
He knows that something needs done:
he’s very mindful of the gap.
He’s not sure if he’s done enough to inherit eternal life.
But here’s a thing:
the only thing any of us have to actually ‘do’ to inherit something,
is to outlive the person who has made a will leaving items to us.
The young man’s question, then, is a wee bit all over the place.
Perhaps he’s so used to doing that he misses the point about faith completely:
it’s about what God is doing for him.
It’s about being aware of God’s grace,
and a little less caught up in all of his possessions -
possessions that effectively end up owning him,
that hold him back,
that become a reason for not journeying with Jesus.

The disciples, having watched the encounter between Jesus
and the young men are shocked:
if a wealthy person apparently has problems entering the kingdom of heaven,
they wonder just ‘who can be saved?’
And the response:
'nothing is impossible for God - with God, all things are possible.'

What is it that we treasure?
What are the things that we gather up around us,
that block our way from following in faith?
What are those things - both material and otherwise -
that we allow to have power over us?
Where is the lack, the gap in our lives?
And is our faith-thinking along the lines of the young man’s:
are we busy ticking boxes and doing one more thing?

We come back to that question:
‘What must we do to inherit eternal life?’
First, take the check-list, rip it up, and throw it out.
Ponder instead the thought that faith is about what God is doing for us,
of what God, in Christ, has already done for us, on a Cross, 2 000 years ago.
In that death, and in that resurrection,
what was impossible has been made possible, in and through Jesus Christ.
And we, who he calls his friends, are indeed inheritors of eternal life.
Not by what we’ve done,
but by grace,
by what he’s done.

And, if we find that we do have an occasional niggling gap, a sense of lack,
perhaps, like the king in our story earlier,
we might just discover that the more we give of ourselves,
the more we love God, and the more we love our neighbour as ourselves,
the more that niggling gap is filled.  Amen.