Servant Bishop Elect

Gregor, our Bishop Elect gets down to a bit of shoe cleaning in Sauchiehall St in Glasgow. He even managed to talk at the same time!

Absence of Magazine

The Magazine is nearly ready, but didn’t quite make it for this Sunday. By next week there will be a Feb/March Issue available. Watch this space for the electronic version, due out soon!

1 Corinthians 13

This Epistle from Paul has a beauty all of its own. As such it has been loved and admired, as a reading, for instance, at many many weddings. But, in its context in 1 Corinthians, it stands not only as a fine piece of writing, but also as a very confronting statement.

Paul has been concerned in 1 Corinthians 12 about people’s approach to spiritual gifts, as we have heard over the past two weeks.

He has had to make the point that the life of the Spirit is about building up community, not about getting carried away with one’s own experiences in ways that undermine community.

The Spirit has a place for all. People have different gifts. There needs to be a sense of perspective.

When the passage starts by referring to tongues of men and angels, it is not engaging in a piece of baroque flourish.
Some in the community of Corinth do appear to have been carried away with speaking in tongues. Paul spends the next chapter addressing the problem. So his assertion that speaking in tongues is just a lot of noise if love does not have highest priority confronts a certain kind of religiosity – a piety which is not the be all or end all!

The same happens in the statements which follow. Prophecy, understanding mysteries, knowledge, faith to move mountains, all count for nothing if love is not present.

Paul is attacking approaches to spirituality which have missed the point of what Christianity is about, as he understands it.
From earlier chapters we see that the Corinthians seemed obsessed with these things.

They were squabbling about leadership; some were making claims to be especially wise; some were getting carried away with ecstatic experiences; others were making miracles central.

Paul attacks none of these activities, but he refuses to assume that any of them should be seen as the main thing. When Paul wants to identify the presence of God, these are not the prime things. The prime thing is compassion. It’s only about love.

Matthew gives us a picture of Jesus making a similar point when he declares: “Not every one who says, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my father who is in heaven” and he continues by pointing out that in the end people will report their wonderful deeds, miracles, prophecy and the like, only to be told they have no real relationship with Jesus at all.

Similarly in the parable of the sheep and the goats, Matthew reports that the sheep are those who exercised compassion in their lives That is ultimately what counts.

We may have the talent, the will and the belief to restore buildings and erect new halls, and keep them beautiful. But without love we are nothing.

We might light candles for folk and pray and sound convincing, but without love for each other we are nothing.

We may run Coffee Mornings and lunches and Friends’ Events until they are coming out of our ears, but if we have no love we are nothing. We might give the Diocese wonderful statistical returns, or show up at Synod, but without love we are nothing.

We will be judged on our love and compassion for each other and towards others.

The second half of the passage seems only marginally related to love – until we get to the climax.. Paul is wanting to put everything in its place.

Only love really endures. The point is to assert human vulnerability. We have not arrived – some at Corinth thought they had.

Some of us in St Auggie’s think we’ve arrived too.. beautiful buildings, good music, and lots of life. Hey! We have a show on the road here… but, but, but!

So here in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul is trying to bring people down to earth to stop the arrogance. Paul does not need to pretend that he is in control, that he knows everything, that he is superior.

It is OK to be a human being who still has a long way to go. In this way Paul is at least preparing the kind of soil in which love might have a chance to take root. It often can’t get much of a start until we acknowledge our need of it.

George Matheson RIP

It is with great sadness that I pass on the news that George died on Saturday afternoon. It’s a possibility that the funeral will be on Thursday afternoon. The Funeral Service is in St Augustine’s at 1.45pm on Thursday 12th November. George’s remains will be brought into church on Wednesday at 4.15pm.

Completion at last!

The Local Cooncil have had a look around the New Hall (at last) and passed us fit for human habitation! So we’re up and running! So soup on Friday in the hall, although the joiners are still making us lockers for Community Groups in the big meeting room at the back!

Bartimaeus – Sermon Trinity 20

A young man, blind from birth, fell in love with a girl. The more he got to know her, the deeper his love for her became. He found her full of charm and wit. A beautiful friendship developed between them.
But then, one day, a so-called friend told him that the girl wasn’t very good-looking. In fact, in Glasgow parlance, she was hacket! From that moment on he began to lose interest in her. Too bad!! He had been “seeing” her very well up until that point. It was his friend who was blind!

A blind person doesn’t judge by appearances. We must remember that there is sight, and then there is insight!!

In biblical times, blindness was very common. Today we have eliminated many of the diseases that cause blindness, and we have invented all kinds of devices to improve our seeing. We have ordinary glasses, bifocals, magnifying glasses, telescopes, microscopes…… We can see more and further than ever before in our history.

In fact the miracle which Jesus performed for Bartimaeus happens regularly in our local hospitals on a daily basis.

Because we are not blind, we might be tempted to think that the Gospel story has no relevance for us, but it’s because most of us can see very well, even with our specs on, that it HAS relevance for us! You see, the question for us really is, “How well do you see?” “How well do you see?”
Bartimaeus was suffering from physical blindness. But there are other forms of blindness! We acknowledge this when we say things like “I was completely in the dark”, or “It suddenly dawned on me”, or “It was right in front of me and I couldn’t see it!”

Is it possible that a blind person could have more faith than a sighted person? Is it possible that a blind person could even “see” more than a sighted person, in the sense of having more insight and more understanding?

I had Bobby Simpson in the new hall last week, and he became, in a few short minutes, more aware of his surroundings and what was where, than most of the Wednesday congregation sitting round the table in the corner. They probably didn’t see half the things Bobby saw, and he’s completely blind!
St Mark certainly thought that a blind person had more insight and understanding than most of us! In fact, this seems to be the whole point of his story! Bartimaeus, who was physically blind, had more faith in Jesus than many of his disciples who had perfect eyesight! Bartimaeus has no doubts, whereas the disciples are full of doubts and hesitation.

One of the saddest things Jesus said about his contemporaries was this: “They have eyes but fail to see.” They witnessed the great things he did, yet had no faith in him. And maybe, just maybe, lack of faith is a more serious kind of blindness than physical blindness.

There is a darkness worse than that of Bartemaeus – the darkness of unbelief, which can lead to total despair!

Physical sight is a great thing, a gift which we should never take for granted, but spiritual sight is even greater.

The Gospel story is more a discipleship story, a “calling” story, than a story of healing. When Bartimaeus was cured he could have gone off to live his own life, forgetting about Jesus. Instead he became an immediate and enthusiastic disciple of Jesus. He followed Jesus along the road, and that is the climax of the story. Bartimaeus didn’t run off and become a proof reader for the Jerusalem Echo!

From a mere believer, Bartimaeus became a disciple. There is a big difference. Being a disciple means living as a Christian. His willingness to follow Jesus contrasts with the disciples misunderstandings and hesitations during the journey to Jerusalem.

Bartimaeus was in darkness until he met Jesus. We are in darkness when we doubt, when we hate, when we live in error or prejudice or when we choose evil over good. Hatred and loathing over love.
So we should be making the prayer of Bartimaeus our own prayer, “Lord, that I may see”. “Lord that I may have insight” That we might see what is really important in life, and above all that we may see with the eyes of faith, and have insight that is based very firmly in the teachings of Our Lord.