Monthly Archives

September 2018

Destiny and Character

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Sermon preached at St Pancras on Sunday 16 September

Today’s readings from Isaiah and Mark are about destiny. The passage from Isaiah is one of the Servant Songs. These foretold the coming of a Messiah to lead the nations, who would suffer, but in the end be rewarded. You’ll recognise some of the other servant songs from Isaiah, because much of the first part of Handel’s Messiah sets them to music: how beautiful are the feet, he was despis’ed, surely he has borne our griefs, all we like sheep.

The striking bell in the St Pancras clock is broken at the moment. After the quarters chime, there is now an expectant pause… For years the Jews had been stuck in this pause, waiting for their Messiah. Then one day, Jesus stood up in the Synagogue and read this passage from Isaiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.’ The reading from Mark develops this privately with the disciples: ‘who do people say that I am?’, and he warns them, that being the Messiah will mean rejection, suffering and death. He also mentions resurrection, but perhaps they don’t quite hear this bit, because Peter rebukes him about being so gloomy. Jesus then tells the crowd that discipleship means they have to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. I imagine at that point he lost quite a lot of the crowd. Read More

Thought For The Day – Weather-making – 4th Sep 2018

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In Mexico, the car-maker Volkswagen is being criticised for overuse of Hail Cannons. To avoid damage to the new cars they store outside, they’ve invested in vast machines that fire waves of pressure into the air to prevent hailstorms. But the farmers around them are claiming that this also prevents rain, so their crops are failing. Cloud-busting has been going on for quite a while. For their Olympics, the Beijing Weather Modification Office used 21 rockets around the city to fire silver iodide into the clouds, to make the rain fall before it reached the capital.

And manipulating the weather has been a motivation for religion since time began. We’ve had sun gods and rain gods, gods of thunder and gods of the winds, and we worshipped them to seek a measure of control over the weather. The Bible itself is full of weather phenomena – Noah’s flood and the famous rainbow; it raining quail and manna during the Exodus; Jesus calming the storm; and the sky turning black on Good Friday. In those days, God made the weather. But these days, we make it; not just through cannons and rockets, but through how we live. The choices we make, and our addiction to fossil fuels, are contributing to the slow baking of the earth. And while it can feel like we’re too small to take on such a big global issue, perhaps we could all join the dots more than we do.

We’re getting better at carrying shopping bags, to avoid the 5p charge for a plastic one, and hopefully reducing the amount of plastic ending up in the oceans and in landfill.  But there’s still a lot of plastic in our clothes. Nylon can take 30 to 40 years to break down in landfill, so perhaps the next thing we could work on is how to re-use and recycle our clothes, so we’re all doing our bit to make the right sort of weather in future.

We’re also getting better at working with the weather, and finding ways to harvest it too, through forests of wind turbines, and fields of solar panels. Of course Scotland has pioneered hydro-electricity for many years, given that we’re often blessed with wet weather. And as Autumn starts to be felt, perhaps one day, we’ll find a way to do something productive with all those Autumn leaves, too.

Other Thoughts

I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.