Round the Churches

South Church linked with Dunnottar

During Rosslyn’s leave, we were delighted, as always, to welcome Ian Wilson back to lead our service.

The chosen hymns were deeply evocative of the messages from Scripture and Ian’s sermon and these ranged from the deeply reflective ‘O God of Bethel’ to the rousing ‘I’ll go in the strength of the Lord’.

Which of us has not found it difficult to pray? Ian read to us from one of the 22 ‘Letters to Malcolm: chiefly on Prayer’ by C.S. Lewis, in which various challenging aspects of prayer were examined and considered. It was suggested we focus on our own individual reflections rather than being distracted into censuring others; by maintaining a positive focus we retain the intimacy of a one to one relationship with God.

The readings Ian took from Psalm 111 and the Gospel of John Chapter 6 remind us so strongly of the covenant made by God that we abide in God and He in us; that we are of Him and our strength comes from Him. We must constantly acknowledge and live by these tenets avoiding the more worldly, self-seeking approach. In Him we live for ever.

Ian will be leading the service again next week on 23rd August which will take place at Dunnottar Church and then we are praying that lots of you will want to be at St Bridget’s Hall on the 30th August for a service ‘with a difference’.

Dunnottar Session meets on August 19 at 7pm in the upper room.

South Session meets on September 3 at 7.30pm in the Conservatory.

News from St James & St Philips

We had a joyful occasion at St Philip’s on Saturday: the first wedding for many years took place between Geordie Ross and Barbara Elkin. The ceremony was conducted by Rev Jane Nelson. Friends and relatives were present to lend their support – and it was a grand event, despite the miserable weather. Particularly lovely were the decorations created by the bride’s friends, as well as the floral decorations in the church. We wish the couple every happiness in their life together.

On Sunday, the 9am Eucharist was celebrated by Rev Jane Nelson, while Anne, our Lay Reader, conducted and preached at the 10.30am Communion from the Reserved Sacrament. Anne chose as her address a tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord. It was her special day for celebration this weekend, and as the BVM seldom is mentioned in the gospels, apart from the visitation and the birth narratives, she felt it only right to honour her.

She began by saying that when Christmas is coming we all get very het up about having all the preparations in place – but what if we didn’t know it was coming. What if it came as a complete surprise? What if we were preparing for something completely different and an angel suddenly stood in our doorway, telling us to change all our plans.

This is what happened with Mary. Then Anne took us on a journey back in history, to the Nazareth of the first Century – a town of about 15,000 inhabitants, northeast of Jerusalem, a town dominated by corruption. Not a holy place at all. Yet God chose this town to begin the unexpected. It was the home town of this teenage girl called Mary. She was engaged – no doubt an arranged marriage was to take place when she reached maturity. Certainly not yet ready to have a child – yet God sent this angel who ‘just appeared’ and said to her ‘Do not be afraid, Mary – you have found favour with God…you will be with child and give birth to a son.’

‘Do not be afraid’ sounds a bit much for this young lass, who is completely taken by surprise by this angel suddenly standing in her kitchen. No wonder she protested, ‘but I’m not even married, I’m too young.’

Yet despite everything, Mary was obedient – accepting the risk of being rejected by Joseph when he found her with child by someone other than himself, despite the risk of being ostracised by her own family – or even of being stoned as an adulteress. She accepted the angel’s bidding and the angel’s final sentence ‘nothing is impossible with God.’ In the event, no doubt Mary would have liked to have her child in a comfortable home, attended by her family. She wasn’t prepared for the coming of the angel, nor for the events that were to come.

The teaching for us is that we too must be prepared for the unexpected. We have expectations of what we think God should be doing in our lives, our ministries, our jobs and families. And then unexpected things happen, sorrows come, and we start to think – why doesn’t God care for me? What did I do wrong? Yet despite all this we must realise that the Christmas story tell us that God is present even in the most unexpected events. We make preparations because Christmas happens. Christmas happens because of God’s promise to Mary.

Anne concluded her address with a reading from The Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantzakis, where Mary, as a middle-aged woman, is sitting spinning in the yard of her house. She is pondering the events of thirty-odd years ago as well as more recent events, when a white dove flew down from the roof opposite.

‘…it beat its wings for a moment over her head then alighted with dignity on th pebbles of the yard and began to walk round Mary’s feet. It spread its tail feathers, bent its neck, turned its head and looked at Mary – it spoke to her. She called the bird in a tender voice and the delighted dove took a hop and landed on her joined knees.

Mary placed her hand on the dove…she struggled to bring the lightning back to mind after thirty years and to untangle its hidden meaning. She closed her eyes. In her palm she felt the dove’s tiny warm body and beating heart…suddenly – dove and lightning were one; she was sure of it. The heartbeats and the thunder – all were God. Now for the first time she was able to make out the words hidden in the thunder, hidden in the dove’s cooing.

Hail Mary…Hail Mary!’ without a doubt this was what God had cried: ‘Hail Mary.’

Following the address, Anne invited the congregation to join with her in the words of the special prayer to the Virgin: Hail Mary, full of grace.