Ascension – a new normal?

(Readings: Acts 1:6-14 & John 17:1-11)

As I came to the end of my training for ministry, I went to visit an isolated farm in the North Pennines to arrange a baptism. I parked the car on the road and walked down the track to the gate of the farmyard. A large dog ran up, barking, put its paws on the top rung of the gate and looked me in the eye. I’m ok with dogs, tentatively reached out and the dog was fine. I opened the gate and went in. I then got to the entrance to the garden, through which was the path to the farmhouse door. Unfortunately standing in the entrance was the biggest black and white pig I had ever seen. Nothing in my training had prepared me for this new situation! I tried calling it, patting it, shooing it but it wouldn’t budge. It was a bit of an impasse and a time before mobile phones. In the end the farmer’s wife saw me from the window and came out to rescue me. She just called it’s name (Gilbert!) and off it trotted. I learnt early on that life as a minister was going to be full of the unexpected for which I was unprepared.

A few months ago the phrase ‘the new normal’ would not have meant much to any of us. Having said that any of us who have ever experienced a major life changing event might recognise the sense of a ‘new normal’. We adapt to new ways of living and routines whether we want to or not. The ‘new normal’ has now entered our vocabulary as we start thinking about how things are going to be in the weeks, months and years to come. It applies to society, communities, churches, families, shopping, cafes, etc. We will be working out new routines, practices etc. Is this what any of us were expecting at the start of 2020? I expect not!

This experience, however, puts us in good company alongside the disciples. The ascension of Jesus draws a line in the Jesus story. It marks a big change for the disciples. Jesus was no longer going to be around in the way he had been. Everything changed. The whole world and the lives of the disciples had changed. Is that what they wanted? Is it what they had been expecting even a few months before – I expect not! They were facing a ‘new normal’ with no ‘ladybird’ guide as to what to expect, what to do and no doubt feeling somewhat unprepared.

The story of the ascension as recorded in Acts 1:6-14 is a hinge point in Luke’s telling of the gospel story. The gospel written by Luke is Volume 1 and the Acts of the Apostles is volume 2. The ascension marks a transition of disciples to apostles. From learners/followers to those who are sent. Of course, they continue to be disciples and they had already been identified as apostles earlier by Luke (6.13). But there is a significant change in their understanding, their reality at this point. A change that encompasses the whole of creation as Jesus identified in that passage from the gospel (John 17:1-11).

Jesus ‘finished the work’ revealing the Father’s glory which was there before the world began. Christ is more than a world changing event, Christ is creation changing event, everything is transformed. This is the new creation, a new normal and this is the world the apostles (and we) now inhabit. But the disciple apostles know that in this changed world they are not alone. There may not be a ‘ladybird’ guide but there are the words and actions of Jesus inhabiting the scriptures. This is to be their guide not simply as something they have learnt but as something that is alive within them. A lived reality – a new normal. This was what John Wesley discovered when he felt his heart strangely warmed in Aldersgate Street on 24 May 1738. In this new creation God’s words are in us, but even more than that God’s Word is in us: All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them (17:10). And what do the disciples do immediately after seeing Jesus being lifted up? They locked themselves away and devoted themselves to prayer. As we prepare for what lies ahead prayer is a good place to start recognising the words and Word of God within.

Peace be with you.

With love, Nick

Call to Prayer 24th May 2020

Prayer @ 7pm

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At this present time, we are especially conscious of the need to protect and to be protected. Indeed, our collective awareness of the need to protect life and the lives of those whom we love has perhaps never been so heightened. In response to the threat posed by Covid 19, we seek to protect and shield those whom we care for most deeply.

In the Gospel of John (17: 1-11), Jesus prays for his disciples in anticipation of the time when he will no longer be with them. What is it that he prays for? Jesus asks the Father to ‘protect’ his friends. Whilst he was with them, Jesus protected and shielded the disciples and later in his prayer he prays for each one of us. The ascended Lord Jesus continues to pray for us and assures us that his presence will be renewed through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We pray:

Living God and gracious Father,
Protect and shield us.
Living God, protect and shield
All whom we love,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Living God, your Son now sits in your presence
And shares in your glory and honour.
We thank you for the promise
That his presence shall be renewed for us,
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Living God, we thank you that Jesus prayed for us
And that he continues to intercede for us.
We thank you that he continues to pray
For us and for our protection,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Living God, we pray for the life of the world.
We thank you for all those who, in these days,
Strive to protect and shield us.
Renew them in heart and soul, and mind and strength,
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Living God, renew us we pray and renew the life of the world.
For you so loved the world that you gave your Son
That we might share in the life of the world to come.
Hear our prayer, now and always,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Signed by:

  • Rt. Rev. Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  • Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
  • Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  • Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
  • Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
  • Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
  • Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
  • Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)

WWW.Easter

Suzanne Simard, a young Canadian forest ecologist, discovered a curious connection in the 1990s. When paper birch trees were “weeded” out amongst the cash crop of the Douglas Fir trees, rather than benefitting the firs, it hastened their decline. What she went on to discover was that under the ground, fungi sent out super fine threads creating a network weaving the roots of all the trees together. Along these networks the trees exchanged nutrients. Removing the paper birch trees disrupted the connections and removed the nutrients from the Douglas Firs which was detrimental to all. The discovery of this interconnected network became known as the “wood wide web”!


Last week in John’s telling of the gospel story we heard Jesus saying there are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. There was an invitation to follow, to join, to dwell in the presence of God. Following on from that, this week we are now being invited to welcome the Father into our dwelling place: ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.’


There is a mutuality here – an invitation and welcome that is reciprocated – perhaps a bit like a marriage? ‘I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.’ We are not only invited into the Father’s house, but we learn we are to be the dwelling place for the Father – in Christ through the Holy Spirit.


One wonders what the disciples made of such a statement. The idea that God was not to be found in a particular place like the Temple, but can be discovered in every time and place. This certainly is good news for us at the moment shut out of the buildings where we long to gather. ‘Best of all God is with us’ said John Wesley on his deathbed. This is a constant refrain for the people called Methodists. God does not abandon us but rather God is with us. Our lifeblood flowing through us – we are part of the same Vine. And through the Holy Spirit we are each connected to one another. Perhaps like the wood wide web we may find it difficult to see the connections at the present time, but they are there. When one suffers, we all suffer, when one rejoices so too we join in that rejoicing. Through prayer, cards and conversation we bear with one another and build each other up. A connected community or to put it another way a World Wide Web spun into being by the Creator, every strand infused with the presence of Christ. This amazing gift is present now. A gift for all who desire to belong. Like the Paper Birch and Douglas Fir we may be very different but that brings a great richness to the whole.
I recognise that sometimes it is easier than others to sense this connectedness, but it is always there and I am discovering afresh the importance, not only of this unseen network, but of taking the time to recognise it is there and to give thanks for our connectedness.
Thanks be to God.


By way of reflection I have included an article by Laurence Wareing reflecting on a hymn written by modern hymn writer Andrew Pratt. It is 610 in Singing the Faith and uses that line:
Best of all is God is with us.
Peace be with you.
Nick

Call to Prayer 17th May 2020

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In the days following the first Easter Sunday, the disciples of Jesus would have gone through any number of different reactions, from uncertainty and anxiety to joy and celebration, through incomprehension and fear to recognition and hope. If the Cross had robbed them of his presence, the Resurrection has restored his presence. Surely Jesus will continue to be with them always?

The Gospel of John (14: 1-21) portrays the disciples wrestling with the dawning reality that Jesus will not continue to be physically present to them. It would seem that they are again to be left bereft and ‘orphaned’. Uncertainty and anxiety threaten once more. In response, Jesus speaks into their incomprehension and fear with the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus reassures them that they are not alone and that his spiritual presence will be renewed in this world through the Spirit. Jesus, through the Spirit, continues with us always as the assurance of God’s love for us.

Let us pray:

Living God, you are our Creator and our Maker
And the very breath of life is given as your gift.
We thank you for the gift of life
And we embrace and treasure that gift.

Living God, you are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
Whose presence in the world reveals your love for us.
In the giving of your Son,
You reveal the depths of your love.

Living God, your Son embraced the Cross
And the depths of human suffering.
We thank you that you delivered him
On the day of Resurrection.

Living God, as you spoke to the bereft and the orphaned in days past,
Speak to the bereft and the orphaned in days present.
Speak to the uncertain and the anxious.
Speak into the depths of our incomprehension and fear.

Living God, your promise
Is that we will not be left alone to face the world.
We thank you that through the gift of your Spirit
That promise is fulfilled.

Living God, be with all who sustain our common life at this time,
Carers and nurses, cleaners and porters,
Doctors and ambulance staff, delivery drivers and posties.
Through their giving our common life is sustained.

Living God, as you have watched over us in the past,
Watch over us in the present.
As once more we thank you, that through Christ
And by your Holy Spirit, we are not alone. Amen.

Signed by:

  • Rt. Rev. Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  • Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
  • Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  • Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
  • Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
  • Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
  • Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
  • Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)

Call to Prayer 10th May 2020

SUNDAY 10th MAY Prayer @ 7pm

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As Scotland locked down in March, so our usual way of life came shuddering to a halt. Travel was restricted to an extent not experienced in any living lifetime. Our way of life changed too. Some faced traumatic, heart-rending personal situations, from illness to hospitalisation, anxiousness for and separation from loved ones. Others experienced new risk through their roles, including those serving in hospitals and care homes, and key workers in other sectors that are vital for life. Yet others faced difficult personal situations: hunger, tension in relationships and worse, and overnight, everyone had to find a new way of living life.

Today’s gospel reading from John Chapter 14, tells of a traumatic time in the life of the disciples and Jesus. After three years travelling together around Galilee, they arrive in Jerusalem amidst an atmosphere heavy with threat. Gathering behind a closed door, in the hour of his own need, Jesus sought to offer comfort and guidance to his followers and friends, telling them of a place in God’s house, and that he was going ahead to prepare a place for them. Thomas, bless him, asked the question which is on the hearts of so many, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. Howcan we know the way? To which Jesus replied: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

“Today, in these times, we pray that we may sense Christ’s guiding presence:

Come, Jesus Christ, come my way;
showing me your way, through these disorientating days,
and opening my eyes to your accompanying presence.

Come, Jesus Christ, come my way;
teaching me your truth, through these confounding days
and opening my mind to your living Word.

Come Jesus Christ, come my way;
revealing to me your life, through these bewildering days,
and opening my heart to the fulness of your being.

Amen.

Signed by:

  • Rt. Rev. Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  • Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
    Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  • Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
  • Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
  • Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
  • Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
  • Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)

Easter keeps going

(Read John :10-10 and Acts 2:42-47)
In the days long before Sat Nav, smart phones and the like on the long car journey from Cumbria to East Anglia, Dad decided to take a short cut in the back roads of East Anglia. Suffice to say the short cut took us a lot longer and when you’re cramped in the back seat with two older brothers, Dad was not very popular at that point. Of course, it wasn’t the first or last time such a thing happened!

As Jesus points out in the gospel there isn’t a short cut to the sheepfold – a point exemplified by Jesus as he travels the cross before experiencing resurrection. We can’t just jump over the wall as indeed we can’t suddenly find a short cut out of the present situation. The Apostles in the early church took this advice to heart summed up in the phrase, ‘Day by Day’.

It feels like Day by day is about the only thing we can do at the moment and maybe some days we are not even sure if its yesterday, today or tomorrow. Certainly, I am learning patience, seeking to focus on the risen Christ but it’s not always easy.

But the early church gives us some good advice. There was a lot of fear around about what might come next (remember Jesus hap appeared in a locked room – locked because of the disciples’ fear). The Romans had crucified Jesus. The future of the early Christians was very uncertain. So what do they do?
Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

This is not bad advice for the lockdown. Seeking out teaching (Bibles) and fellowship (giving someone a ring or ‘Zooming/Skyping/FaceTiming’). Breaking bread – taking time to eat, remembering those around us in the world, giving thanks for all those who still make it possible for us to have food on our tables and maybe recognizing something of the risen Christ in this, and praying. This is a good time for prayer – there is no need to rush, no need to present a list but trying to find time to place ourselves in the presence of God. There is no shortcut to this and sometimes it comes easier than others, simply listening for the voice of the Shepherd.

The suggested Psalm for this Sunday is Psalm 23 – perhaps the most well-known Psalm to all of us. A Psalm that reminds us there is no shortcut but that God is faithful and walks with us even in the most difficult places – in the challenges of the shadows and uncertainty. Christ bears testament that such situations do not have the last word. There is hope and life and love. The early Christians found a way, we too will find a way and the time will come when we can gather physically together again. In the meantime let us holdfast, not seeking shortcuts but spending time as the first followers did.

If you read the passages at the start, you’ve already done some Bible reading, by reading this you have spent time in the company of others in the churches and maybe Psalm 23 can lead you into a time of prayer. And then look, you are already following the example of the early Christians!

Keep on keeping on, and may the peace of the risen Christ reign in your hearts.

With love, Nick

Call to Prayer 3rd May 2020 @ 7pm

Photo by Lionel Titu

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In these challenging days: Is there anyone watching over us who really understands who we are and what we are experiencing at this time?

The imagery of the Lord as Shepherd and of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd is woven into the heart of Scripture. The resonance of the ancient, yet immediately present, words of the Psalmist can be sensed, such that even now we can hear those words in the very depths of our being: ‘The Lord is my Shepherd…Even though I walk through the darkest valley…Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me’. (Psalm 23) The imagery is taken up in the Gospel of John where the Good Shepherd watches over us and calls us by our name. He does so because he knows us and knows what we are experiencing at this time.(John 10)

Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd’ and so we pray:

Good Shepherd, watch over us today
In all we face and experience.
Never leave us or forsake us
And journey with us always.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know us
As no-one else knows us.
Guard us and keep us,
As you guard and keep those whom we love.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, we pray for the sick and the lonely;
For the anxious and the bereaved;
For those whose pain is beyond our comprehension.
We stand with them and commend them to your care.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, we pray for the carers in hospitals and in homes
And for all who serve the needs of others.
May the example of living compassion
Inspire us in our care for others.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know the depths of our heart
And the fears which are ours.
Speak into the depths of our heart
And calm our fears.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Good Shepherd, you know us by our name
And our identity is not hidden from you.
Gather us to yourself as a Shepherd gathers the sheep,
That we might know your Name.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Signed by:

Rt. Rev. Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)

Call to Prayer 26th April 2020

National Call to Prayer: Sundays at 7 pm A Prayer for 26 April 2020

As we continue to journey through this challenging time, we are conscious that the course of our journey will take us to different places.

At some points, we will have greater clarity as to where that journey is taking us. At other points, we will be less sure.

The two disciples who left Jerusalem to journey to Emmaus were definitely in the latter category (Luke 24: 13-35).

As they journey, they try to make sense of all that they are currently experiencing and, in truth, they are finding it difficult. It is as if the source of their hope has gone.

Unexpectedly, they then find themselves in the presence of someone whom they do not recognise.

The unrecognised presence listens to their story and, having listened, begins to offer a new way of understanding that story.

As they come towards the end of their journey, the unrecognised is revealed as the risen Lord: ‘The Lord has risen indeed’!

The Lord is always with us on our journey and so we pray…

Lord, we are those who journey
And who find that journey hard today. We are those who journey
And long to find our hope renewed.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, whether in our own company or with companions beside us, We journey on.
Whether sure, or unsure, as to our journey’s end,
Come beside us through the risen Lord.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for others;
For carers of the living and of the dying;
For the bereaved and for the anxious;
For those fearing loss of work and of business.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for scientists and researchers;
For those seeking to understand the challenge we face;
For those creating potential vaccines;
For those advising decision-makers.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for those who shape our common life:
In local Councils and in Scottish Government
And in the Government of the United Kingdom.
Grant to them wisdom, compassion and understanding.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for your Kingdom to come And for your will to be done,
On earth
As it is in heaven.

Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Amen.

The statement and prayer is signed by:

Rt. Rev. Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)

Bready Easter

(Before you read this get yourself a bit of bread)

Put your hand up if you attended a Sunday School (and if anybody can see you they are now wondering whyyou’ve just put your hand up). Not all, but many of us have attended Sunday school – some may have enjoyed it, others like me, may have found it rather boring and wishing I was somewhere!

I wonder if you have any mementos of those days – a bible, a hymn book, a certificate? I wonder if you remember anything you learnt? Or if you came by a different route into church – in your teens or as an adult what do you remember of what brought you to that point?

Maybe it all seems a bit long ago, perhaps it has lost its edge – if so then you’re in good company with thedisciples on the road to Emmaus. They sort of knew their stuff, although they needed a little reminder to prompt their memories about Moses and the prophets? Their world had been turned upside down and it maybe it felt as though God has gone missing at the time when God was needed most. Today questions such as, where is God at this time of Corona Virus, and ‘why’ put us alongside those sad disciples as they walk away from Jerusalem. We know suffering is part of our world, our history – consider the Psalms or Job. The death of Jesus on the cross stands as a reminder that God enters into our world of suffering: “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” asks the stranger.

In Christ, God participates in the suffering of all, of the world. It is the only answer, it is an answer of “I amwith you…” wherever you find yourself, in whatever situation.

On the road to Emmaus the stranger encourages the disciples to remember what they have learnt over all these years. We are encouraged to think about what we’ve heard not just in Sunday school but week by week at church. Remember all of that but that is not the end of the story. It’s simply the beginning, a trellis upon which faith can grow. The living faith comes when the disciples “recognise” Christ in the stranger. The stories, their learning comes to life in the new life they encounter.

We are being led/encouraged/prompted to recognise the risen Christ, the living Spirit, in our lives and the life of the world. With the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the moment of recognition came when they sat together to eat, when bread was broken. At the moment we cannot meet together to eat. In some sense, perhaps it feels that we are the broken body of Christ. But we remember that it is in the breaking apart that Christ comes to meet us. In the sadness, in the brokenness we remember what we have learnt and let the Spirit draw us into connection with the living presence of Christ.

Find some space and take some time to do this (pause as you go along): If you do have something from Sunday school or when you became a church member, place it alongside you as a reminder of all that you have learnt. Then, I invite you to take your piece of bread. Hold the bread in your hands. [PAUSE] Give thanks to God remembering the farmers, the bakers, the delivery drivers, the shop workers, your neighbours. [PAUSE] Break the bread and in doing so remember the suffering of the body of Christ, the brokenness in our lives, our communities, our world. Remember the work of charities like All We Canworking with some of the world’s poorest people so that they can put bread on the table. [PAUSE] Now eat the bread. The brokenness is part of us but in this we encounter the presence of risen Christ dwelling within bringing peace and joy. [PAUSE]

The Lord has risen indeed.
Keep going dear friends. Peace be with you. With love, Nick

Message from Nick Baker 18 April 2020

Clootie Easter

Some of you may recall that a few months back I came second in a competition run by the V&A in Dundee to name their souvenir toy coo. I still think I should have won but that is just overwhelming arrogance on my part – Lord have mercy! The name I had chosen was “Clootie”. My reasoning was that a coo has a bit of a dumpling look to it, its hide can look like strips of cloth and it was very much a local name.

Interestingly the spellchecker on my computer is underlining Clootie in red telling me I have misspelt the word – Scots clearly hasn’t made it as a language for word processors. Word processors are ever keen to please and offer alternative suggestions for my clear incompetence. The first suggestion it offers as an alternative to “clootie” is “clothe” which isn’t a bad guess. A clothed dumpling is a fairlyaccurate representation of a clootie dumpling. The clootie being the strip of cloth that is wrapped around the pudding.

More recently, I have learnt of the existence of Clootie wells such as the well at Munlochy on the Black Isle. The well is dedicated to Saint Curetán (or Boniface) – a Pictish Bishop (c.690-710). Curetán arrived from Rome, sailing up the River Tay to Invergowrie where he built a church before later heading North to the Black Isle. Amongst other things Curetán is linked with the healing of children through prayer. Perhaps this is why the well is dedicated in his honour – the tradition of wells/springs being a place of healing is an ancient one as the Samaritan woman at the well would testify. The Well at Munlochy is surrounded by trees with bits of cloth (clooties) hanging off them as a symbol of healing. In our Christian tradition the Turin Shroud is often a focus of pilgrimage which, if nothing else, serves as a reminder of the discarded grave clothes at the resurrection.

As the Easter story unfolds in John’s telling of the gospel (Jn 20:19-31), the disciples are still hiding away, and Jesus surprises them. But more than this Jesus makes good on his three promises to share with the disciples: Peace (Jn 14.27); Joy (Jn 15.11; 16.22); and the Spirit (Jn14.16). We also encounter Thomas who foolishly (like many of us) says (like Victor Meldrew), ‘I don’t believe it’.

Christ, the gospel encourages us to let go (or like Mary in the garden not to hold on to) the earthly Jesus but to breathe in the risen Christ. To experience this not as a historical story but a living reality in our lives.

I wonder then, if a bit like the grave clothes, we can put some things to one side and welcome the gifts of peace, joy and the Spirit. The Clootie wells are a sign of hope and healing. I invite you to find a bit of cloth, and, holding on to the cloth offer a prayer for healing (which could be of someone you know, or giving thanks for the healers in our society, of for healing in the face of the global pandemic or healing for ourselves or all of the above or something completely different). Having prayed your prayer, if you have a tree in the garden tie it on to that so that others might see it. If you don’t haveaccess to a garden, tie something to a pot plant and put it in a window (if anybody asks tell them it’sa bonsai clootie!). These clooties will form signs of healing and hope in our communities offering a sign of blessing for those who pass by and serving as a reminder for us of the peace and joy in the Spirit. And who knows, I may even get over not having won the V&A competition!

If you can, take a photo and email it to me and I shall collate them and send it round. May the Peace and Joy of the risen Christ dwell within you.

With love & prayer Nick