A time for war and a time for peace

In my first charge, Newbattle, we marked the 50th anniversary of VE Day with members of the Royal Army Medical Corps, leading the congregation and community in thanksgiving for deliverance from an evil that threatened the whole world 
As a family, we walked the Normandy beaches shortly after the 60th anniversary of D-Day, and were deeply moved by things that we saw and heard. Exploring the American cemetery near Omaha beach (& watching Saving Private Ryan) were powerful experiences that left us grateful for the sacrifices made by countless young women and men who gave their lives for our freedoms. The Nazi philosophy threatened the freedom of all and destroyed a continent. 
However, on the point of going to Germany to celebrate the wedding of two wonderful young friends, I am now conscious of a generation who are not responsible for the sins of their forebears and who do all they can to forge friendships across cultures and national barriers. While it is important for all of us to be aware of the history behind today’s VE Day commemoration, they (& their national leaders) should not constantly have to experience the discomfort of the UK’s near obsession with such commemorations. Let us rather build bridges of friendship that are more likely to make future conflicts less likely.

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‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’

Good Friday reflection on the last of the Seven Words from the Cross – St Peter’s Lutton Place.

Father, into your hands – Luke 23:44 – 46

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Amen, and thanks be to God for his word.

crucifixion-silhouetteTwice I have been present when people have taken their first breath, but although I have seen a number of lifeless bodies, I have never been present when they have taken their last breath. This time last year my mother-in-law died, and although I was among the family members by her bedside for most of the time, her last breath was taken when only her two daughters were with her. They said it was very peaceful, and for some it is so. For others, there is a struggle to keep hold of life, not wanting to let it go; or a struggle to let each breath be the last in order to be free of the pain.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus had a sense of destiny: he could not die until it was the right time – his hour had not yet come. But now, this was his hour. This was the time when he would be lifted up and the glory of God would be present amid the darkness and shame of his crucifixion. Among the remarkable things about the death of Jesus is the fact that he had the strength remaining to cry in a loud voice, and that this final cry is not like the earlier one with its sense of dereliction, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ In these hours of pain and suffering, Jesus comes to terms with what is happening and brings his mission of salvation and liberation to its climax. As he does so, his life is not taken from him, he entrusts it to his Father in heaven.

In Greek, the word for wind, breath and spirit is the same word – Pneuma, from which we get English words like pneumatic. With his last breath, Jesus entrusts his whole being into the hands of his loving Father. It was God who breathed into Adam the breath of life, and he became a living being; it is God who receives the breath of life from the Second Adam, but receives it in order to restore it on the day of Easter resurrection. There is this great sense of trust, so that Jesus places his life and breath into the faithful hands of his Father.

Across the world today, there are many followers of Jesus who are having to say to themselves, ‘do I fight back against persecution, or do I entrust my spirit to my heavenly Father?’ Hundreds, even thousands of our brothers and sisters are surrendering their lives rather than renounce their faith in Christ. As they draw their last breath, they entrust themselves into the hands of their Father, who will restore that life on the great day of resurrection.

We too, in our day to day existence must ask ourselves, into whose hands do we place our last breath? Whatever the future may hold for us, let us be assured that the safest hands for our last breath are the hands of the one who made us. As Jesus did, in faith and hope we entrust our spirits to the one who gave them, knowing he will restore them on the day of resurrection. Friday is here, but Sunday is coming.

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Holy Week 2015 – Wednesday: And it was night

John 13:21-32

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.’

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask him which one he means.’

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’

26 Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’ 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[c] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.


And it was nightstatic1.squarespace

Why did he do it? What got into him? In hindsight, maybe we should have seen it coming – remember, we did notice little things that at the time seemed nothing, but when you add them all together, they explain a lot.


We could be thinking of the Germanwings plane crash, but we’re not – rather, we’re thinking about another betrayal: that of Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. Various explanations have been put forward to explain the motivation of Judas: perhaps he wanted to force Jesus’ hand so that the Kingdom of God would come in its fullness now; or that Jesus would be cornered into overthrowing the Romans in order to save himself; or perhaps it was the money – those thirty pieces of silver he received for planting a kiss on the cheek of his friend, after all, he kept the common purse and we know he was pilfering.


The truth is, we do not know what his motivation was, only that he did it and regretted it, and his remorse was so great that he took his own life. We do, however, know that one being betrayed could see it coming. Jesus, who could see into the souls of those disturbed in spirit, saw into the soul of Judas. The body language, the silence, the avoiding of eye contact, the change of behaviour – something was going on that Judas could not hide and when Jesus handed him the bread, he knew he had been rumbled. The darkness of the night around them enveloped Judas and penetrated every part of his being as he stepped out of the house to go and fulfil his side of the bargain.


The tragedy of this story should not be lost on us as we reflect on the journey of Jesus to the cross and resurrection: it was one of his own who was instrumental in Jesus’ arrest, and the way events unfolded, that arrest would lead to the pain and humiliation of crucifixion. This was truly betrayal.


There are two particular things that I find interesting about this situation, and they speak powerfully to us today. The first is that when Jesus said to the group of disciples that one of them would betray him, they didn’t know whom he meant, and each of them appears to be worried that it would be him – the Synoptic Gospels have the disciples asking Jesus, ‘Is it I?’ Not only had they not seen the signs in the life of Judas, there was a disturbing awareness within all that they might have it in them to betray Jesus. This is sobering for us in our time. If the Apostles felt it possible that they could betray Jesus, then perhaps we need to look to ourselves. Our betrayal cannot be a kiss on his cheek, but a myriad of other possibilities surrounds us as ways not only of denying Jesus as Peter did, but betraying him as Judas did.


The second is that whatever motivation Judas had in betraying Jesus (and we should not immediately leap to the conclusion that it was malevolent), once he had done the deed, he had no control over the consequences. He might have wanted Jesus to fight back, but Jesus didn’t; he might have wanted God to send the armies of angels to intervene, but God didn’t; he might have wanted the arrest of Jesus to be a rallying point of insurrection among the people, but it wasn’t; he might have thought that the thirty silver coins would feel good in his hands, but they didn’t. Once Judas had betrayed Jesus, events took their own course. As many a spy has found out, even what may be seen as justified betrayal can lead to unanticipated catastrophic consequences. Judas was no exception.


However, what was an evil deed in human terms was, in the providence of God, used to bring glory to God and God’s Son. John regularly uses the term ‘glory’ to interpret the crucifixion – Jesus will be ‘lifted up’ upon the cross in both humiliation and glory. Humiliation we can understand humanly, but in viewing the cross from the perspective of God, it becomes the brightest revelation of God’s love in Christ, and shines with the glory of God’s presence. The darkness of betrayal has, unexpectedly, led to the revelation of God’s glory.

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Liberton Northfield – Re-advertisement

Dear all,

I would be grateful for your help in making known this advert and Parish Profile. Liberton Northfield is readvertising its vacancy, and, due to our family circumstances, in the new year I am handing over the duties of Interim Moderator to Jim Dewar, whose name appears on the new material.


Could ministerial friends please share this on your timeline to spread the words as far as possible.


Many thanks,



Advert November 2014v02

Liberton Northfield Parish Profile_REV G

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Christmas Newsletter 2014






We wish all our friends and family a very Happy Christmas!

PDF version here: 2014 xmas letter

2014 xmas letter1


2014 xmas letter2



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Liberton Northfield – vacancy

Dear all,
I’m Interim Moderator at Liberton Northfield Parish Church in Edinburgh following the retirement of the previous minister on 31st Dec. Attached is our Parish Profile and IMG_0269the terms of RT with Stats for Mission I’d be grateful if you would share this with people you think might be interested in the vacancy. I’m happy to chat . We are open for applications and recommendations with the aim of getting to the stage of Sole Nominee in June if possible.
Thanks and blessings,

Liberton Northfield Parish Profile_REV D

LN Stats for Mission – 21 Jan 14


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Come and see; go and tell

The Robin Chapel – 19 January 2014, 4pm
Epiphany 3: Is 49:1-67; John 1:29-42
‘Come and See; Go and Tell.’

[This is a short message delivered at the Robin Chapel in Edinburgh on Sunday 19 January 2014.]

In one of my more profane moments while reflecting for this message today I thought of the season of Epiphany as a kind of theological and spiritual ‘dance of the seven veils’ – or however many weeks Epiphany lasts for. Each week more of Jesus is revealed to us as we cover many of the themes and titles that explain who he is. And of course, his enfleshment, or incarnation as we call it, is a significant part of that, but before our imagination runs away with us, it is not the rest of his body that is being revealed in Epiphany, but his identity. So what can we learn of Jesus from the two passages read to us from Isaiah and John?

The beginning of Isaiah 49 is one of four so-called ‘Servant Songs’ of Isaiah – prophetic poetry composed to unpack the nature and mission of the ‘Servant of the Lord,’ including the fact that this Servant will be full of the Spirit of wisdom and will not only restore the relationship between Israel and God, but will also be a light to the nations. Traditionally within Christian interpretation, while the Servant picture initially has a corporate identity, the whole people of God, the focus narrows until it is seen in an individual – Jesus. He is the Servant of the Lord par excellence. While Isaiah had no thought in his mind about Jesus, when early Christians, and Jewish Christians in particular, read his songs of the Servant they thought of Jesus. So, in Epiphany, Isaiah removes one of the veils that prevents our understanding and we see Jesus as one who came to serve the mission of God in the world, a mission that is worldwide, for Jew and Gentile alike.

The stories of the baptism of Jesus in the Gospel of John, and his encounters with various people afterwards help us unpack some of what it means for Jesus to be the Servant of the Lord and what it means for us to follow in that servanthood. He is the one who, when baptized by John in the Jordan, is anointed by the Spirit for his ministry and will confer the Spirit on others. He is the one who, when effectively he was asked, ‘What are you about, Jesus,’ he said, ‘Come and see,’ so that those who were intrigued by him and by what John said about him, were not given a short course on right beliefs and religious practices, but they were apprenticed into the Kingdom of God way of living.

One of these new apprentices, Andrew, our own Patron saint, went off immediately and told his brother Simon Peter, ‘We have found the Messiah,’ which was a truly extraordinary thing for him to say after such a short encounter. It was Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus, that he too might be received into an apprenticeship.

There is much more to the Servanthood of Jesus that this, but it certainly includes this idea of making apprentices for the life of the Kingdom of God. As we follow in the life of the Master Carpenter, so we need to be people who will provoke the question, ‘You Jesus people, what are you really about?’ And in answer to that question, rather than point them to the Creeds, we can say, ‘Come and see.’ We, like Jesus before us, are to be about making apprentices for the Kingdom. And when those who come have encountered the life of Jesus through us, like Andrew, they are to go and tell, that others from across the globe may be apprenticed into that life as well.

Come and see; go and tell – two very different yet complementary aspects of the life of Jesus that are to be mirrored in us. They reflect a part of his mission for God that, given the passing of the generations, have also fallen to us that we too might become Servants of the Lord.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

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