Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Gospel of John 10: 10
Thought for the Week Rev. Dr Graham McWilliams
Thought for the Week 21/10/2019
I wonder if you have ever planned something then, for some unknown reason within you, you change your mind and cancel your plans, choosing to do something different instead? Only to find out that, should your plans have gone ahead, you would have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. This happened to me and Lesley when we were planning to go off on holiday around the north of Scotland, for the October school break. Having changed our plans, we decided to just spend the week at our home in Largs.
As Callum, our younger son, was back at university we decided to take my mum up to visit and go out for tea. So, Lesley, Lauder (our older son), mum and I got into the car and drove to Glasgow. As we approached the Kingston Bridge, on a wet Sunday night, the car battery warning-light came on. Not being in a practical place to stop on the motorway, I continued to drive. We managed to get to Callum’s flat; park up; and then my car died! Nothing for it but to call out the recovery service on my mobile phone. This I did while everyone went into the local restaurant for dinner.
Within an hour my car was on the back of a rescue vehicle. I can’t imagine what would have happened if we were in some remote place in the north of Scotland; or how long it would have taken for a recovery vehicle to come and help us. Having finished our dinner, we got a taxi back to Largs. I was then able to take Lesley’s car and safely deposit mum in her own house. Everything was fine. Nothing too traumatic!
The next day, however, I received a call from one of my sisters (I have four). Mum isn’t answering her phone. We’re all worried! Could I go to the house and check on her? Using Lesley’s car, I did. All was well. For some reason mum’s phone was on silent! Everything was well once more. I’m glad we were not in the north of Scotland!
The following day, having enjoyed a nice walk around Cumbrae, I received another call from a different sister. Mum had fallen and broken her hip! With my car still in a local garage for repair I was fortunate enough to take Lesley’s car again and go to the hospital. Once more, I can’t imagine how I would have been able to do this if our original plans had taken place!
There are just some times in life when you know that you are not in control of what is happening. As in many other situations in my life, I definitely believe that God’s hand was upon us guiding us to the place where we would be of greatest service. In this case it was with my family; at other times it has been for other people. I find that, when you place your trust in God, through Jesus, and let God’s hand guide you, things just seem to fall into place.
I wonder if you have found this to be true, also?
Thought for the Week 07/10/2019
I wonder if you have ever found yourself in a situation where you’re afraid and you don’t know where to turn for help. And you find yourself saying, unconsciously, ‘Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust,’ which are the opening words from Psalm 16? Well, maybe not these exact words. Maybe you just say; “Keep me safe, God, I’m scared and I’ve got no-one to trust but You.”
Maybe you’re going away on a trip: Keep me safe, God. Maybe your children or grandchildren are going away to university: Keep them safe God. Maybe you’re going to have an operation: Keep me safe, God. It’s an instinctive cry that a lot of people make to the God we know, and who knows us!
It is a cry found deep in the hearts of all people made in the image and likeness of God; even in the hearts of those who claim little or no faith.
At a time of crisis in any family, even just for a moment, our façade’s drop, our vulnerability is evident, and we realise that not everything in this ordered world is black and white; simply a matter of chance or luck. And we hear the cry: “Keep me safe, God.
In these times of need we might think ‘what am I doing praying?’
Well, why you are praying is because there is a sense of God in your life, as in everyone’s heart. A God-shaped vacuum that only God, through prayer, can fill.
In times of crisis who do you turn to? Well, you turn to your refuge, your sanctuary, and you pray to God, “Keep me and my family safe.”
Should you find yourself in such a situation then don’t hesitate to use these words for God will answer you. Amen.
Thought for the Week 14/05/2019
A few weeks ago at morning worship we read a passage from the Gospel of St John which relates a story where Jesus approaches a water-well and asks a Samaritan women, who is there already, for a drink. Today we would probably think nothing of this act. However, if we were living at the time of Jesus an action like this would have been unheard of.
This whole story demonstrates some of the prejudices that humanity has against others: gender; status; religion; relationships. But Jesus didn’t recognise these differences. He had compassion towards this woman and treated her as an equal, and they spoke together. The conversation between Jesus and this Samaritan woman could have caused problems for them both, but Jesus didn’t let this potential difficulty stop it from happening.
Today we understand that these prejudices are similar to the ones we have which put barriers between us and others. These barriers may not be physical, but they are still very real. In breaking down the barriers of His day, Jesus gave this woman respect, and offered her ‘living water’ and a better life. For us, maybe we should consider the barriers that we see separating us from those who are different to us. By removing these barriers, our prejudices, we all may come to know one other better. And, if we get to know each other better, we can help support each other in times of need. I hope that we, as a church, can live like Jesus and help remove barriers that separate us from others. If we were all to do this, I’m sure, life would be so much better; and all to the glory of God.
Thought for the Week 26/04/2019
We live in such a busy world where there are so many demands placed upon our lives. And so, I wonder just how many of us live our lives dancing to the tunes that other people are playing? In other words, how many of us are influenced by other people, to the point that we become distracted from doing what we are meant to be doing?
It is easy to get distracted from doing your own work when someone asks you to do something else. It can happen to us all, whether in the house, the garden, our work-place or family life. However, it takes a strong mind to keep to your priorities and not be distracted by others and their plans. This has been the situation in the Christian Church from its beginnings.
Following the humiliating death of Jesus on a cross, and the devastation that it caused His followers, St Paul kept his mind focussed on the principle message of the Gospel; the resurrection of Jesus. The Crucifixion and Resurrection are like two sides of a coin. One without the other, however, is incomplete and ineffective. St Peter did the same.
After witnessing the death of Jesus, he came to know the Risen Christ and eventually realised the purpose of God’s actions in Jesus, and said, ‘Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope.’
The early church, even with all the distractions and persecutions, kept focused on their work, their mission, to tell people about their risen Lord, who not only died for us but also conquered death. This is the hope of the Gospel: the message of Easter.
When you encounter someone or something distracting you from your work it’s good to recognise the importance that you place upon what you are doing. It doesn’t mean that you wont help others, but it has to be balanced with your own priorities. Happy Easter!
Thought for the Week 19/04/2019
It’s probably been difficult to avoid seeing, this last week, the photographs and news reports of the destruction of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was destroyed by fire. I have to admit that, although I’ve been to Paris on a few occasions, I’ve never actually been inside this particular church. The day after the fire rampaged through the building there were many live reports from the banks of the River Seine as Parisians and visitors spoke of their sadness at what had happened. However, one of the pictures which captured the extent of the destruction also captured the essence of the Christian faith. The picture I’m referring to showed the interior of the church lying in ruins with the floor strewn with burned and charred wood; yet rising from this mess and chaos was the holy cross.
It’s hard to avoid chaos and destruction in life. And it’s harrowing that, today, times of challenge and despair seem to be commonplace. But, for the person of faith, although we do not escape the unpleasantries of life, the hope of a better future is captured through the presence of the empty cross: just like in Notre Dame. At Easter Christians reclaim the words that have echoed through the centuries in Notre Dame and other churches, ‘Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!’ and it is this hope which gives a way through personal suffering and pain and destruction.
It was fascinating to see just what response has been coming in the light of the devastation in Notre Dame. People have been touched and have responded accordingly. However, as I mentioned, chaos and destruction are increasingly evident in people’s lives everywhere. I wonder just how motivated we all are to respond to this need. We could give money to help rebuild Notre Dame or we could channel our money, and efforts, in other ways to help rebuild a better world.
Thought for the Week 12/04/2019
This week is the most solemn and Holy Week in the Christian calendar. On Thursday evening many Christians across the world will share in the act of Holy Communion, remembering the final meal that Jesus shared with His followers. And Friday is the day that we remember the events which led to the taking of Jesus life, on a cross of shame. However, today, we look at all the events of this Holy Week and see them through the eyes of Easter Day and the resurrection of Jesus. It is the basis of these events, together with the promised return of Jesus in glory, which form the foundation for the Christian faith. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Yet, for many different reasons, this faith is not shared by all people.
Some people reject the Christian faith, or faith in anything other than themselves, because they cannot understand, or accept, what people of faith believe. They have a different world view. And while I would ask them to reconsider their position, I would respect their choice. Because faith in anything is a choice. And for me, faith in God through Jesus is my life choice. As I mentioned last week, my faith gives meaning to my life. Not having faith in God, however, does not make someone a bad person; in the same way that having faith in God doesn’t automatically make someone a good person. We all share a common humanity. However, what having faith in Jesus means is that the person of faith accepts that there is a greater power at work throughout the world. We call this power God’s Holy Spirit. And we can either work with the Holy Spirit, or against the Holy Spirit. But we ultimately understand that God’s will will be done. And this understanding gives us strength to realise that we are not perfect but, even in our imperfection, we can know God’s love for us.
For some, Holy Week will hold great meaning, for others it will pass them by. But, if you find yourself wondering what it is all about, why not ask someone so that you may enjoy the wonders of Easter in a new way.
Thought for the Week 05/04/2019
Recently, at our church meetings at Fairlie and St Columba’s, I asked the Elders what changes they would like to see in the church. One of the responses was that they would like to see more young families at worship. I wanted to explore this, so I asked, ‘Why do you want to see young families at church?’ But there really wasn’t a clear answer. However, understanding ‘why’ we want to do anything is important, and if we don’t understand ‘why’ we would like to see young families at church, we will never find the right words to encourage others to come and join us, as we worship God. For me, I find my faith in Jesus Christ gives meaning to my life and I want others to find meaning in their lives. That is why I want young families, and others, to come to church: to get to know Jesus.
Today, especially for young people, life is so complex and can be hard. And part of the reason for this is that many people do not have a secure foundation to their lives and, therefore, with all the mixed messages of ‘doing your own thing’ and not conforming to this, or that, young people can struggle to find meaning in their lives. And so, when an issue arises, they may not know how to deal with it and they can struggle. And some struggle immensely.
For Christians, while our lives are not perfect, we can know the love of God; especially at times of challenge. And, often, that knowledge is strength enough to guide us through the difficulties that we face. As we approach Holy Week, and Good Friday, and Easter Day, I hope that, in all of your troubles, you would come to know the love of God, poured out in Jesus, His Son, surround you and keep you strong. And, maybe, you might find the time to go into one of the local churches to help you explore the Christian faith.