What would a National Covenant for Scotland look like if we tried to write one for today’s Scotland? Below is an attempt I made back in 2004 and above is a nice picture of Greyfriars Kirk where the Covenant of 1638 was signed

Greyfriars is the home of the National Covenant (1638)

A New National Covenant for Scotland

We and everyone of us underwritten are resolved and believe in our hearts that the times in which we live demand of us that we affirm together our aspiration for the land we love and its people and our common humanity within the family of nations.

We covenant together to work for the good of all people in Scotland. We welcome particularly the homeless, the asylum seeker, refugees and all who feel they do not belong, for we believe that open-handed hospitality to outsiders is a noble and blessed tradition. In a world where divisions run deep we affirm our intent to build a fairer society in which those who are disadvantaged are lifted up and not swept aside. We call upon those in power to heed our nation’s story in its struggles for freedom and humanity, liberty and democracy and pledge our support to all who labour for a renewed, spirited and passionate energy in our life together. 

We covenant together to work for reconciliation the world over. We are chiefly beneficiaries of globalisation but we know that its relentless march can hurt the most vulnerable. So we will seek to be sensitive to all who struggle for a better life whilst cherishing their own culture and we commit ourselves to the cause of fair trading, debt relief for the poorest and respect for International Law. We affirm our right to legitimate self defence but reject the use of military might as a tool of foreign policy. In an unequal world we affirm that the people of our land are prepared to make sacrifices that others might simply live.

We covenant together to work for the good of the land of Scotland and all the earth. We have squandered our riches and used the earth harshly at times but we commit ourselves to sustaining what is left of our wild places, to supporting local agriculture and to genuine land reform that will revitalise rural communities. We are committed to conserving energy, developing renewable energy resources and working towards touching the earth more lightly. We acknowledge that those who shape our laws must be supported in working for long term good not short-term gain.

We covenant together, with the guiding light that we follow, to respect the faith traditions that are represented in Scotland. We affirm that whether people choose to live by faith or another path, all expressions of belief that bring people more fully to life, affirm tolerance and mutual respect for persons and respect for the earth contribute to the rich diversity we cherish. We remember that the wounds of our history run deep whilst the pace of change is fast and so we affirm our respect for the past and our commitment to nurture wholesome cultural identity. We deplore the culture of hedonism and selfishness that threatens to steal away the essential dignity of every individual and affirm that there is fulfilment to be found in rediscovering simple pleasures.

Prayer on the Occasion of the Unveiling of a Memorial to the Covenanters

Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh

St Andrew’s Day 2007

 

In this place, O Lord, people suffered for their faith.

And in the killing times in Scotland,

our nation’s story mocked the sovereign will of the Prince of Peace.

No generation,

No movement,

No party,

Has ever fully understood or been faithful to your inscrutable purpose, O Lord.

But yet, the groanings and travailings,

The clashings and eruptions of the human struggle

Reveal something of the desire of humanity

To find wholeness, truth and renewed communion

With the centre and soul of the Universe.

As we remember today, therefore, the story of this place

And particularly the dark place of the Covenanter’s Prison

In the unfolding story of our Nation,

May we have the grace and insight

To discover how your hand might have been at work in these events.

Forgive our unwarranted certainties,

Our mistaking of kingly power

for the utterly alternative authority of Christ’s Cross

and our elevation of doctrine over grace.

And give us on this St Andrew’s Day

Something of the humility and restraint of your apostle Andrew,

Who sought no prominence for himself or his opinions,

But who saw how he could best serve his Lord in humility,

Imaginative thinking

And true humbleness of heart.

In this way, may our Nation honour the past,

Honour the saints and martyrs of honest faithfulness,

And most of all, honour the Lord and maker of all:

The Prince of Peace, whose prophet has told us mortals

What is good and what the Lord requires of us:

“only to do justice, to love kindness and mercy,

and to walk humbly with our God”.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Richard Frazer, St Andrew’s Day, 2007.

The Slaughter of the Innocents

A Sermon for Christmas

In a dream the Lord spoke to Joseph and said to him. ”Arise and take the child and his mother and escape with them into Egypt………for Herod is going to search for the child and do away with him”

                                                                                                                                                                Matthew 2: 13

This is an unsettling part of the Christmas story that sits in stark contrast to the confection of the crib scene. Yet, those who feel and understand the liturgy of Christmas know that in the midst of all the joy, there is also grief. Indeed, life tells us that laughter and tears, glory and sadness are two sides of the same coin. We should not expect anything else from the Christmas narrative, but that some aspect of it should make us question, as the Magi did in Eliot’s famous poem, “were we led all that way for Birth or Death?”

Jesus is born into great vulnerability, he is born to a young woman, not in a home but a stable, and the story of Herod’s fury and their exile as refugees only underlines this. If you grasp nothing else about the meaning of Christmas, reflect on this: the costliness of the incarnation. The beginning of Jesus life is a reflection of how he lived the rest of it – without power, status or guarantee. His only protection is the love of a mother and the intuition of a wise and resourceful earthly father, so devoted that even though he had every right to abandon Mary who got pregnant without him, he stuck by her.

The whole of the story of the nativity and indeed the rest of |Jesus life for e puts a question mark against the whole nature of the church, which is supposed to be Christ’s body in the world. The Church has often been far from vulnerable and has in fact often appeared in its history almost invincible. It has accumulated protection, status and power for itself and acted generally in a way that runs contrary to the way of Christ from his birth.

If Jesus is so helpless, so vulnerable, so devoid of protection (except what love and devotion can offer) then shouldn’t the church be like that?

On Christmas Eve we had the perfect illustration of the incongruity between the ways of Jesus and the ways of the church that is supposed somehow, mysteriously to represent Christ on earth. The Pope was attacked in St Peter’s Basilica on his way to say mass by a mentally unstable woman. In his own words afterwards, the Pope declared that he must remain vulnerable to the people. But in reality the Pope was surrounded by a phalanx of black suited security men who soon tackled this woman to the ground. Of course, the role is such that it attracts the mad and the deranged to make a name for themselves, but there were no security guards watching over the crib at Bethlehem.

The incarnation is fraught with both promise and peril. The risk for the church, catholic or protestant is that we create, cultivate and nurture the status of invulnerability. We build immutable structures, building that we think might last forever and dogmas that exclude fresh thinking and new insight. We put nothing at risk, whilst the story of the incarnation is that God risked all for this birth.

So, the challenge for the church is how can we do the same? As Donald Mackinnon asked, “how can the church represent the manner of God presence to the world in Christ?”

Charles Gore was a great establishment figure of the Church of England in the 19th Century. He was Dean of Westminster and successively Bishop of Worcester, Birmingham and Oxford. But, for all these establishment credentials, he constantly courted controversy. He gave away his considerable wealth and lived in a brotherhood of priests who shared all their goods in common, he supported movements for social reform in the highly stratified society of 19th and early 20th Century England. And to the consternation of his high Anglican colleagues he believed that the incarnate Christ entailed certain limitations of consciousness.

He wrote this of the incarnation, “all this way of conceiving of God’s self restraining power and wisdom prepares our mind for that supreme act of respect and love for his creatures by which the Son of God took to himself human nature to redeem it, and in taking it limited both his power and his knowledge so that he could verily live through all the stages of a perfectly human experience and restore our nature from within by a contact so gentle that it gave life to every faculty without paralysing or destroying any”.

Christ came as a vulnerable child, in complete dependence on his mother and his earthly father. He did not exercise power. Instead, “ he gave life to every faculty without paralysing or destroying”. How many people have been paralysed or destroyed by the exercise of the church’s power down the years?

This is characteristic of Jesus’ whole life. “In him was life”, life in all its fullness. This is the ministry the church should crave for, work for and seek to emulate as it tries to mirror the life of Christ. A presence in the world that does not boast, intimidate the vulnerable, judge or jostle for prominence. We need a church that is stripped of privilege.  We need a church that has the courage to embrace the insecurity that visited Jesus from the night of his birth. All that is required of us is the devotion of Mary and the wit and clear thinking of Joseph.

Never cease from exploring!

Words from T S Eliot, East Coker

Old men ought to be explorers,

here or there it does not matter.

We must be still and still moving,

into another intensity,

for a further union – a deeper communion.

Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,

the wave cry, the wind cry,

the vast waters of the petrel and the porpoise.

In my end is my beginning.