In our desire to share the word of God and the message of the Gospel, it is easy to imagine that we have something that others need. My experience of working amongst some of our most vulnerable citizens over many years is that we do not take Christ anywhere, rather we find Him already amongst the lost and the alone. Far from being the one to share the message, I have often found myself being on the receiving end of a new insight and a deeper understanding of the compassion of Christ when I have been alongside a person in despair. The Christ I thought I knew is always one step ahead and always leading me on to new insights and a deeper grasp of his meaning and message and I realise how little I have understood Him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, if I have ever thought that others might be the beneficiary of my insight, my knowledge and my faith, give me the humility to see that I have so much still to learn, so much growing still to do and that, sometimes, we encounter you in the most unlikely people and circumstances. Amen
This is a stained glass window that remembers Jane Haining, a teacher from Glasgow who worked in a girls’ school in Budapest during World War II. She was arrested and executed by the Nazis for sheltering Jewish children.
It is very tempting when we encounter someone with a problem immediately to imagine that with our resources and expertise and even our faith, we can find a solution to their problem. But this is not the way that Jesus went about his ministry. When Jesus visits the town of Jericho (Mark 10: 46 – 52), everyone is slightly embarrassed by the fuss Bartimaeus makes. Here is a blind beggar causing a scene and lowering the tone of the neighbourhood. Sometimes we don’t want important visitors to see the dark underbelly of our community, we want people to see our place at its best. So everyone tells Bartimaeus to be quiet. However, Jesus hears him and calls him over. But Jesus does not immediately offer to find a solution to Bartimaeus’s problem, instead he asks him, “Bartimaeus, what do you want me to do for you?” Then, when the healing takes place, Jesus does not take any credit himself. Instead, he says, “Your faith has made you well”. In other words, Bartimaeus’s rediscovery of self after being heard and acknowledged as a human being, not just a problem, is what has healed him.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, in our eagerness to help fix the problems of other people’s lives, help us to ensure that we see the person before we see the problem and that we do not take credit for things accomplished by your Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Church’s story has always been one of faith and action, worship and work, heart and soul. But, so often, the church can end up being the soul of a community and not its heart. Offering worship and the message of the Gospel, being the soul of the community is one part of what we do, but sometimes we struggle to find ways in which to be the heart except amongst those who are part of the inner circle of the church community. In the past, the church pioneered education, establishing a school in every parish in Scotland. The church also pioneered, poor relief, social care and in some places even foreshadowed the establishment of the National Health Service. For every generation there is a great work for the church to address the challenge of need and find prophetic, supportive and imaginative ways to support “the least of these” in the light of Christ’s call to care as well as to evangelise. As many have said, the church exists chiefly for those who are outside it.
Prayer: God grant us the imagination and the opportunity to be both the heart and the soul of our communities. Help us to trust in the power of the risen Christ that your presence speaks to every generation and if we trust in you we will find the great work you have called us to. Amen
The Grassmarket Community Project www.grassmarket.org has been developing for 11 years now. It began long before that when more than 30 years ago, two ladies from the Greyfriars congregation started to offer food and friendship from the Greyfriars Kirkhouse to people with experience of homelessness. Hospitality is a word that is much misunderstood in today’s society. When we talk of the hospitality industry we tend to think of hotels and holiday resorts, cafes and restaurants. But hospitality is an ancient theological term. Offering a welcome to a stranger is understood as a source of blessing. Read about Abraham offering a welcome to three strangers in Genesis 18. Here we learn that his wife, who had been barren, is blessed with a child, Isaac, as a result of their kindness to strangers. When we offer help to one in need, it turns out that the person in need is not the only beneficiary. That’s been the experience of the many hundreds of people who have volunteered at the Grassmarket Centre over the years. Offering a welcome to a stranger is about anticipating gifts. And sometimes it is the empty handed stranger who turns out to be the bearer of the most priceless gifts.
Prayer: As we offer hospitality, Living Christ, make us not only generous but also open hearted to see that, though we think we know you, there are always new things to learn about the height, and depth and breadth of your infinite love and that you bless us and teach us when we are hospitable and anticipate gifts from the strangers we meet. Amen