From the manse window
AM I an old person? My grandsons think that their parents are old, so what chance does Gampa have? I foolishly asked them once, just the once, if they thought I was old.
“No,” they replied, raising my hopes, before dashing them. “You’re ancient!”
Of course, through their eyes I am old, but it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it, and down to a hearty slice of luck? At least “ancient” is better than prehistoric, into which category another grandfather found himself placed!
Put starkly, I largely felt my call to the ministry through the cruelly premature death of Elspeth, my sister, at the age of two. I remember my dad taking Aileen, my other sister, and myself out for a walk right after her death, talking to us about Elspeth. Though I’ve forgotten most of what he said, these words have stuck in my memory.
“Sometimes, there are things worse than death.”
I even recall exactly where we were – passing Arbroath’s Keptie Pond – when he said them, and a seed was planted.
Peter Marshall, born and brought up in industrial Lanarkshire, went on to be become minister of the church in Washington which has the White House within its parish.
A renowned preacher, some of whose sermons were published in a book entitled, “Mr Jones, Meet The Master”, he took ill in his pulpit and died suddenly at the age of forty-six. The words spoken at his funeral have never ceased to comfort me.
“The measure of a man’s life is not its duration, but its donation. How much will you be missed?”
Well, I thought, Elspeth’s two-year span had an impact far beyond its duration to its huge donation to so many, not least to Aileen and me.
The brief lifespan of Jesus has always fascinated me, especially as he offers us life in abundance. The apparent randomness of the length of life for us all intrigues me, not least because I am considerably past my allotted three score years and ten.
Somehow, the cruel brevity of Jesus’s earthly life brings comfort to me when I think of Elspeth, allowing me to reflect on her life beyond dwelling on her death.
In the memorable Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reflects on this very subject.
“Consider the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin, yet I tell you that even King Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Jesus asks, “Can any of you by worrying add a day to your life?”
Of course not, we reply. But be honest, that doesn’t stop us worrying about it, does it?
Jesus knows us and understands our lifelong addiction to worrying, suggesting not a cure, but a perspective.
“Seek ye first” – worry first about – “the Kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be given unto you.”
Read and sing these wonderful words.
Am I an old person? Probably, but in the Kingdom of God, I am a child.
We are all children, at its very heart, with so much growing and learning still to do.
Next week: Rev. Susan Sarapuk considers the work of builders.