On Re­flec­tion

From the manse win­dow

The People's Friend - - Se­rial By Betty Mcinnes: Part 7 Of 8 - By the Rev. Ian Petrie.

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.

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