We had an absolutely wonderful holiday in South Africa during July and a bit of August. We had quite a busy program visiting and reuniting with friends and family far and wide. We spent time in Johannesburg, in Pretoria, and went on safari in the wild Bushveld near Bella Bella. We flew to George in the Eastern Cape to be with Nanda’s godmother and her family. Then on our return from George we flew directly to Durban where we spent a week with my mother at a beach resort in Umhlanga. The boys loved the swimming pool and although it was winter in South Africa it was still 22C almost every day.
On our return from the resort, I had the opportunity to preach at my old congregation who were celebrating 80 years of witness. It was really wonderful to see my old flock and how the “bairns” that I baptised, have grown - some even taller than me now! We travelled to the Western Transvaal, where my family absolutely spoiled us and finally, on the last week, we celebrated my father in law’s 70th birthday in a game reserve. It was magic and we all had a fabulous week before returning home to Scotland.
I must say it was wonderful to return to our own house. The boys have been discovering and appreciating all their toys again as if they were new! Work has quickly resumed and I am starting to find my way again through the parishes, visiting, counselling and teaching. But it is also the time to think about the year ahead and my hopes for the Parish.
After I read Isaiah chapter 43:1-3a at a recent thanksgiving service, it dawned upon me what God is saying to us living here in Scotland. The passage was actually given to the people of Israel as a prophecy of hope for their future.
At that point in time, the people of Israel were finding themselves in bother. They were exiles in a foreign country because they had chosen not to listen to God. The Lord God was merciful but full of justice, eventually allowing the Babylonians to break down the holy city of Jerusalem and take the Israelites to Babylon, today’s Iraq.
Once in exile, they realised what they had done to God, felt sorry, and confessed their sins. So, in chapter 43, Isaiah tells them to have renewed hope. God had called them by their names - meaning He knew them personally; He would be with them whatever befell them on their journey home to their own country; He listened to their prayers and would come to their rescue.
God also rescues us. God sees that we are all condemned and exiled sinners and without His help will never see His kingdom. So He saved us all through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Everyone who has faith will indeed experience the rescue operation of God in their lives.
And maybe this is what we need to hope for in this new session; for God to rescue us in all those moments we fall into sin; when we feel anxious and alone; when we are ill; and when life just gets too much. We need God to rescue us daily through His Holy Spirit when we lose focus and start worshipping the “other gods” of modern living. As a congregation, we need God’s rescue when we worship an institution, traditions and culture more than we worship Him as the Almighty God.
So my hope is that everyone in this Parish will experience the mighty and loving hand of God in the coming session just like Israel did a long time ago.
All my blessings,