The Manse
Late January 2021
The February Letter 

Dear Friends
Let Verses of Holy Scripture be our starting point…in everything! 
Isaiah Chapter 58 

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
When you see the naked, that you cover him,

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am. 

Can it really be so soon after Christmas and Epiphany that Lent appears on the horizon? It’s arrival is just around the corner – coming soon to a Church/Hospital/Nursing Home/Home…. near you! 

One of the best descriptions of an arrival that I ever read was an imaginary scene of little children on tip-toes just able to catch sight, through the window in the sitting room, of their grand-parents making their way up the long drive to the front door. They’re coming… they’re here!

As you and I, little children of God, look to February we can anticipate the arrival of particular happenings which nurture our faith and strengthen us in our daily walk with God, particularly as we enter Lent.

On Tuesday 2nd we celebrate Candlemas, when we remember the Infant Jesus being brought into the Temple by his parents and acclaimed by the elderly mystic Simeon to be the long-awaited Messiah, the Light of the world.

It was that Light of Christ by which saints, such as Valentinus, were able to offer body, mind and soul.  
It is of course on his feast day we particularly think of love, the 14th when he was crucified for the love of his faith as both doctor and priest in 269 AD. Strangely though, his day is connected with love because Chaucer wrote that the 14th of February was the beginning of Spring and as such it was when the nightingale chose its mate!

As we stand on tip-toes looking at the month ahead, with Lent beginning three days after the 14th on the17th, Ash Wednesday, there is much to ponder and to encourage us on our own pilgrimage of faith as we walk in the footsteps of Christ, the Light of the world whose presence, Simeon discovered, gave meaning and relevance to life….and death.

Perhaps in mid-February then, we may hear the sound of the nightingale to herald the beginning of this period of self-examination and a desire to serve God in even more meaningful ways: in addition to the vital work done by those who are teaching our young online, we think of the many who in this pandemic are serving in all sorts of different ways and areas of care particularly in the *Nightingale wards and many other wards of our National Health Service.

As I return from my period of recuperation**, with impossible-to-describe gratitude to the medical team at Ninewells, to be with you again as we begin to walk through Lent together, I feel the word that I would want to be uppermost in your minds is the word 
HOPE: 
Hope in our faith which is a victorious one. Hope in the vaccine which will change the course of the pandemic. 
Hope for all that will happen on St Valentine’s Day this year. 
V for Victory : V for Vaccine : V for Valentine and, oh yes, let’s not forget, V for Verses of Scripture.

I wish each of you God’s richest blessings as we stand on tip-toes to greet Spring: and we take on board what Isaiah wrote seven hundred years before Christ: that our fast this Lent, however we can manage in these lockdown times, should consist of bringing justice, of clothing the destitute, of feeding the hungry, of offering hospitality [when we are allowed to do so again], of releasing people from fear and, in response to the call of the Lord, walking in His Light.

Be strong. Keep well. Honour God. Serve one another. Hold fast! 

John

Last week I offered St John’s Kirk as a ‘Nightingale’ Ward to the Health Board of Tayside, should it be required for mass vaccinations; the prompt, gracious and courteous response was as below: 
Thank you very much for your kind offer of the St. John’s Kirk to support the mass vaccination programme.  At the moment, there is no requirement for this, but we will keep your generous proposal in mind.


**May I thank all who very kindly sent generous expressions of support : cards, emails, messages, flowers, phone calls : in November, during and after my time in Ninewells Hospital. Very much appreciated! 

I wish also to thank my colleague and friend Alex Stewart for all his ministering to both Congregations during these recent weeks: So, so grateful, Alex! 

***During these lockdown restrictions when our Church buildings are closed for Sunday Worship- but open for Funerals- Alex and I will officiate on alternate Sundays for the live-streamed St John’s Service at 10 am.

Should government regulations alter during the months ahead, we shall indicate as such on the Churches’ websites.