The Manse: late September for October  2021

“Rejoice in the Lord always: The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything :and the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things; and the God of peace will be with you.”

My dear friends of St John’s and St Leonard’s in the Fields

At a time when, throughout our country, there is rightful concern about health, education, welfare, energy prices, security at home and abroad and the everyday matters which surround us, let us be encouraged by St Paul’s words in his Letter to the Philippians above, as we think about such things.

I’d like you to consider such things, describing Christian virtues, as one set of bookends and at the end of this letter there will be the other set: some words from the Acts of the Apostles about sharing and giving away. Each set will act like a mirror, reflecting Christ’s presence in what happens to us during a month…such as this one now before us.

These Christ-like virtues of truth, nobility of spirit, right living, purity of heart, loveliness and whatsoever is admirable in life, are themselves mirrored by two men whom the worldwide Church remembers in early October each year: Anthony Cooper who died on 1st October 1885, as St Leonard’s in the Fields was being inaugurated and Francesco Bernardone who died on 4th October, 1226, just as St John’s Kirk was being founded.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury was responsible for changing the law over child labour; he reformed Lunacy Laws and brought in Factory and Social Reform: such Christ-like qualities in his life stemmed from the Bible teaching his nursery nurse, Maria Millis, gave to him as he grew and developed.

Francesco Bernardone, aka St Francis of Assisi, had as privileged a childhood as the Earl of Shaftesbury but when, as a young man, he confronted poverty one evening in the form of a ragged leper by the roadside, his life changed direction and for the rest of his life he used all of his energies to tell of Christ and to care, love and befriend human beings -birds and animals too! - as ‘a friend and ambassador of Christ’ 

You and I, as we attempt to follow in the Footsteps of Jesus could do no better thing during October than remember St Francis and the Earl of Shaftesbury. Both were given gifts to enable the Kingdom of God to be established here on Earth. Both gave from their family privilege to those who were less fortunate. Both shared in the mission of Jesus. We can do so too.

Recent world tragedies, such as the devastation in Afghanistan have prompted many to give to those most in need of basic commodities: food, clean water, clothing. In particular, Christian Aid has spear-headed a campaign to alleviate distress and bring hope and healing to thousands and not only in Afghanistan. The recent St Leonard’s in the Fields ‘frozen soup’ lunch, after Morning Service on 19th September, at which a very large sum of money of four figures was raised for Christian Aid, reflects gracious generosity of the Congregation…a mirror of the virtues as above.

Both Congregations will celebrate Harvest Festival on Sunday 31st October, the day the C of S has identified as National Giving Day, when thoughts will turn to how we might share our resources even more. While St John’s on that day will concentrate on giving to CrossReach, the social arm of the C of S, both Congregations will continue to support the vital needs of Perth Food Bank and, in addition, St Leonard’s members will receive a separate letter from Mr David Grant, the Treasurer, giving details of a ‘Special Appeal’. I commend all such acts of kindness to all in need, as we continue to give as best we are able, to the ongoing needs of our mission and our raison d’être: to be the hands and feet and eyes of Christ in the 21st Century…as the first Christians were in Jerusalem…our second bookend: Acts Chapter 2 “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Let us attempt to be mirrors of Christ and His saints of every age.

My very best wishes


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