17 June 2018



Welcome and Intimations

Call to worship

Hymn 159 Lord for the years


Hymn 336 Lord, bring the day to pass

Reading: Acts 27: 18-22,  27-29

Sermon: The Power of Nature – destructive
See below for full text

Reading: Luke 12: 22-31

Sermon The Power of Nature – healing
See below for full text

Hymn 240 God in such love for us lent us this plane



Hymn 497 Almighty father of all things that be



The Power of Nature

Readings: Acts 27:18-22, 27-29 and Luke 12: 22-31

Today I’m taking as a theme, the power of nature. And we will look at two aspects, the destructive and the creative, which are in reality two sides of the one coin.

This year’s late winter and spring, I became more aware than ever before of the fragility of hill farming and the well-being of sheep in bad weather. It was a conversation shared over a soup lunch with a couple who were closely involved. They told me of the long winter, the extreme cold, the lack of good grass, the mother sheep, the ewes being thinner than usual and their milk therefore not so plentiful. They talked of the unusually high numbers of animals which had been lost in the snow and the biting winds. “Not a lot we could do about it” they said, somewhat similar to Paul and his companions, all they could do was  “Pray for the daylight to come.”

You are probably aware of my love of sailing – it has for many years been my hobby, my escape and something different from work, meetings, etc.  Part of the enjoyment is coping with and using the elements, the wind, the tides, the sea. But I also have a healthy “fear” of the elements as well. The incredible power of waves, breaking on the shoreline and over rocks, and the sheer destructive force of the wind. Earlier this year we visited Coldingham and Eyemouth near the border and Berwick. One of the memorable sights was a sculpture near the breakwater at Eyemouth showing individual family groups, the wives and children, looking out to sea, commemorating the 189 fishermen who lost their lives in  a great storm in 1881.  The sculpture is very powerful, depicting individuals and families, a memory of a great tragedy, ; the destructive power of wind and sea.

On my recent trip we visited Bangor and Belfast, where we saw the brand new Titanic Exhibition (perhaps not the best visit while on a sailing holiday).  It is a fantastic museum. It tells about the people who built the ship, the skills of the riveters, the crane drivers, the architects, the engineers, the sheer size of it. When launched it was the biggest moving man-made object of all time. Powerful, luxurious – for first class, more utilitarian for ordinary people, fast and as they thought, unsinkable.  But It wasn’t the wild chaotic power of a storm which sank it, it was a lump of frozen water – an iceberg on a calm evening when she struck. The stories of the survivors and those lost, the half heard radio messages, the failure of life boat drills ; all together make this story a metaphor of the “hubris”, the over confidence, the ambition  of the human race, almost thinking they could overcome the forces of nature.  The shock of the loss on her maiden voyage to the USA in April 1912 was a parable of human arrogance and over self-confidence. A learning curve which shows that even in passive mode the power of nature is awesome and not to be underestimated.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, changing sea levels, retreating glaciers, floating ice fields, all reminders of the sometime violent power of nature.  And of course the new element, the effect of humankind, changing the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, cutting down forests, filling the oceans with plastic, polluting our world, all this teaches us or should do, of the need for responsibility and humility as we recognise ourselves to be part of creation, as stewards of our beautiful world, with a great responsibility for all of life on the planet.

The power of nature is not only awesome but is itself creative and life affirming.  In contacts and work in healthcare chaplaincy, and in the whole wider area of spiritual care – the great benefits of nature and the natural world are beginning to be appreciated in fresh ways.

The treatment and understanding of mental health has changed much in the last 70 years. Some of the old treatments seem barbaric to us and understanding has improved, although still too often a Cinderella in health care. But many old psychiatric hospitals were set in beautiful grounds. I’ve attended conferences in several. The treatment was often very poor, but the setting was often quite uplifting. There is a fresh understanding that for human welfare – our experience of nature, of gardens and flowers, is very good for our mental health and wellbeing.

I’m no great supporter of homeopathic medicine – but the homeopathic hospital in Glasgow is a good example. It is built in a circle – all the rooms look onto the garden in the centre – and it’s known to have a calming effect on patients who are anxious or distressed.  (One consultant  I got to know quite well was a brilliant speaker – and who was very critical of our over use of drugs, the bad and harmful side effects of the drugs we take and the medicalising of human problems, when people really need to be listened to and valued. Areas very much at the heart of spiritual care.

I am just coming to the end of my time on the board of a charity, called FIOP (Faith in older People.  One of my colleagues on the board Mary Marshall is a well know expert and professor in geriatric medicine. She is very keen to encourage more holistic care in care homes. She says she is not religious but believes passionately in the benefits of enabling people at the latter stages of life, in having experiences of nature, gardens, flowers, wind, grass, trees, sunlight and rain. Spiritual benefits of awareness and experience of nature.

One of my colleagues, who was chaplain to the hospital in Orkney, was a creative thinker. He managed to persuade the producer and presenters of the Beechgrove Garden programme to undertake a project in his hospital in Orkney.  They  made a program and created a garden to be used by patients, staff and visitors – as part of the holistic care of the community hospital. The benefits of sitting and walking in a garden now recognised as significant for health and wellbeing.

In the time of Jesus, most people lived as part of a rural economy. Nowadays it is a minority who live in the countryside. Jesus stories often involved nature, he talked of lilies, of birds, of sparrows, seeds and sheep and harvest. It was a different world but one which we neglect at our peril. It is necessary for our very survival that we learn to cherish this world we have been given. Jesus used nature to show God’s care and as an example of how much more he even cares for people and those in need. Today we are beginning to learn just how much we need nature.

Today we are celebrating the opening of our own new Carlops patio-garden. It has been a sign of harmonic co-operation between the halls committee and the church, in fact the whole community, creating a welcome and welcoming garden space for the use and enjoyment of anyone and everyone.

Nature can be powerful in different ways, awesome and healing. Our garden will be more pleasant and healing, but it is also a bit awesome – don’t you think?