• Rediscovering hospitality
    We all know that the answer to Cain’s question, “Am I my brother’s keeper” is “yes, of course.” The New Testament version of the question is, “who is my neighbour?” Shockingly, the answer appears to be all those who share our humanity. These questions requires us to answer a further question: How will we welcome the stranger? There is fear associated with welcoming strangers and our modern lifestyle seems to hold neighbours at arm’s length. We no longer bump into neighbours as we walk but bypass them in our cars. We have delegated the care of the elderly neighbour to civic institutions and charities that employ professionals to care. Typically, we see more people but know them less. We have lost or are losing the ancient meeting places: the city gate, the village green, the community centre, the local church. Our TV’s teach us all about entertaining in our homes, but little about true hospitality. At the centre of our understanding of hospitality has to be our understanding of Christ. Jesus, who as he hangs on the cross turns to a thief by his side and says, “today you will be with me in paradise”, demonstrates hospitality, just as he demonstrated in his life over and over again. Christian hospitality is about responsibility, not reciprocity. It is about laying down ourselves as Christ did, without requirement of response. Hospitality is a step of faith in a God who provides, be that protection or finances. In faith we welcome the stranger and feed the lonely, lost or wondering. Hospitality is a response to our own salvation. When we remember that we, who were far away from God, have been drawn close to him. Ephesians 2:12 Hospitality is an act of witness. We are called to show the love of the Father for all the world, for ‘neighbours’, defined as those who share our humanity, rather than our geography, culture, social standing, language or friendly response. It reaches out to the ‘other’ in the name of Christ and in the way of Christ. It will take a conscious effort on all our parts to break through the current cultural hesitancy to welcome strangers. Maybe we can start by simply showing hospitality to those in our congregations who need it most, by visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, going the extra mile to bring someone to church. Then we might feel ready to walk next door, or across the office, and reach out with the offer of community to those in our neighbourhood or network. Who knows, it may not be long before we are opening our homes to widows, orphans, the homeless or asylum seekers and discovering the presence of Christ in “the least of these.” Rev Alan Donaldson General Director Baptist Union of Scotland
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  • Brexit Turmoil
    “‘Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.’” (Hosea‬ ‭6:1-3) “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ (‭‭Hosea‬ ‭6:6‬) ‭ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ What sense do we make of, and how might we respond to, the turmoil labelled “Brexit”? When we see the injustice of universal credit or the current identity crisis among children and young adults, how are we to understand our role and significance in affecting the future of our nation? How shall we bear witness to the love and transformative nature of God in a context where Christian values are at best marginalised? It is important for us to recall from Scripture the faithfulness of the sovereignty of God and the significance of humble, faithful witness from among His saints. To be salt and light among a people who have lost their way and become confused and corrupted in their values, is the calling of those who name Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. A commitment to pursuing justice for others, as it is expressed by Jesus Christ, where mercy and care for the foreigner and the marginalised really matters; and where such mercy, care and justice are humbly brought together into a truth that finds expression through the living church of Jesus Christ. The challenge of the present turmoil is a clear call to all who would follow the path of baptism into Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. We are summoned to the crucible of transformation. Into values and lifestyles that pattern something different, something distinctive, something that speaks of resurrection hope through pursuing the descending path walked by  Jesus Christ. What does that look like? What does the Lord require of us? Micah answers, “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Therefore let us pray for clarity and good governance in our nation; let us speak up when we begin to recognise patterns of injustice and warped values; let us encourage those who show compassion and tenderness but let us also seek Christ’s pattern of personal and congregational living, daily conforming to the pattern of the Cross. Therein lies the hope of resurrection and renewed life for our nation and all those we seek to love and witness to in Jesus’ name. Rev Dr Jim Purves Mission and Ministry Advisor Baptist Union of Scotland Find Out More
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  • Give me also springs of water
    For some time, the Lord has been speaking to me about our future through a few verses of scripture in Judges 1:12-15, with the key phrase being: “give me also springs of water.” It is the story of Caleb’s daughter who has been given the dry Land of the Negev as her birthright. But the Land is barren due to its dryness, and she asks her father for a gracious blessing of springs of water to irrigate the whole Land. This passage came as an answer to prayer for me. My prayer had been, "how do I pray for our churches? How should I pray for this land?" And this was his answer to me: pray, “Give me also springs of water”. We know the potential of our nation to glorify God. But we also know that the living faith which grew, and spread in and from this nation, has significantly dried up in the past few generations. I believed the Lord was saying, "the Land can be fruitful again but it requires the refreshing flow of my Spirit to revive the church and to revive the nation". All this is good news but there also came a rebuke as I pondered this passage over months. I began to think of what I had been praying for years. And I think you could describe it like this: “Lord give me a well for my field, give me a well to refresh Denny Baptist Church, give me a well to refresh Leven Baptist Church, give me a well to refresh Dumfries Baptist Church". Then it became "give me a well for the Baptist Union of Scotland". Maybe you have prayed in the same vein. But the Lord had to show me that praying that way was not asking for good gifts. A well is a container of water. Wells get protected by people who have them, restricting access by other people. Wells encourage selfishness, arrogance and pride. Look at how healthy my fields are! Look at what is happening in our fields! A well of water would not have been a good gift. At Assembly we heard this as a call to prayer in our tri- jubilee year, a time for us to pray for every traditional denomination and every new church in Scotland. We need to see the whole church irrigated by the move of his Spirit and the whole land of Scotland refreshed. We must not contain our vision of what God might do in this Land to our own fields and our ability to spread water by the bucketload from our well. The nation of Scotland does not need our buckets; it needs streams of water flowing in the north, in the south, in the east, in the west, as well as in the central lands. My prayer is that our 150th year will be marked by a fresh and generous spirit of prayer amongst us, seeking blessing and refreshment in and from our nation. Rev Alan Donaldson General Director Baptist Union of Scotland
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