As part of my devotions recently, I read the story in Mark’s Gospel about the time when Jesus told his disciples to get into a boat and go ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he went into the hills to pray. (Mark 6:45-52)
It is a fascinating story and it is one which speaks to us today.
Having provided for the people by giving them food to eat, Jesus withdrew to a place where he could spend time in prayer. Perhaps you can picture him in your mind’s eye as he enjoys fellowship with his Father.
The other day I came across these words on a poster, ‘Time spent in prayer is never wasted.’
Prayer was as natural to Jesus as breathing and one senses that through prayer, Jesus was not only able to unburden himself and share his innermost concerns, but also that he was strengthened through the experience, and renewed for the work God had sent him to do.
There is something here for us to think about, isn’t there? Often we can allow ourselves to be so consumed by the demands that are part and parcel of every day living that we can neglect the need to pause and be renewed for service within the church and the world.
I believe Jesus has given us a pattern to follow. We should regularly take time to pray, to be still, to call to mind God’s faithfulness and love, and to share with him those things that concern us.
In Mark’s story, we are told that later from the hillside where he prayed, Jesus saw the disciples and realised they were struggling against the wind that had suddenly got up on the lake, and he went to them. The time for prayer had passed. He set aside his own troubles and went to help his friends.
Someone has said ‘Good deeds aren’t done by walking into a church. They are done by walking out and helping others.’
Having taken time to recharge our ‘spiritual batteries’ we are called to reach out to those in need, to be a friend to those who are lonely, and a listening ear to those who feel no one listens to them.
A phrase that has been on my mind for some time is ‘We are called to be different and to make a difference.’
A kind word, a friendly smile, a helping hand can make all the difference to someone, and when done in the name of Jesus, it can make real his presence and his love.
What exactly happened on the lake we do not know for the story is cloaked in mystery, but there is something we do know. When Jesus came to the disciples and spoke to them the storm died down and there was a great calm.
September is the month that sees our organisations begin the new session after the summer recess and it is, in a sense, a time of new beginnings for the congregation as a whole. Let us commit to making time for God, time to pray and worship, and let us also endeavour to be different, and to make a difference in the community, and in the world, and let us do so not in our strength alone, but in the strength of God who through his son, comes to us, as he came to the disciples on the lake.
Finally, I find it hard to believe that the 19th of November will mark the 25th anniversary of my induction to the church and parish of St Ninians Old. Happily, the 19th is a Sunday, and I have invited my good friend, the Rev Colin C Renwick, Minister of Dunblane Cathedral, to be our guest preacher that day. Colin and I have known each other since our student days in Aberdeen and he has been a source of strength and encouragement ever since.
I take this opportunity to sincerely thank the congregation and parish and many beyond, for your loyalty, kindness, and friendship over the years, and I am grateful to God for allowing me to be your Minister for such a long time!
I send you my warmest good wishes and assure you of my prayers,
Gary J McIntyre