“Even the sparrow has found a home”

How easy is it to house hunt in Edinburgh today? The answer is “not very”. In the past few months a number of people we are close to have been looking for a new home.

First of all you have decide your parameters – where you want to live, how big a home you need, how much you can afford to pay. Then you have to get onto the internet to find out what is on the market. Then you have to find the time to visit. Then, if it’s somewhere you like, you have to take a closer look. Then you have to find out if there is a closing date. Then you have get your lawyer to put in a bid. Then you have to wait, and hope that your bid is accepted, and that, if it is, your lawyers won’t then find some hidden legal, financial, or structural issue that will cause the whole deal to collapse (no pun intended.)

What are we looking for in a home, and how do we know when we’ve found it? We’re looking for somewhere we can feel “at home”. Somewhere that is comfortable, convenient, and safe, and that is part of a friendly community – a place where good memories can be grown.

Of course there are those who struggle with homelessness, and those will never be able to afford the home of their choice, and those who, even if they can, are not able to face up to the thought of all the disruption involved. But, whoever you are, if you want to feel “at home” without all the hassle, I can recommend somewhere not far from here – a place where good memories grow all the time.

 Even the sparrow has found a home,
 and the swallow a nest for herself,
 where she may have her young— 
 a place near your altar,
 Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
 they are ever praising you. (Ps 84.3-4)

Much love


Language matters

Every language has a life of its own – picking up and discarding words as it goes along. Scanning down the list of the latest additions to the Oxford English Dictionary I noticed that some new words were political (‘brexit’), some were technological (‘browsability), some were quite personal (‘gobby’), and some were downright daft (‘sensibilization’). Some of the newer phrases were humorous (‘at full belt’), while others seem to have already been around for a long time (‘touchy-feeliness’).

As a church, the challenge is always to be aware of the language we use, what it conveys, and how well it is understood. As we move further and further into a post-Christian age, I have become conscious of the need to rethink some of our church language and culture, and especially to re-discover the language of mission.

Whereas, in the past, ‘church’ was generally thought to mean a building where Christians meet once or twice a week, these days we need to emphasise its original meaning – a community of believers who support each other as they live out their lives in the world. But how much of this is conveyed in the language we use? Here are some changes we could make. We could speak …

  • less of ‘membership’, and more of ‘discipleship’
  • less of ‘the minister,’ and more of ‘the body of Christ’
  • less of ‘being welcoming, and more of ‘being invitational’
  • less of ‘maintaining our existence’, and more of ‘building God’s Kingdom’…

Up to now we have focused on developing an ‘attractional’ approach to church – by making our Sunday services more open, welcoming, and attractive as possible. With less and less of the people in our community having any understanding or experience of church at all, however, we now need to focus on living out our faith more visibly beyond the walls of our buildings. We need to balance being ‘attractional’ with another new phrase, which grows in relevance with each passing year – being ‘missional’.

Much love


Persistence pays

One of the most surprising and unexpected Christmas gifts I received this year was a voucher for two sessions at a physiotherapy clinic. At a recent church get-together I had mentioned the trouble I was having with my shoulder, and how I had been on the waiting list for treatment for months. Realising that I was unlikely to do anything more about it myself, the person listening, (who happened to be a medical practitioner), decided to take the initiative out of my hands.

Well, in the course of my two excellent sessions I have learned three useful things about physiotherapy exercises

  1. They are hard work
  2. They have to be done regularly
  3. They do make a difference

While my shoulder itself is still not completely better, I am much less aware of the discomfort I used to feel, and have a sense that things are now heading in the right direction.

I think there are definite parallels between my experience of physio, and my faith. Here at Liberton we are in the middle of our season of focussing on the ‘upward’ dimension of our spiritual lives, and often, in all the busy-ness of 21st century living, this is the one that suffers most. As a result our faith begins to get a bit creaky, and our relationship with God becomes more and more forced when it could be flowing.

The solution? Nothing too drastic – just a willingness and a commitment on our part to get back to the basics. Spending time with God can at first seem very like hard work, especially if it’s something we are not used to doing regularly, but it soon makes a real difference.

Let me leave you with the words of one of my favourite Alan McKinlay songs, which are all about being persistent in prayer, and which are a paraphrase of the words of the Master himself, (to be found in Luke 11.9-13).

We’re asking and we keep on asking

We’re seeking and we keep on seeking

We’re knocking on the door of heaven

And we won’t stop knocking ‘till we see heaven come to earth

Happy Exercising!

Much love


Going deeper with God

The following lines from a book by Peter Scazzero have really challenged me because I recognised their truth –

“Many Christians are stuck. Some are lost at this very moment, trying to find their way. Others are afraid they will go astray if they remain stuck for much longer. More than a few are lost without knowing it”*

There are lots of good words that could be used to describe Liberton Kirk, but one of the not so good ones is ‘busy’. Liberton Kirk is a ‘busy’ church. When you add up all the things that are going on and divide them by the number of people in the church, you would think that everyone had a fairly balanced spiritual life. Sadly, this is not the case. Some of us are doing far too much and thereby risking spiritual burn-out, while others are involved in so little that they run the serious risk of spiritual drift. In both cases there is the sense that we have got ourselves ‘stuck’.

To be ‘stuck’ is to have lost your ‘first love’. Whether it is through doing too much or doing too little, the fires that first burned so brightly have grown dimmer. The joy has gone. Jesus is no longer the dominant force in your life. You are either too distracted to develop your relationship with him, or too tired to enjoy it.

How do we get our spiritual life moving again? The answer is to get our balance right – not in terms of what we do and don’t do for him, but in terms of how much time we are actually spending with him in the first place. We need to give ourselves permission to go deeper with God.

And so, on Saturday 21st January, 2017, you are invited to our next Congregational Focus Day, when the focus will be on getting our spiritual balance right. The purpose of this day is NOT just to learn one or two interesting new things about our faith. Rather, it is to set aside some quality time to be with God and with each other, so that together we can re-evaluate our priorities as a church. While parts of the morning will be led by Scott and Faith Brennan, our guest speakers, there will also be opportunities to sit in silence and opportunities to talk through what we have learned.

Whether you are new to the church, or whether you have been around for a long time, this invitation is for you. Sign-up sheets are available at the West Door. Hope to see you soon.

*Peter Scazzero – ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’

For more information contact John Young – 0131 664 3067 / jyoung@churchofscotland.org.uk

Living in interesting times – a thought for Advent!

The story goes that in Ancient China the worst thing you could wish on anyone was that they would live in ‘interesting times’ – times of uncertainty and instability. There is a feeling in the air these days that, here in the West, such ‘interesting times’ are now upon us.

In my twenty years of ministry here at Liberton, I can think of no time when there has been greater uncertainty about the future. Referendums, presidential elections across the pond, up and coming elections in key European states, and the rise of China and its impact on the global economy, all point us to the reality that in the months to come we will be facing a ‘perfect storm’ of change.

To those of us who lived through the upheavals of the last century, such times are not a new experience. The First World War, the rise and fall of fascism, and the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall were all significant events that changed the world. To those who have lived most of their lives since then, however, change on the scale we are currently facing can be an unsettling thing.

Living in ‘interesting times’, however, can also have its positive side. It forces us to face up to the fact that being in full control of our lives, our community, and the future of our nation is actually an illusion. It forces us to take a step back and rethink our own values and priorities. It make us take a hard look at all the things we do, and ask if they are really as necessary as we think they are.

Traditionally, Advent is the season when we prepare our hearts and lives for the coming of Jesus, and, whatever happens in the coming year, this is one reality that will not have changed. So, here’s a thought for Advent. Think of it as a God-given time for thinking and praying about the things in your life that really matter, and then let these priorities influence all you say and do – not just over the Christmas season, but in the ‘interesting times’ to come.

Much love


Summer School

Here at Liberton we have just come to the end of our season of looking ‘inward’ where we’ve been asking the question “What sort of a church do we want to be?” Our next season will be looking ‘outward’ and we are going to spend the summer months in preparation for this.

One of the first things we have to face up to is the reality that for most of us ‘outreach’ is a scary thing. For years our church culture has supported the notion that faith is a ‘private’ thing, and so any suggestion that we share it is met with uncertainty and reluctance.

To say our faith is a ‘private’ thing, however, is to confuse ‘private’ with ‘personal’. It was John Wesley who once said “Your faith may be a personal affair, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a private one.” To be an outward-looking church is to be a church without walls – i.e. to be a community of Christians who are willing to be visible to the world.

But how do we do outreach? This is the question we are hoping to answer over the summer, and to this end we are inviting you to come back to school. In our Sunday morning service we will be learning from Jesus own teaching on outreach in Luke 10, and in our Sunday evening worship we will be running our first ‘Summer School of Mission’.

The Summer School of Mission will have two distinctive features:

  • It will be collaborative. For the two months of July and August we will be joining with our neighbouring congregation of Liberton Northfield; meeting at their church in July, and at Liberton Kirk in August.
  • It will be ‘hands-on’. We plan to spend as much time outside as we do inside; meeting together each week to plan and prepare, going out to do, and then coming back to share and review.

Our means of outreach will simply be to think of ways of blessing an area of our parish. This summer we have chosen to target the new houses at Liberton Grange, (while Liberton Northfield will be targeting homes in the Inch). We will be knocking on doors to offer a welcome, some home baking, some useful information about the Kirk Halls and an invitation to a ‘meet the neighbours’ afternoon in the Kirkgate Café.

So, whether you are able to join us, or to supply some home baking, or to remember us in your prayers, your participation would be very welcome.

Much love