Loin Cloths And Praying Scots M.p's

If you google 'How to make a loin cloth' you will see pictures of various styles, from Tarzan to people who adopt a simple life-style out of love for the poor. The prophet Jeremiah wore a loin cloth in order to give a visual message (Jeremiah 13:1-11). A friend recently urged me to read this passage, because he felt God is saying something to us now through this passage.

God told Jeremiah to wear the loin cloth for a period, and then take it off and leave it in a cave. When he returned to the cave the elements had ruined it. It was useless. What is the message? God wanted a people who cling closely to him, as a loin cloth clings to a person's skin. He intends us to have a relationship of intimate communion with HIm. The people, however, wandered after false substitutes for God. This inevitably led to disaster: they were deported or killed by a superpower. Is not that a parable of what is happening to our society? We can learn from Jeremiah to return to a close, sustaining relationship with our God.

I attended last Saturday's 'Engaging Faith and Politics' conference at the Scottish Parliament. It was hosted by M.S.P's from the three largest parties and organised by a Protestant/Catholic alliance called 'Parliamentary Prayer Scotland.' An early speaker, referring to my town of Berwick, said 'They stole it from us and we want it back'. 'They' were the English', 'we' are the Scots. I justified my presence on the basis that I was a delegate from the stolen town. That was half a joke. The real reason is that I work for a faith community that is active in Scotland.

Karen Gillon, a mother of four and a Labour MSP from Glasgow, said MSP's need to have time to reflect and think about what lies ahead. David Robertson, pastor of St. Peter's Free Church, Dundee, gave the brilliant keynote address. He said Gordon Brown, in a recent Lambeth lecture, said that liberal secularism, like theocracy, requires people to leave conscience at the door. A charity named SOLAS has been set up to prevent Christianity becoming a private knitting club. Christians who are salt and light engage at every level. A minister once told the Sots King James:'There are two kingdoms. In one, you are a king; in the other you are a silly vassal.'

There are four theories as to how church and state should relate: 1) The state rules the church 2) Theocracy (church) rules 3) The two are completely separate 4) They are good neighbours, engaging and advising and challenging but not controlling. The fourth nis surely the way forward now.

After a jog in Holyrood Park Howard and Charlotte Espie had myself and David and Jane Denniston, ministers of Edinburgh's St Cuthbert's Church - founded by our Lindidsfarne saint - for an evening meal. What a nourishing day off!

What has all this to do with loin cloths? Both church people and our society need to be re-joined to God... Now I am off to Copenhagen. to introduce would-be new monastic groups to our own and other Celtic spiritualities. Pray for me, I'll report next week.

Posted at 05:10am on 3rd March 2011
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