Thoughts for Tuesday 28th July

Psalm 65:8-13; Genesis 30:37-43; Ephesians 6:10-18

Tuesday 28 July

Sorry not to be able to explain Jacob’s methodology here. I’m not sure what is going on, but believe there is always something edifying to be found in whatever our Bible readings, and for me today it’s in the mention of three types of trees: poplar, almond and plane.

The place, Poplar, in London’s East End, was first called Poplar because of the poplar trees that grew there. In 1654 the East India Company built a chapel (now St Matthias Old Church on Poplar High Street), and that became the nucleus of the settlement that then grew up around the Church. As a consequence, the Church has always been at the heart of the community, and this is maybe a useful lesson for us as the Church of Scotland as we seek to put into practice one of the aims of our new Radical Action Plan i.e. to build ‘well-equipped spaces in the right places.’

One of the most notable people connected with Poplar is George Lansbury (1859-1940), a social reformer who led the Labour Party in the mid 1930s. A lifelong Anglican, as well as a politician, for many years he served (Bow Church) as its churchwarden. Numbered among his many grandchildren are the late Oliver Postgate (who we can thank for The Clangers on television) and Angela Lansbury.

Sometimes when I have conducted weddings, I have spoken of sugared almonds as wedding favours. The practice originated in Italy where the tradition has been for five almonds to be given to each guest as a ‘thank you’ for coming, as well as a reminder of the significance of what has taken place. Almonds are quite bitter, the symbolism suggesting that though at times life may be bitter, the ‘sweetness’ of marriage can help. That there are five, which number is indivisible emphasises the strength of the marriage bond, those five sweets standing for Health, Happiness, Wealth, Fertility and Longevity.

We have a plane tree here on the southside of Glasgow at Darnley, which place name comes from one of Mary Queen of Scots’ three husbands, Lord Darnley. The story goes that in 1567 Mary came from Holyrood to collect her husband from Crookston Castle where he was staying. He had contracted smallpox, and was too weak to ride himself, and so Mary brought a litter. They had barely left when Henry required to be nursed by Mary, this taking place underneath the plane tree that now stands at the corner of Nitshill and Kennishead Roads, protected by a metal fence.

Let us pray:

Keep us, O God, from all pettiness. Let us be large in thought, in word, in deed. let us be done with fault-finding and leave off all self-seeking. May we put away all pretence and meet each other face to face, without self pity and without prejudice. may we never be hasty in judgment, and always be generous. let us always take time for all things, and make us to grow calm, serene and gentle. Teach us to put into action our better impulses, to be straightforward and unafraid. Grant that we may realize that it is the little things of life that create differences, that in the big things of life, we are as one. And, O Lord God, let us not forget to be kind,

Amen (Mary Queen of Scots).


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