Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Important and the Insignificant

One of the aspects of parish ministry is that you get to meet people from all walks of society. In the many years of my ministry I have met some famous people, and I have met very many folks who are of very humble or broken or needy backgrounds.

Sometimes the folks who are most famous know it and expect you to know it too and treat them ‘accordingly’. I have encountered that all too often, and find it distasteful in the extreme.

But others are very different. A few months back someone who is arguably one of the most innovative and creative contributors to contemporary music appeared in St Cuthbert’s. I instantly recognised him… and he seemed genuinely and disarmingly shocked that I should! Similarly, the other day I met one of the ministers of the Scottish Government. He introduced himself and when I said that I knew who he was, he was also surprised that I should have recognised such a ‘lowly minister’ (his words). I instantly liked them both!

How refreshingly different from the ‘’do you know who I am’ attitude of some of the so-called great and famous (and I have met some of them too and not been impressed.)

Perhaps the person who sticks most in my mind form recent encounters is a woman who stays in one of the less salubrious areas of Edinburgh who has teenage and young adult children all dependent on welfare benefits, one of whom is physically unwell and another who has mental illness. This genuine and humble woman came to me in great fear and trembling and with considerable shame and embarrassment to ask for any help I could give towards getting them something for Christmas dinner. She had only £7 left and no prospect for further income for days. It had taken her considerable courage to come and ask…

I think she has made more impression on me than the ‘important’ people… and especially the ‘self-important’ people I have met.

God bless you Jenny and enjoy your Christmas lunch.

Interesting that the Christmas story in Gospels includes the name of many important people; Herod, Quirinius, Augustus. But the most important person and the one whom we still remember and celebrate was the least significant (apparently). Born in an unimportant town in inauspicious circumstances. But his is the name most remembered!

Thank you Jesus that from the very beginning, even at your birth, you were turning our values upside down, the humble were lifted high and the mighty brought down from their thrones. Hallelujah!

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