God’s Honours List

The New Year’s Honours List for 2020 has just been announced. A fine list of people, with many deserving men and women, enjoying their moment of recognition in society. Beneficiaries of a system that harks back to the grand old days of the British Empire and its dubious times of colonialism. But to many people the system will seem unfair, and they may be right, but regardless of that I am always heartened by how ordinary people automatically help each other, as a natural act of kindness or charity. They perform unsung acts of benevolence that deserve recognition just as much as those who are recorded in the Honours List. Acts of kindness dispensed spontaneously, and without a thought that perhaps some form of acknowledgement will come one day. In this life we have many opportunities to look out for each other, our neighbours, friends, family. Even total strangers. Helping one another is so important that Jesus told a story about it, about a Samaritan man. Jesus’ story was in response to a question, “Who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:25-37). The Samaritan man helped a total stranger who was injured; it involved a cost – money and time. But never a mention of reluctance.

In the community of faith of which I am privileged to be a part I am always blessed by the different ways our folks try and outdo each other in helpful ways. Even those battling with illness or infirmities. The Craft Group of ladies on a Monday do much to help each other with their projects, their needs, their challenges. Our Soup Kitchen on a Friday welcomes in those who are lonely and in need, providing a basic meal and friendly ear to the less fortunate in the Alloa community. And visitors join us on a Sunday, most to hear the Word of God preached, but one or two just come in for a coffee and biscuit, or turn up when we have a meal after our family service. And there are other charitable acts that take place behind the scenes.

Amazing things can happen when an act of kindness or charity is performed in Jesus’ name. There was a young man with a packed lunch that he offered to Jesus, and then watched 5000 people being fed from it (John 6:1-14). I wonder what he told his mum when he got home! And did she believe him? But it can be the same with us. The little we have will be multiplied many times when offered to God.

But returning to the Honours List, the temporal recognition of those men and women will die with them. At the pearly gates, Saint Peter will sadly have to inform them that an MBE or knighthood is not an “honour” recognised in the Kingdom of God – there is only one thing that gains us entry. So how do we get our names onto God’s Honours List? The amazing thing is that it is not based on works or good deeds, unlike the worldly system. In fact, no amount of effort expended in acts of benevolence or charity will ever get us into God’s presence. To get listed in God’s Honours List (the Lamb’s Book of Life) is simple, and amazingly we don’t have to be nominated – all that is required is for us to respond as a sinner to the Gospel message.  So I now have my name listed on God’s Honours List. And I don’t have “MBE” written after my name, I have “MKG” (Member of the Kingdom of God) or “SLG” (Son of the Living God), and rather than being a “Sir” I am a “priest” (1 Peter 2:5) and not just any old priest, but a “royal priest” (1 Peter 2:9). And I’m a “saint” – there are many Biblical references to this. We mustn’t forget that values in the Kingdom of God are very different to those in the kingdom of the world. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27). So, fellow foolish and weak Christians, let’s look out for ways we can help each other, and opportunities to invite the wise and strong to put their names on the only “Honours List” that matters.

A December Message

A cold and frosty December morning; a semicircular moon gleaming through the stark denuded tree branches, like a scene that reminds of the Hansel and Gretel story. A still morning, no wind, just a peaceful icy world. The stillness only disturbed by the occasional tweet of a foraging bird and the distant muffled background noise of commuting traffic passing on the local A road. As an aside, with all the technological advances of the current age, no-one has yet invented tyres that make contact with tarmac quietly. Strange.

So what is God saying to me this morning? It’s a question I ask regularly and sometimes the answers surprise me. On the one hand this morning I have the peaceful natural environment around me, so full of God’s creative genius, so stress-free. An environment that seems in tune with my spirit. On the other hand society is full of reports about the political fallout from the recent election, with all its recriminations and triumphalism, the “blame game”, the strident calls for the break up of the UK. All news dominated by evil attempts of one individual or group trying to get one over another. And that bastion of British institutionalism, the BBC, under attack as never before, as it fails to adapt to a new generation’s desire for “on-demand” TV services and maintain true impartiality in a political world dominated by accusations of bias. Who would have ever thought it!

So back to my question; what is God saying to me this morning? Well, the spiritual and political thoughts merge this morning. The country has to be governed and I pray for the political leaders daily, but no amount of referendums or elections can ever replace the need for people to come to know our loving Heavenly Father. Independence in Scotland might be utopian for some, but it’s not independence that Scotland needs, it’s revival. No political outcome can replace the fact that 95% of the Scottish population are heading for a lost eternity. Call it “hell” if you like. So God is saying to me this morning – spread the message, His message of hope.