21 April 2006

Local Minister's Sermon In Scottish Parliament

Rev Rodger Neilson, Minister of Cruden Parish Church, delivered ‘Time for Reflection’ in the Scottish Parliament this week. Rev Neilson and his wife was welcomed to Parliament by local MSP Stewart Stevenson.

The text of his sermon follows:

The Rev Rodger Neilson (Cruden Parish Church, Aberdeenshire): Those of a Christian faith, not only in our land but throughout the world, have just celebrated Easter. The story of the first Easter is, of course, at the heart of the Christian faith, and what is at the heart has an ultimate importance.

When I was spending a few days recently in the heart of Perthshire, a walk on the trail round the Birks of Aberfeldy was a must. While enjoying that walk in the winter sunshine, I recalled something that I read many, many years ago: if a line were drawn from the north-east tip of the Scottish mainland to the south-west and likewise from the north-west to the south-east, those two diagonals would cross each other at Aberfeldy, placing it at the heart of Scotland.

I never took out a map of Scotland to trace those lines and check it out for myself. I think that that was because I did not want to find out that it might not be true. I was simply happy to believe that the heart of Scotland was in one of its most beautiful areas, alongside the Tay and not far from the hills around the loch of the same name.

If Aberfeldy is at the geographical heart of Scotland, we can go on to say that Scotland has more than one heart, and that can lead us to ask some important questions. What is and what should be at the heart of our Scottish identity? What is and what should be at the heart of our Scottish character? What is and what should be at the heart of our Scottish aspirations for ourselves and for the world?

Those questions are not only for politicians to deal with, for they surely should matter to every responsible citizen. I believe that those questions are more easily considered when we are more comfortable with our answers to personal questions. What is and what should be at the heart of my own identity? What are and what should be my own aspirations?

What is at the heart has ultimate importance. If we can deal with the questions of motivation and purpose at the personal level, that should make it easier for us to tackle them at the national level and, in turn, as we see more clearly our national destiny, we might find our individual hearts being inspired for the better.

The celebration of Easter should motivate the Christian believer to focus more clearly on what is at the heart of his or her faith. Any time is a good time for all of us to reflect on what lies at the heart of our individual, community and national lives. I pray that all of us will take time regularly to do just that.

Stewart Stevenson
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