Monday, 28 June 2010

Hugh Martin on Simon Peter

Reading Ted Donnelly's excellent and moving 'Peter, Eye-witness of his Majesty' in preparation for a series of sermons on Peter, I was drawn to two books recommended in a footnote, both of which I was able to obtain easily second hand. One is 'From Simon to Peter' by J.Glyn Owen, (EP, 1985) which I am presently reading and am finding immensely helpful. The other I have just finished: Hugh Martin's 'Simon Peter' (Banner of Truth edition 1967).

Hugh Martin is one of my favourite authors though I have only read three books by him - I do not think he wrote many. He was one of those towering 19th century Scots who have bequeathed us so much. His 'Jonah', also published by the Banner is fine and full of insights, and 'The Atonement' is harder to get hold of(my second hand copy came from the USA last year) but is worth every penny you may pay for it. (Could someone re-print this some time - my copy is Knox Press, 1976)?

Anyway to get back to 'Simon Peter' - what a privilege to be a minister and read books like this for a living! It feeds one's own soul as well as one's sermon preparation. A few highlights that spoke to me were:

In relation to Andrew introducing Simon to the Lord: 'It is when you have yourself had fellowship with Jesus that you have either the heart or the power to speak of Jesus to another. Were we much with Christ we would speak of him...But if we have not fellowship with Christ for our own souls,...our religious talk, when we attempt to speak to our worldly brother, will become mere dead, and vapid, and formal cant...'

Concerning the Lord's warning of Satan wanting to 'sift' the disciples and of His prayer for Peter (Luke 22:31-2): 'It shows that the saved soul is an object of contest among the higher intelligences and before the throne of God on high...such a transaction going on on high may interpret very clearly the meaning and scope of those struggles which I am painfully conscious of within. And then - to use the language of this same Simon Peter at a later date - I may learn, in wonder, awe, meekness and gratitude, no more to "think it strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try me" (1 Peter 4:14)'.

A repeated theme in Peter is his needing to become aware of his weakness, and that weakness was often where he thought he was strong: 'Hence the Christian's safety is in the knowledge of his weakness which sends him to the Lord for strength. "When I am weak, then I am strong".'

Of Peter's denials: 'This once righteous man, [distinguished as we know for promptness and for quick decision], bold as a lion, is not so utterly bereft of any quality whatever as of exactly that which he thought never could forsake him'. He needed to be redeemed, says Martin, from self-reliance - and no more so than where he thought himself strong.

There is much more...

Monday, 7 June 2010

Six days of (re)creation and a Good Samaritan

Half term was spent in Wales. On Sunday 30th May I had the pleasant experience of preaching in the light, modern building of New Road Evangelical church in Welshpool, Powys where a former LTS man, Oliver Gross is pastor. Any time now his wife Naomi is expecting their first baby! It was a lovely day of fellowship and we enjoyed lunch with a couple who live in Abermule, where I grew up. After lunch we drove up the road to the old Manse where I had spent my boyhood and the people there welcomed us in to look around the house. The structure of the house has not changed in forty years. Nor had the garden or the old loft and stable where we played nor the old pigsty at the bottom of the garden where we kept hens for a few years. Then we saw the fat old oak tree where I used to sit and pretend I was Robin Hood. Wonderful to see it all looking so much the same - apart from dozens of houses which have now been built up around it.

The next weekend it was good to see in the 'County Times' that "Visitors swelled the congregation at New Street Evangelical Church Welshpool last Sunday as people came to hear the guest preacher, Rev Mostyn Roberts". Well, my wife and boys and my old friend Graham Hind , his wife and mother from Llandrillo, were there in the morning, and my mother (with whom we were staying in Newtown) came with me in the evening. So for 'swelled' read 'marginally expanded'.

On the Monday Hilary and I left the boys with Mum and went shopping in Newtown, rediscovering Laura Ashley. But we have got weddings this summer after all.

On Tuesday we boys got our hair cut (far cheaper than in Hertfordshire) and had coffee and a chelsea bun in Evans' cafe - you must go there if you ever visit Newtown. And get the drippingest, syruppyest chelsea buns in the world.
That afternoon we toured west Shropshire - the 'Welsh marches'. Bishop's Castle is crumbling visibly; Ludlow is definitely worth another visit.

On Wednesday we met Graham and Tina again, and (with the boys but without Graham and Tina)climbed to the top of the magnificent waterfall (pistyll) at Llanrhaeadr ym mochnant. After a good lunch of ham, eggs and chips we walked along the riverside and although it was delightful I was miffed to see that old haunts where I used to play in my youth are now fenced off by some kind of New Age retreat area which one is asked to 'respect'. It was great to chat to Graham and Tina again.

Thursday was the highlight of the week for the boys as it was a glorious day and we went to Borth y gest beach near Porthmadog. My mother ('Nain' to the boys)came with us and treated us to lunch at Kerfoots. We have eaten well this week. The beach was not exactly blue flag but great fun. Cadwaladrs ice-creams sealed the day as 'the best of the week'.

On Friday we went to Berriew to see an elderly aunt of mine and ended up with her nice South African carer catching minnows (we keep nets in the car when on holiday!) in the little river nearby . And, oh yes, a small cat-fish. All were returned alive to the water! Thomas fell in and that made his day.

That evening we came home and just as we were congratulating ourselves on a great journey the front driver's side tyre blew. We slowed down and came to the side but as there were roadworks, there was no hard shoulder - we were in the slow lane in a 'free recovery ' area. I phoned the AA; then a car pulled up behind us giving us unintended but welcome protection from any cars coming too fast . Thankfully it was a 50 mph limit so I had not been going too fast.

As this car drove away a breakdown lorry (or 'fix -up - truck' as Nathaniel excitedly called it, hopping from one leg to another) pulled up. A gentleman of Asian origin beckoned me from the window . I thought he was the AA. Not so. He offered to change the wheel. How much? Nothing, he said. I hummed and hawed. He got out and started changing the tyre. Had I got a jack? I said I thought so ; it's at times like this you feel really silly. He found it. Then the free recovery breakdown truck stopped . So there was us and two breakdown trucks, neither of which was the AA. He told the kind Asian man that he was breaking the law, changing a tyre on the highway in a roadwork area. But the man had nearly finished and thankfully the free recovery man took a sensible view and drove off. We phoned the AA to say the job was done and they said thanks for letting them know and that they would have got to us in about 45 minutes. But as it was we drove of in about 20 minutes from the time of the puncture. About a mile further on we saw the first car who had stopped behind us now completely broken down and with two highway patrol cars with him.

A new tyre on the Saturday morning set all to rights.

What a gift of God that breakdown-truck man was! He said he had seen the boys and Hilary sitting by the roadside, behind the protective barrier, and felt he could not pass us by.

So we were home no later than 30 minutes after we would have been anyway, having had a puncture, and all safe and without damage. The Lord is very very good indeed.

And so, eventfully, ended six days of recreation with an encounter with a Good Samaritan. How do I respond to my neighbour's need?