In the mid-1800s, many Scots advocated the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens be opened on Sundays. The legalistic Sabbatarianists insisted the Sabbath can only be honored by closing such public facilities and by not allowing the trains to run on the seventh day of the week. Yet so many workers had only Sundays off and strict Sabbath regulations had the effect of denying these workers access to the country and to some of the most beautiful places in the city. Norman MacLeod, a Scottish Presbyterian Pastor, led the successful effort to end the strict regulations. He did so out of the belief that the world was God’s dwelling place and therefore the renewing graces of God can be found not just in church and strictly religious observance, but in listen for the heartbeat of God in the whole of life, including the Botanic Gardens.
From a similar view of God’s outreaching presence and love, came the commitment from those who built our present church building that we be a “seven day” church, devoted not just to religious observance but community service and celebration. That same spirit continues to this day in the “Church of the Open Door.” We keep our doors open to the great diversity of people and perspectives that join us here. And our doors are open to remind us we are being sent out into the world to find and share and celebrate God’s loving presence wherever it is needed and can be found.
As we commission a new Search Committee this morning, I thought it appropriate to do so using the words Norman MacLeod wrote years ago about the Iona Abbey reconstruction:
“It is not just the interior of these walls, it is our own inner beings that we rededicate. We are your temple not made with hands. We are your body. If every wall should crumble, and every church decay, we are your habitation. Nearer are you than breathing, closer than hands and feet. Ours are the eyes with which you, in the mystery, look out in compassion on the world.
So we bless you for this place, for the directing of us, your redeeming of us, and your indwelling. Take us outside these walls, Lord, outside holiness, out to where soldiers gamble and thieves curse, and nations clash at the cross-roads of the world. So shall this building continue to be justified.”
Your friend and fellow minister, Rev. Steve Savides