We had a lovely walk yesterday up Turin hill at Aberlemno in Angus. Although there is a ‘right to roam’ in Scotland one of the local farmers was clearly not keen to have anyone walk through his land. The double knotted tied gates, electric fences and removed signs all indicated that. When he drove up to us on his quad bike and just stopped and glared at us, we sensed his lack of welcome!
“I’ve been on to the council for years, about this walk. Its the insurance you see. I’ve got stock, if you had your own insurance it would be fine”. I wanted to tell him I had insurance for being savaged by a sheep! And that if we were stupid enough to go in a field with a bull it would be our responsibility not his. I told him I had grown up on a farm and knew about stock and would stay away from any. He drove off in the huff. Shortly afterwards we heard the sound of guns! Anyway it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the great views to be had from the hill.
The thought strikes me, as we go to church today, that some of us are like that grumpy farmer! The church is beautiful, the view from the top marvellous but sometimes those of us who are custodians are a wee bit grumpy. We want to defend the church, keep out the riff raff, and preserve ‘our’ church. But it’s not ours. It’s Christs. And our job is to invite people in, welcome them and encourage all to come up the mountain! I think of the retired Free Church minister who, when he was on door duty at St Petes, used to stand at the door and say to passing strangers ‘come in, come in…and we will do you good’! It may have been quaint and outmoded language – but it was spot on – and the smile and warmth indicated that he really meant it!