Climate change and the healing of the Nations
Preacher: Alastair McIntosh
Readings: Numbers 11: 4-6, 10-16, 24-29; James 5: 13-20
As a Quaker who was raised in the Highland church tradition, Alastair normally delivers his sermons extemporaneously, as was the case on this occasion. Following the traditional approach that John Buchan mentions in notes to his novel, Witch Wood, by which a proper Scottish sermon should have “three heads and an application”, Alastair spoke to:
- JM Barrie’s Rectorial address of May 1922 – the centenary is this academic year – on Courage. Here he reflected prophetically on the intergenerational responsibility avert the next world war.
- The Hebridean legend of Noah’s Ark running aground on Uisgneabhal on the Isle of Harris, where such animals as the Red Deer and the Blue Mountain Hare disembarked, two by two. This demonstrates a metaphorical and contextual approach to theology. Thankfully, Noah got the Ark refloated on the high tide. It sailed on, and the remaining animals disembarked when it ran aground on a lesser summit, called Mount Ararat. (Source: Otta Swire, The Outer Hebrides and their Legends).
- The Hebridean evangelical sermon preached in Alastair’s home Parish of North Lochs around 1830 by the Rev Robert Finlayson. The Ark was, of course, built on the Isle of Lewis. Where else would Noah have found such ship-building skills. But as he went off to various parts of the island to collect animals – a bull from Ness, a ram from Uig – the carpenters took their wages and went off to drink them away in Babylon (a.k.a. Stornoway). Before they could down their pints, the lightning cracked and the waters of the Earth began to flood the bar. They’d left it too late, for “the Ark was closed and Mercy’s Day had gone. O people of Lochs (or St Andrews), God’s Ark stands open for you today. But the day of the closed door is coming”. (Source: Rev Norman C. Macfarlane, Apostles of the North).
- The application – to climate change – we must not leave it too late. Politics, economics and technology alone are not enough. As Barrie recognised, we need spiritual courage. Courage is “the rib of Himself that God sent down to this children”. If we can open to it, if we can allow ourselves to be filled by “beauty boiling over, or a soul boiling over; perhaps the same thing … then spirits walk.”