Last weekend we reconnected with our Scottish heritage as we landed in Glasgow to meet with our son Gilbert who has spent a semester studying history at one of ‘The Graaate Univarsatays of Scotland.’
During the Victorian era Glasgow was “The Second City of the Empire” and has in recent years experienced a renaissance, being named in 1990 as the ‘European City of Culture.’
It was founded by the Celtic saint Mungo in the 6th century. Mungo is said to have preached a sermon containing the words “Lord, let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the word and the praising of thy name.” This has now been abbreviated to “Let Glasgow Flourish” and adopted as the city’s motto.
On this, the penultimate weekend before Christmas, maybe more than at any other time, the manifestation of the tragic truncation of Mungo’s words from a specific faith filled prayer to a vague wish are evident.
The title of this week’s blog came to me on bustling Buchanan Street in the heart of the city, as I noticed what seemed like herds of heavily made up lassies in indecently short skirts sporting little Santa hats……obviously, “Looking for Love in Glasgow.” I noticed the brightly lit church spire pictured above and asked Gilbert it’s significance. “Oh it’s now a bar and nightclub” he said, the tilted halo prophesying loudly of how revelry was now replacing religion.
Later that night Father reminded me of a very different Glaswegian Buchanan.
I first encountered Alec Buchanan over 40 years ago at a FGBMI Prayer & Bible week. He seemed at first a very ordinary little man, as King Jimmy says in Isaiah 53, “He hath…. no beauty that we should desire him.” but when he opened his mouth it was Glaswegian gold that poured out. I had never before heard anyone able to “open up” the scriptures and reveal hidden truth the way he could. He talked about how as a city missioner he carried the passionate love of God to the dark and despised parts of the city. “Every night I would come home needing two baths,” he said, “one in water to cleanse my body, the other in scripture to cleanse my soul.” I had never before met anyone who had so immersed himself in the ‘word’ having read through the bible dozens of times!
The next morning we visited a thriving new church plant Gilbert had attended in an old Presbyterian church building. Part of the membership commitment to this fellowship is to belong to a “Bible read-through” group where all read the entire ‘word’ in one year to discover the God who loves them and longs for them to find their way back into His arms. The church is called Re:Hope.
That morning’s sermon “Seeking Love” confirmed to me the title I’d received for this blog.
An hour later we did the EasyJet hop over that well worn 13 mile stretch of the Irish Sea that has historically connected Scotland and Ireland arriving at the city of Belfast. Like Glasgow, Belfast has also experienced a renaissance in recent years. At the airport, the Titanic museum is proudly advertised as “The World’s Leading Tourist Attraction” but as we wheeled our suitcases along the brightly lit buzzing city center streets, we sensed an ominous rumbling in the bowels of this partying ship too.
The three of us entered another historic Presbyterian church building in the heart of the city just in time to be warmly welcomed by our daughter Abby and then led by her husband Stephen in a vitally authentic ‘praise’ service adoring the son of God who became man in order to manifest our Father’s love. Just a year ago together with another young couple they began Re:Hope Belfast – as a witness to God’s love in this other Celtic city.
I believe these are signs of how the ‘word’ and ‘praise’ petition of St. Mungo is now being answered in our day.
In next week’s blog I’ll consider Mungo’s Hope and why it has taken 1500 years for his prayer to be answered..
A final video of how just as we were leaving Glasgow in the midst of commercialism…..I did find my bonnie bonnie lassie : – )