The voting is over. The people have spoken. The referendum question has been answered. However, the answer raises a much more important issue, not only for our politicians but for all who, in anyway, are concerned about the common good of the people of these islands.
The issue is, that we can no longer continue with business as usual, when so many of the electorate have voted to leave the union. Some who voted no, did so because they were promised that additional powers would be granted by the UK parliament, and indeed a timetable to achieve such powers was offered by all three union party leaders. It seems reasonable therefore, to conclude that a number of those who voted no did so because they believed it would be the least disruptive way to achieve lasting change for the whole of the UK.
There is no doubt that the vote reflects four nations, that are searching for change and renewal. Wales is looking for more devolution, and England is aggrieved that the so called ,West Lothian Question has not been resolved. Northern Ireland requires the rest of the union to be at peace in order that they can feel secure from nationalism in Ireland.
Scotland has become the lighting rod for reform. It is for these reasons that the status quo is no longer an option. This I believe is no mean legacy for those who wished to bring about independence for Scotland. It may be that Scotland will be instrumental in bringing about a greater good for the whole of the UK. The seeds of reconciliation can surely be found in this legacy.
Could this be a formative moment in the history of the union? At the heart of the debate, when passions were high, I heard a common theme running through many of the appeals for votes. It was an appeal to create a more open and equal society. Social justice seems to be at the centre of many of our politicians’ aspirations. Listen to Gordon Brown’s, now well documented, speech on the eve before the poll, one could be forgiven, for mistaking him for a revivalist preacher. Reflect on the appeals of Alex Salmond or indeed Tommy Sheridan. All three men’s passion for social justice could not be doubted. I wonder if in fact all three were tapping into a deeper national aspiration that can be found in many people across the UK. It is a feeling of longing for unity of purpose and a sense of fair play for all. Justice is at the heart of what is being spoken of on the doorsteps of Scotland and on the streets of many of our major cities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is therefore imperative that politicians not only listen but act upon the words they say. Indeed all of us must make the effort to become more engaged in the things we simply speak about.
This was what was at the heart of the message of the prophets in the Hebrew scriptures. The voices of these prophets can still be heard today in the conversations of our young people on Twitter and Facebook. Read what Micah has to say about a fair society. In Chapter 6. 8 he says the following, regarding God’s instruction to all of us;
“ He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
It is almost as though the prophet challenges all who will listen to him to stop blaming others, and to stop looking for others to fix the system. The prophet here invites his listener, mortal man, to do something about it. He is almost saying, “You make the difference.”
At the heart of the gospel that Jesus taught is a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. He often qualifies forgiveness and reconciliation with the need for repentance. Repentance means not only being sorry or full of regret for past actions, but it is a turning away from the acts that have brought about the broken relationships of our lives and our society. I believe the change we are all searching for must start with individuals making the change in their own lifestyles and actions.
Tomorrow in St Andrew’s Bo’ness I will be holding a service of reconciliation and hope. It will be a service in which all who attend will be invited to seek to work together with others for the commonweal of our nation. Here is a sample of some of the prayers and reflections I hope to use.
The prayers below will have already been used at a service in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, conducted by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend John Chalmers, on Sunday morning the 21st September 2014. John has invited every parish minister in the Church of Scotland to conduct a similar service in which local people can join and commit to making our votes for justice count.
I’m hoping we will have a good turn out of people to participate in what I believe will be a very meaningful service. If you find this post strikes a chord with you, why not join us in person or log into the service as it’s being streamed out on Sunday evening at 6.30pm.
A LITANY OF INTERCESSION AND ASPIRATION
ACT OF COMMITMENT
As we share in an act signifying our commitment to Scotland’s future, we bring forward lighted tapers.
These represent the contributions that we in our communities will make to the shared values inscribed on the Scottish Parliament’s mace, namely: WISDOM, JUSTICE, COMPASSION and INTEGRITY. The tapers will then come together to light a single candle symbolising a commitment to work together for the commonweal.
All are invited to say together:
We commit ourselves, to work for the people of Scotland,
uniting to build a better society, grounded in the values and ideals we share:
Let us act wisely:
- respecting our differences
- healing one another’s pain
- working together for the common good
Let us act justly:
- towards those who have held different views
- towards those who cannot stand up for themselves - towards those who live life on the margins
- Let us act with compassion:
- when we see others struggling
- when our neighbour needs support - when our rivals are in despair
Let us act with integrity:
- putting the good of others before our own
- putting honesty and truth before personal advantage
- putting self-interest aside in favour of self-sacrifice and noble service
When the single candle has been lit and our act of commitment is complete the congregation will be invited to greet one another with a hand of friendship
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, For ever and ever.