Time for Reflection

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 20 June 2007.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 2:30, 20 June 2007

Good afternoon. The first item of business is time for reflection. I am pleased to welcome as our time for reflection leader Pastor Norman Hill from the Riverside Church in Banff.

Pastor Norman Hill (Riverside Church, Banff):

Our little church is celebrating 25 years of existence this week and we are having a big conference, so I thank you, Presiding Officer, for this honour for our church and me.

Jesus Christ was known as the friend of outcasts. His enemies gave him that name—it was intended as an insult, but he wore it as a badge of honour. They once asked him why he was eating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus's reply was:

"it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick ... I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

As a pastor, I have been thrilled to see that action in our church. For example, one Sunday morning a few months ago, I looked out on our congregation to see two young men standing together: one had been a heroin addict and had just come out of rehabilitation; the other had been his cannabis dealer. They were standing together in grateful worship to God because they had both found the friend of outcasts and their lives had been transformed.

About two weeks ago, several of us were working on the sound system in our church and stopped for tea. When we were sitting chatting, I looked around and joked that we were quite a motley crew to be in a church: sitting round there that night was the same drug dealer whom I mentioned earlier; a former violent hell's angel who used to carry a knife; someone with a record for assault; and a former acid-head—that is, someone who took LSD a lot. Again, I felt the same thrill when I knew that they had met the friend of outcasts and that Jesus was glorified through that motley crew.

I want to tell you a wee bit more about the acid-head. He got involved in the hippie scene when he was a teenager in the 60s—some of you might remember that. He says that, although he was involved in wrong activities, it was for the right reasons because he was looking for something to make sense of life and provide him with some sort of purpose. In fact, he was convinced that by becoming part of the hippie subculture, which included drugs, he would find the fulfilment that he sought. He refers to it, in fact, as dedicating himself to a cause. He called it the hippie cause. As part of his commitment to that cause, he ended up giving up his job as a trainee civil engineer so that he could be a full-time hippie. He was convinced that LSD was the way to God. Despite the threat of the police, he even used to tell his family—his parents and his brothers—that he had found the answer to the world's problems and that, far from being wrong, what he and his friends were doing would make the world a better place.

In the end, the hippie cause fulfilled none of its promise for that young man. It produced only a catalogue of disasters, including several friends with long-term psychiatric illness and not a few who died. In fact, it demanded everything, but gave nothing.

Perhaps you are wondering how I know so much about this young man. If you have not already guessed, it was me. I, too, discovered that Jesus Christ is the friend of outcasts and that he cared about my pathetic little life. I believe that he still cares about people, especially those who are considered outcasts. While our society often enjoys writing people off, Jesus Christ delights in writing people back on again.