The Rev Alex Noble (Saltcoats North Parish Church, Ayrshire):
Thank you, Mr Fergusson, for inviting me to speak today. It is a great honour and privilege. I also thank my member of the Scottish Parliament, Kenneth Gibson, for nominating me—and for the nice lunch. [ Laughter. ]
If I were to speak with my head down in my notes, you would rightly think, "How boring. For goodness' sake, look at us when you are speaking to us." It comes across so much better when the speaker lifts their chin and eyes and looks at people. There is direct communication—there is even feedback—and we connect and dialogue.
Now, this whole Parliament tries to do that with the wider nation, beginning with those who are in the public gallery at the moment. We try to engage with the public, dialogue and connect, rather than being introspective and navel gazing. So let us look up from ourselves and outwards to others.
Lord Northcliffe, a famous politician in his time, thought that he was going blind, so he went to his optician, who said: "You are not going blind. You are just falling foul of what politicians often fall foul of: you are reading too much small print. All you need to do is go outside, look up at the stars and the moon, lift up your eyes and stretch your vision." So let us look outwards and upwards.
In the Bible, the huge Syrian army, overnight, camped around the city of Dothan with a view to capturing Elisha, the prophet of God. The next morning, Elisha's servant looked out of the window and panicked. Amazingly, Elisha seemed remarkably calm. He said to his servant:
"Those who are on our side are more than those who are on theirs."
Elisha had what I call the bi-focal spectacles of faith: he could see the Syrian army in the foreground, but he could also see the heavenly army in the background. If we could see our problems in the wider context of God's providence, it would make us all calmer.
In the New Testament, Peter could walk on water so long as he looked to Jesus, not to the wind, the waves and his own resources. We all need to get our bearings in life—individually, as a Parliament and as a nation. When we are at sea—lost at sea or floundering—we get our bearings by looking along the horizontal level to a spot on the horizon and looking vertically to somewhere up in the sky. So let us always look outwards to others and upwards to God.
May God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit give you vision, wisdom and moral courage in all your endeavours.