Good morning. Our first item of business this morning is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader is our local parish minister, the Rev Neil Gardner, who has been a great friend to the Parliament. I am delighted to have him here on the last morning of the session to give us time for reflection.
The Rev Neil Gardner (Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh):
It is good to find myself on duty again in this particularly modern corner of the ancient parish of Canongate. Just the other day, I was on parade in another distinctive part of my parish, across the road at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, in his capacity as colonel of the Scots Guards, had come up to present a number of Elizabeth Crosses to the families of Scots Guardsmen who lost their lives on active service. Those were not necessarily recent losses, but stretched back on this occasion as far as 40 years to Northern Ireland in 1971.
By contrast, the Elizabeth Cross is a relatively new concept. It was established by the Queen in 2009 and is awarded to the immediate families of all military personnel who have been killed in action to recognise the family’s sacrifice, too, in the loss of a husband or father, wife or mother, brother or son, sister or daughter. For families who have been quietly bearing their losses for forty years or more, it is important for them to know that they have not been forgotten. Last week’s ceremony across the road demonstrated exactly that.
In the Christian calendar, this penitential season of Lent is also a time for remembering sacrifice—most vividly in the poignant symbol of the cross. As the 40 days and 40 nights unfold and as Easter looms ever closer on the horizon, the church remembers once again the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus, his death on the cross and his rising again from the tomb. As one of our old familiar hymns puts it,
“When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.”
The worldwide family of the church finds great strength in that wondrous cross, for it reminds us not just of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, but that because of it we have not been forgotten.
“For God so loved the world”,
which is every bit as troubled now as it was then,
“that He gave His only Son, that everyone who has faith in Him may not perish, but have eternal life.”