Words of Light and Hope from Bishop Tony Foottit
On 30 November, St. Andrew’s Day, our thoughts turn to Scotland, and so to heather. It is heather that clothes the mountains and moors in purple and makes Scotland so memorable a place. Purple or blue is the colour for Advent, reminding us of mountains and sky and so to look up from our enclosed little worlds. Heather is comfortable to lie on and was once used for mattresses and thatch as well as fuel for the fire. We all look for companionship and comfort. There is a tradition that through Andrew’s influence the gospel came to Scotland which is why he is Scotland’s patron saint. We know from St. John’s gospel that Andrew approached Jesus, and spent the day with him. It was Andrew who then introduced his brother Peter to Jesus. Invitation is still an excellent way to get others ‘on board’. Jesus called Andrew from his fishing to become a fisher of men and to draw others into the network of God’s love. Heather is occasionally white and is then a symbol of luck. Christians believe in blessings rather than luck, but sometimes we receive unexpected blessings. The church is sometimes compared to a boat – a lifeboat. Andrew was a fisherman and therefore an experienced team worker. When Jesus decided he must feed the five thousand people who flocked to hear him, he asked his friends, his team, what should be done. It was Andrew who noticed the boy with his picnic and drew it to the attention of Jesus who then used it to feed the crowd. St. Andrew was executed on a diagonal cross: hence the design of his flag. Old heather is burnt to enable new growth. We believe that our old life is put to death in the waters of baptism and that with Jesus we may rise to a new and joyful life.