Yom Kippur, October 12 2016 – The solar-powered hot-water tank on the roof of my apartment yesterday died of terminal rust. Somewhat to my astonishment, and with a little help from my neighbours and my landlord’s parents, we got it replaced by lunchtime, just before West Jerusalem began to go quiet in the run-up to the Day of Atonement.
Gaza and the West Bank, territories seized by Israel in the six-day war, were quiet for a different reason: they were sealed off for 48 hours for Yom Kippur. The state of Israel routinely imposes such closures during Jewish holidays.
Readers who thought this blog had died of terminal exhaustion may now rejoice. Or not, of course. We’re back.
Over the closing months of 2015, my posting began to slow down and from the beginning of this year I’ve not posted at all. This was partly because of life interfering with valuable blogging time but also because, after my first year here, I became less sure about what to say, and how to say it, and in what tone of voice.
I’ve just come back to Jerusalem from three weeks of deputation in Scotland that gave me a much-needed chance to reflect and also, because I was speaking to many and various groups, forced me to figure out what to say, and how to say it, and in what tone of voice.
How does one speak in a way that treats both Arabs and Jews, both Palestinians and Israelis, as human beings, while simultaneously renouncing the joys of self-righteousness but not relaxing the demands of justice?
Watch this space.
Meanwhile, just to get us going again, here is the “all-age talk” I used in worship in Hopeman Church, Moray, and again in St Helen’s Church, Cockburnspath (my former church in Berwickshire) during the Scottish trip.
My heart is in Jerusalem
The Scots poet Robert Burns wrote a song that some of you may know. It’s almost a hymn to the Highlands of Scotland.
My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.
I’m not sure my heart is in the Highlands. Last week my wife Vivien and I drove up through the West of Scotland in the spills of rain; and our hearts were very happy to arrive in Nairn where the weather was clement and dry.
But I don’t want to talk this morning about my heart or about Rabbie Burns. I want to talk about the heart of another Robert: Robert the Bruce.
The first place Vivien and I visited after we left Edinburgh just over a week ago was Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders. As the woman at the desk was giving us our tickets, she told us something about the Abbey. “And, oh yes,” she said, “in the chapter house is where the heart of Robert the Bruce is buried.”
His heart is buried in Melrose. The rest of his body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey. In older days, they sometimes did that sort of thing.
But the interesting thing for me was that Melrose Abbey wasn’t where the Bruce wanted his heart to be buried. He wanted it to be buried in Jerusalem.
In St Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem, where I have the honour to be minister, there is a plaque set in the floor of the church in front of the communion table.
It says: “In remembrance of the pious wish of King Robert Bruce that his heart should be buried in Jerusalem.”
This was the Bruce’s dying wish. His friend and companion-in-arms Sir James Douglas undertook the task. Carrying Bruce’s heart in a silver casket on a chain around his neck, Douglas set off from Scotland for the Holy Land. But in 1330, while travelling through Spain, he was killed in battle at Teba. Bruce’s heart was returned to Scotland and buried in Melrose Abbey.
What I want to say to you this morning is that all our hearts should be in Jerusalem – your heart and my heart – even if, like Sir James Douglas, we never get there.
Why should our hearts be in Jerusalem?
Because it is there, in Jerusalem, that Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross, was buried in a tomb, and rose again at Easter, to show to us in human form how much God loves us and to turn our stubborn hearts to God.
 Or see the three sermons I preached while in Scotland: “God wants everyone to be saved” (Hopeman Church, Moray); “Listen to Moses, be ready to share” (St Helen’s Church, Cockburnspath, Berwickshire); “Rekindle the gift of God that is within you” (Murrayfield Parish Church, Edinburgh). For more from where these come from, “Like” our St Andrew’s Scots Memorial Facebook page.