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Language: English / Gàidhlig

Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) [Draft]

Meeting date: Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Business Motion, Motion without Notice, Business Motion, Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Motion without Notice


Time for Reflection

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

Good afternoon. The first item of business is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader today is the Rev Dr Bruce Ritchie, who is a Church of Scotland minister and a tutor in Scottish church history at Highland Theological College, University of the Highlands and Islands.

The Rev Dr Bruce Ritchie (Church of Scotland Minister and Tutor in Scottish Church History, Highland Theological College, University of the Highlands and Islands)

Presiding Officer, today, we are five days before Christmas, and I would like to reflect on the faith of one of our great Scottish scientists, James Clerk Maxwell, who was brought up in Corsock in Dumfries and Galloway. Every morning, James and his wife Katherine had their own time for reflection. They read the Bible together and they prayed together, and when they were apart, James wrote to Katherine with his thoughts on the passage in question.

Maxwell was a deep-thinking Christian, whose faith affected his science and vice versa. In his physics, he saw that the relationship between entities was part of the entity itself. That field theory transformed physics, from Einstein onwards. In his faith, Maxwell believed similarly that the relationship between God and ourselves is what makes us what we are. We are not individual objects in isolation; we are created to be persons in relation. What we are in relation to God, and what we are in relation to each other, is what makes us persons.

Maxwell drove that relational way of thinking deep into his science and into his faith. In one of his letters to Katherine, he applied it to the central feature of Christmas: namely, that in the Christian faith, Jesus is regarded as fully God and fully man. For Maxwell, God with us, in the enfleshed humanity of Christ, enables us to know him. For Maxwell, God with us in the divinity of Christ enables him to change and transform us.

Maxwell wrote these words to Katherine:

“For [Jesus] is man that we may be able to look to Him; and [he is] God, so that He can create us anew in His own image.”

That was his faith: that Jesus enables humanity to know God, and that when we look at him, we see God himself. As God, Jesus takes our broken humanity and renews it, in order that the fragile, broken and damaged sons and daughters of humanity might become the healed and forgiven sons and daughters of God.

Presiding Officer, that was Christmas for James Clerk Maxwell: the knowledge of God, and the healing of humanity. Our task, as people in Parliament, is to reflect that divine mission: the mission of healing and renewal; the mission of peace and justice; the mission of reconciliation and forgiveness; and the mission of wisdom and compassion. We are made for each other, and we are made for God. May God’s blessing be on you, and may careful wisdom surround all your deliberations.

Thank you.