This coming Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, we celebrate our Presbyterian (and National) Scottish heritage. Our plan is to meet outdoors in our amphitheater. There will be a bagpiper to help lead our service, as well as a Scottish theme to the whole occasion. Should the weather prove unfavorable, we may have to head indoors. (As we did last Sunday when we thought about the theme "Celebrating the Sabbath")
In recent days the weather has not been kind to Ellicott City. The historic downtown area has, once again, suffered terrible devastation from flooding. It is unclear how the town will recover from such an impact, coming as it has, just two years after a similar event. At the time of writing many residents and business owners are disheartened and not sure how to face the future.
Historically, one of Scotland's most revered leaders was Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, from 1306 to 1329. He is credited for freeing Scotland from the English rule of Edward I, and ultimately confirming Scottish independence, with the Treaty of Northampton.
Legend has it that after a humiliating defeat by the English, and finding himself described by the English as a traitor and outlaw, Robert the Bruce had to flee for his life. He ended up hiding in a cave and seriously considered abandoning his attempts to liberate his nation.
Lonely, despondent, and fearful, he hid in the damp and the darkness. Looking up he saw a spider attempting to spin a web across the corner of the cave. Every time, the spider had nearly managed to spin a web across the gap, a drop of water would fall and break the strand.
Robert watched as, time and time again, the spider sought to complete it's task. And time and time again, the water frustrated the spiders web building efforts. But finally, as the Bruce looked on, the spider managed to stick a strand of silk to the cave wall and began to weave a web.
It is said that Robert the Bruce was so inspired by the spiders perseverance that he immediately left the cave and began recruiting an army, who went on to defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. The moral of the story became “If at first you don't succeed - try, try again.”
When everything seems to conspire against us, the temptation is to give up and just stop trying. It is unclear how downtown Ellicott City can recover from another setback so soon after the previous one. It is truly heartbreaking. Maybe some structural changes and flood protection will have to be put in place before any rebuilding can be attempted. The road to recovery is uncertain, long and difficult.
The story of Robert the Bruce and the spider reminds us that there are those times when we just have to go forward in the hope that our efforts will result in shattered dreams being reborn. It took a small spiders determined web weaving, to revive his courage.
Let us pray that those seeking to rebuild shattered livelihoods will find similar moments of inspiration and encouragement as they seek to discern what is next for them and their town. We will receiving a special offering the next two weeks in an effort to raise some funds to help with rebuilding.
Come and join us in our Scottish celebrations! But in case that proves impossible, here's some pipers playing “Amazing Grace”.
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.