Commit Thy Work to God

This homily was printed in The Casket, an Antigonish newspaper, and also appeared in Litir à Clann (Family Newsletter), October 1983 (Bulletin No 6). It was delivered at King's United Church in Loch Katrine, Nova Scotia on 14 August 1983 during the Clan Sinclair Gathering in Goshen Co. (the first settlement of the Sinclairs in Nova Scotia, 1819), timed to coincide with Nova Scotia's quadrenniel International Gathering of the Clans.

Rev. Marian Stewart of the Forbes Memorial Pastoral charge was then Minister of the United Churches at Lochaber, Loch Katrine, and Country Harbour.

In the text below, "KJV" refers to the King James Version, the 17th-century translation into English of Christianity's Holy Bible preparedfor King James VI of Scotland and I of England.

by Rev. Marian Sinclair

A hundred thousand welcomes to the Sinclair Clan, gathered from all parts of Canada, from the U.S., and even from Hong Kong, to worship with us thismorning.

In his sermon on this occasion in 1979, the Rev. Dr. D.M. Sinclair pointed out that the motto of the Sinclair Clan, "Commit thy work to God", makes it clear that the clan has always been at home in the church. Unlike some other clan mottoes, such as the Stewarts' "Nemo me impune lacessit" ("let no one harass me with impunity" - or in the modern idiom "if you think you're gonna get me, watch it!" - scarcely a display of Christian sentiment!): the Sinclair motto is a quotation from Proverbs 16:3: "Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established" (KJV).

As well, the motto is closely related to two other verses of scripture: Psalm 37:5:"Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass"(KJV) and Proverbs 3:6: "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths"(KJV).

This weekend we heard a lot of discussions of Sinclair ancestry, the various Sinclair forebears: particularly those of Goshen Nova Scotia and before that of Caithness and Sutherlandshire in Scotland. We have also heard the theory of Prince Henry (more commonly known as Glooscap), the first Sinclair to set foot in the New World in the 1300s.

I would like to remind you - somewhat tongue in cheek - of another theory: The one that says that the Scottish tartans are a continuation of Joseph's coat of many colours, and that the British, more particularly the Scots, are descendants of one of the lost tribes of Israel. I therefore propose to introduce you to some of your first Sinclair language - no, not Gaelic, but Hebrew!

Seriously, though, I would like to look with you at the three verses of scripture above which are related to the Sinclair motto, to see what they can mean to us if we take them seriously.

Two of the three verses above speak of a "way" ("Commit thy way to God"; "In all ways acknowledge him"). The Hebrew word ----- means a path or a road. It is often used metaphorically of the journey of life. It is this, our whole life, that we are commanded to commit to God.

In the third verse, we are told to commit our "works" to God. This Hebrew word does not mean "work" as opposed to "play" but "works" in the sense of "all that we do". Thus the word becomes synonymous with our way, our life's journey.

The Hebrew verb that is translated as "commit" means literally ----. It is used often to indicate the difficulty of taking away and replacing the large round stone in front of an ancient tomb. It speaks of how hard it is for us to hand over to another the burden and the control of our life.

Proverbs 3:6 says the same thing in different way: in all your ways (life's journey) acknowledge him. What does it mean to acknowledge God? The English word suggests that we might be ready to speak up for our beliefs if necessary. But the Hebrew means so much more. The verb means "to know" in a close or even intimate way. It is used f a husband and wife, in the sense that Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived and bore a son. No more intimate way of knowing is possible on the physical plane. Yet God uses this word also of the closeness of the relationship that he wishes to have with his people. "You only have I known of all the people of the earth,"he says elsewhere to Israel. And this is the kind of relationship that he wishes to have with each one of us through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thus the Sinclair motto commands us not to leave God, and our faith, on the periphery of our life, as an optional extra, but to make it ---- the essential vehicle. The great preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick once entitled a sermon "Our faith - steering wheel or spare tire?" Is our faith the only thing that controls and gives direction to our lives? or is it something that we pack away carefully to be used only in time of emergency? The Sinclair motto commits us to the first option. Our faith must pervade all of our life, wherever we live, in our 1983 world. Such an all-encompassing faith was the possession of many of our Scottish forebears here in Eastern Canada. In a history thesis written for Acadia University in 1957, Roderick Walls claims:

"Religion to them was a way of life, not an empty creed, not the mere observance of any ceremony; it was a vital living experience of divine origin and permeated their whole way of life. The Scot was a faithful attender at church but religion was also found in his home, in the schools and universities and in the State. The scene of family worship depicted by Burns in his "Cottar's Saturday Night" was the rule rather than the exception . . . Those ancients were convinced that religion and life were one, that belief and behaviour were inseparable, and that -- practice built on such a conviction was of [utmost]importance".

This was the faith of those Scots who went before you in this place. I challenge you to live up to your Sinclair motto, and make it yours!


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