EVEN those with a casual acquaintance with the literature of Sctoland have heard of James Hogg (1770-1835), known as “The Ettrick Shepherd”.
As a resident in the Scottish Borders Hogg became an authority in Border Ballads, learning many of them at his mother’s knee. Once in 1801 when Hogg was in Edinburgh selling sheep he sought out some publishers with a view to having his collection of sheep he sought out some publishers with a view to having his collection of Ballads published, but he had no takers. But the Shepherd’s fortunes were to change.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), the poet, novelist and publisher became the sheriff of Selkirkshire and came to live in the Borders and soon the two poets were were well acquainted. This incongruous partnership was soon using the same publishing house.
Scott, who was not a gregarious soul, took to the shepherd and they often met socially.
When George the Fourth, who had been Prince Regent since 1811, was being crowned in 1820 Scott suggested to Hogg that he accompany him to the Coronation in Westminster Abbey and Scott would see that the Shepherd received a proper invitation - the reason? The date clashed with the sheep fair in the town of St Boswells where Hogg could meet his friends and do some business.
We will never know why the shepherd didn’t go to London for the coronation. Perhaps his reason was economics - he had sheep to sell and a living to make. After all he had to keep body and soul together.
Perhaps the reason was emotional - he didn’t feel too comfortable in the presence of the great and good in the capital. What would he wear and how would Scott’s friends view him?
Would they secretly laugh at the country bumpkin? Certainly the Shepherd would be out of his comfort zone andmost of us cannot handle that experience easily.
Whatever his reasoning Hogg missed a great occation. Surely there would be other fairs to attend and his cronies could have waited for their haggling banter over a few ewes.
Our Lord told a parable about invitations to a great supper. Those invited really offer pathetic excuses. Imagine a man buying fields and oxen without inspecting first the items upon which he was splashing out his hard earned cash!
The man who said he had just been married and didn’t need a banquet had a case, but wouldn’t his new bride have enjoyed the treat?
Jesus went on to explain what He meant by that story. It was a picture of the Kingdom of God to which all are invited. The offer of Christ’s Kingdom is the assurance of the knowledge of God in the human soul.
There is no fuller experience of self-worth or the realisation of greater significance open to mortal beings.
The resources of the Godhead with the attendant blessings of forgiveness of sins, the releasing within us of new appetites for spiritual things and the sense of community which assures us that we are incorporated into a kingdom of vital relationships - all these Jesus offers. What does he ask of us?
The commitment of our lives in all its totality.