As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will seek to post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Monday 15th of June 2020
By Fred Coutts
Preparing to take off from Cruden Bay Beach (Norsk Teknisk Museum)
It must have been quite a sight for the locals, seeing Kommander Tryggve Gran climb on board his little aeroplane and head off out to sea. They were not used to seeing such things on the beach at Cruden Bay, walkers, bathers from the big hotel perhaps, but not aviators. Tryggve had made up his mind and was going to prove that it could be done. He could fly over the North Sea to his native Norway.
He was quite the adventurer. An expert skier, he had been recruited by Captain Scott to join his ill-fated Antarctic expedition and it was Tryggve who in 1912 was the first person into the tent and found the bodies of Captain Scott and the two others. Before heading home, he even managed to climb Mt Erebus, a volcano in the Antarctic only to have to run for his life when it started to erupt.
Flying across the North Sea was just the sort of thing that he would want to do. Back from the Antarctic he had gone to Louis Blériot to learn to fly. (In 1909 Blériot had been the first person to cross the English Channel in an aeroplane.) Blériot had then sold him an aeroplane at half price and now on 30 August 1914 he took off, hoping to be to be the first to fly across the North Sea. No one before had dared to cross such a stretch of water, out of the sight of land in what he later would describe as “an affair of bicycle wheels and piano wire”.
But how to find Stavanger (his destination) when out of sight of land? As a Norwegian Naval Officer he must have known some navigation but the story is told that once in Cruden Bay he had decided that some navigation aid might be useful and a friend had gone along to Peterhead to buy him a compass!
He made it – landing at a little village some 20 miles south of Stavanger after 305 miles, having flown for 4 hours and 10 minutes.
Within days, the First World War broke out and Tryggve went on to give distinguished service in the Royal Flying Corps (even though Norway was a non-combatant in the War) and was awarded the Military Cross.
1967 Rev Charles Miller and Tryggve Gran outside the West Kirk in Hatton.
(Dundee Heritage Trust)
In 1967, 53 years after his epic flight, Gran returned to Cruden Bay to attend a commemorative service organised by Rev Charles Miller, then the minister at Cruden Parish Church. To mark the occasion, the pupils at local schools made a model of his monoplane to hang in the church. (Sadly this model was destroyed in the fire at Port Erroll School in 2000.)
During the service, Tryggve recalled his flight. He said, as a man of faith, he prayed three times on his pioneering flight: once, when he was in the air above Cruden Bay, once when he was miles out and his engine failed and he began to drop towards the sea. He managed to restart the engine and as he climbed towards the clouds he prayed again. The third time he prayed was when he landed on Norwegian soil with fuel for less than half an hour’s flying.
In recent days the reputations of so many national figures are being examined. There was a dark side to Tryggve too. During the Second World War in Norway he was a member of Vidkun Quisling's pro-German National Party. A meeting was held in his honour with Quisling and German officers present. Clearly Tryggve’s fame was being exploited for the Nazi cause. After a trial in 1948, he was found guilty of treason and sentenced to a prison term of 18 months.
For the rest of his life he devoted himself to writing and giving talks such as his visit to Cruden in 1967. He died in 1980, aged 91.
Tryggve knew that he needed training before he could tackle his plan of flying over the North Sea. He had sought out Louis Blériot and put himself in the hands of the pioneer aviator. The Christian Faith is best experienced with others where we can encourage and learn from each other. It’s this sharing with others, be it in church on a Sunday, or in other group settings that we have become acutely aware of missing during our three months of lockdown. Until we can meet again, face to face we continue to try to learn and reflect on the faith through the daily Reflections which Sean is writing, services on-line and on the radio and television, not to mention reading of our Bibles.
Tryggve had learned to fly; his aeroplane was on the beach at Cruden bay; the North Sea was in front of him. But how to find Stavanger? A map would not be much use once he was out of sight of land. He needed a compass to find the right bearing for his perilous journey and to drop down to look at the waves below him to try to judge the direction and the strength of the wind which could blow him off course.
In the Bible we have a tool to help us plan the right course in life which we must follow. But we need to think deeply as we read, to reflect on what the words of Scripture might be saying to us in the 21st Century. The guidance we get might be different to what was heard by a John Knox in the 16th century, or a Charles Miller in 1967. We have to be aware of the winds that are blowing in our time and try to discern what God might be saying to us now.
Tryggve had his dark side, allowing himself to be used by the National Party in Norway during the War to support the Nazi cause. But he paid his price, served his time in prison. With so many statues being attacked or defaced, I hope that the memorial commemorating his 1914 flight in Cruden Bay is safe!
Are you uncomfortable like me at the wave of violent negative feeling which has erupted following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota? We do need to examine our personal and national attitudes to race and colour as the Black Lives Matter movement demands that we do. Yes, it is right that we re-examine the values of people of the past but it is difficult to judge the people of previous generations from our perspective and the things we now know. Hauling down statues or daubing them with graffiti is not the way forward. Rather we should confront ourselves with our national mistakes of the past, test them against the standards of Jesus and try to learn.
The words of Jesus to the woman caught committing adultery are ringing in my ears just now: ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’ (John 8:11)
At the very heart of the Gospel – the Good News – is the absolute promise of forgiveness and acceptance and the challenge to “leave our life of sin.”
Psalm 119: 110-115
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
I have suffered much;
preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.
The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
Your statutes are my heritage for ever;
they are the joy of my heart.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
‘No one, sir,’ she said.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’
Repenting and Lamenting in Times Like These
You are the God who hears:
hear our prayer today for all who lament or repent.
For those among us who face discrimination every day
because of their skin colour,
For those among us with white skin who benefit
from racist systems sometimes even without realizing it,
For those among us who have struggled and waited so long
for the Promised Land of freedom and equality,
For those among us who have acted in racist ways
and have hurt people of colour,
For those protesting injustice who face police brutality
and a justice system rigged against them,
For those who think racism is someone else’s problem,
and not a problem for humanity,
God of hope, show us how to work for justice together,
standing up for what is right,
stepping in when something's wrong,
shouldering each other’s burdens,
holding each other accountable,
righting the wrongs we’ve done,
speaking truth to power.
We pray for change, lasting change,
for protection for protesters,
for a de-escalation of violence
and for government leaders who listen.
Deliver us from evil, within and without,
in Jesus' name we pray
Think of Tryggve’s dangerous journey
Think of those in danger today
Think of God with you in your trouble.
God to enfold me,
God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking.
God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping.
God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart.
God in my sufficing,
God in my slumber,
God in my ever-living soul,
God in my eternity.
The Lord’s prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
you will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
now and forever.
We know our own weaknesses.
We know the frailty of others.
Jesus says, ‘Leave your life of sin!’
So no longer let us accuse ourselves of sins that have been forgiven.
No longer let us condemn others for the sins that God has forgiven.
As receivers of God’s grace
we ask for help to be grace-givers today,
In the name of Jesus.