Grace from above- a sermon for the Second Sunday of Lent 16 March 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 16 March 2016: Year A, The Second Sunday in Lent

Texts: Genesis 12:1-4a
Romans 4:1-5,13-17
John 3:1-17
Grace from above
based on 20 March 2011
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

One of the joys of living in Inverness is that the surrounding Highland landscape isn’t far away. From many parts of the city centre you can see the surrounding hills- Craig Phardig from the High Street, Ben Wyvis from the top of Stephen’s Brae. In our call to worship this morning, we recited words from Psalm 121 (NRSV): ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills- from where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth’. Or, in the words of the Scottish Metrical version which are perhaps more familiar to many of us: ‘I to the hills will lift mine eyes. From whence doth come mine aid? My safety cometh from the Lord, who heaven and earth hath made’.

That Psalm is very popular among many churchgoing Scots, for we look to our local hills and mountains and their grandeur impresses us, and reminds us of God’s glory, and the very solidity of the hills reminds us of God’s unfailing love. Yet perhaps that is a rather romanticised way of looking at the hills. For much of human history, mountains and high places were thought to be the home of evil spirits, of frightening demons, and perhaps also of capricious gods. Continue reading

Bread, miracles and empire: a sermon for the First Sunday of Lent 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 9 March 2014: Year A, First Sunday in Lent

Texts: Genesis 2:15-17 and 2.25-3.15
Matthew 4:1-11

Bread, miracles, and empire

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent, a time when it is traditional for the Church to encourage Christians to look inward, to think about how we might live more faithfully as Christians. It is a time which makes us face up to our imperfections, our failings. The theological word we use for this is ‘sin’- a word much misused and misunderstood. We often think about ‘sins’- plural- the things you do that you shouldn’t. We could all of us make a list- if we were being really honest- of those actions we have done which we realise were wrong. In the past the Church spoke of ‘deadly sins’ and the Bible itself suggests sins, for example, in the Ten Commandments- all those ‘shalt nots’. But I want to suggest today that the Bible not so interested in those individual wrong actions- your sins (plural), but, instead, is more interested in sin (singular). Today, at the beginning of Lent, I want to think, not about sins (plural). Instead, I want us to think about sin (singular). It is sin (singular) that today’s readings are about. In Genesis chapter 2 and in Matthew chapter 4, we are not given a list of wrong actions. These are stories not about what we do, but who were are. Continue reading

Do not be afraid: a sermon for Transfiguration Sunday, 2 March 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 2 March 2014: Year A, Transfiguration Sunday

Texts: 2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17.1-9

Do not be afraid
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we’ve reached the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany, and the last Sunday before Lent, and the Lectionary always gives us the story of the transfiguration of Jesus on this day. We’ve heard how Jesus took his disciples to the top of a mountain, where they saw him mysteriously change- his face ‘shining like the sun’, his clothes ‘dazzling white’, he seemed to glow with a strange light.

Funnily enough, I was thinking about all this on Thursday night, starting to write this sermon, when I heard about something which made me leave my desk, jump in the car, and take the family up a hill to see some strange lights. Continue reading