Jesus and the stranger: a sermon on the Samaritan woman at the well

Scripture Readings: John 4:5-42

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

We have just listened to a long, even convoluted conversation. But then the best conversations are long and convoluted, as each person tries to understand the other! Jesus and the Samaritan woman he met at the well had a lot to say to each other. And yet this was a conversation which many would have said should never to have taken place. Continue reading

Planting a seed- a sermon on some of Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom 16 August 2015

Scripture Readings: Matthew 13:24-35

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

It’s been lovely today to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism at St Stephen’s, as we brought to the font Noah (who lives in North Kessock) and his cousin Katie (whose dad is with the RAF in England). Baptism is the way we become part of the Church. So when we baptise children, the hope is that one day, somewhere and somehow, they will find their way for themselves into being part of the church, and being followers of Jesus.

This week, children across Scotland will return to school, and next Sunday our Sunday School children will return to St Stephen’s. It’s very difficult to involve children and young people in the church nowadays, for all sorts of reasons. Often, sadly, children and their families do not feel welcome in church. The worship of the church seems boring, the activities on offer don’t compete well with the many other activities open to youngsters today. Above all, we are living in a society which seems to have lost a sense of the sacred, where religion is treated with disdain, or ignored. Continue reading

The end of religion-a sermon on the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Scripture Readings: Romans 3.9-18, 21-24
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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

One of the most controversial issues in theology is the question of whether the writings of St Paul truly reflect the teachings of Jesus. For Jesus, as we meet him in the Gospels, is a man of action- striding out across the country, healing and caring for people, and preaching usually by telling stories. But Paul stands accused of having taken the original, pure good news, and turned it into some kind of metaphysical system. Jesus tells stories- Paul writes about abstractions.

But I think part of the problem is that Paul’s letters are often trying to deal with the questions of his own time. He’s talking about Jesus by through a fog of first century controversy. Yet faced with these problems, Paul asks, ‘What does Jesus Christ mean in this situation?’ Continue reading

Anyone can fish!- a sermon on Luke 5.1-11

This is the first in a sermon series The Genius of Jesus

Scripture Reading: Luke 5.1-11

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

Genius 1 Encouraging Potential Image TitleLet me take you, in your imagination, to Lake Gennesaret- another name for the Sea of Galilee, the inland lake in the north of Israel which makes up part of the Jordan river valley. We walk down from the fertile farming country of Galilee to the lake, which lies in a depression in the landscape. It is almost 700 feet below sea level (but because the River Jordan runs through it, it’s not salty like the Dead Sea to the south). Because the lake is so low, and surrounded by high mountains, the lake is prone to sudden, violent storms. But there are a number of large towns on the lakeside, for the Lake Galilee is famous for its fishing (salted fish are exported around the Roman Empire). Continue reading

The only One to trust: a sermon on Psalm 146; 5 July 2015

Sunday 5 July 2015 (Year A, Narrative Lectionary)

Scripture Readings:

Psalm 146 (read responsively: Common Worship version (CH4 102)

Luke 7:18-23

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

So today is the last of our sermons series on the Psalms. And you may have noticed today that I’ve chosen all Psalms as our praise items today. You may remember that last Sunday, I mentioned various hymns which were based on the Psalms. So we’re singing some of those today.

Continue reading

Waiting and Thanking: a sermon on Psalm 40; 28 June 2015

Scripture Readings: Psalm 40.1-10

Luke 17:11–19

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

This is the second-last in my series of sermons based on Psalms. The Book of Psalms is the prayer book and hymnbook of the Bible. It’s a collection of songs and liturgy originally written for the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. For centuries, they have been at the heart of Jewish and Christian worship.

UGSP02053_mI’ll never forget one of the first occasions I went to the General Assembly of our church. I was a student, and I went to observe. That year (it was 1990- I looked it up!) the Moderator was one of my teachers, the late Robert Davidson, Professor of Old Testament at Glasgow University. The day I was there, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom was there as a guest. After we had sung a metrical Psalm- in the old Scottish style- Bob Davidson invited the Chief Rabbi to address the Assembly, greeting in him as he did so Hebrew. It was a powerful reminder of the Jewish origins of our faith, and how our Christian, Presbyterian worship continues to be suffused with these old Hebrew prayers and hymns, the Psalms. Continue reading

The Lord is my Light: sermon for 21 June 2015

Scripture Readings: Psalm 27.1-6
Matthew 7.24-27

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

LighthouseWhen we talk of divine things, we almost always use images. For we need pictures to help us imagine realities which go beyond words. Today’s Psalm, for instance, praises God for his protection. The Psalmist says God is light, a shelter, a rock- all great images for how God is the ultimate protector. Continue reading

The Road not Taken: reflecting on Psalm 1 and John 14.1-6 14 June 2015

A short reflection for our all-age service

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 1

Gospel Reading: John 14:1-6

road not taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Continue reading

Our Super-impressive God! A sermon on Psalm 113. Sunday 7 June 2015: The Second after Pentecost

Scripture Readings: Psalm 113
Luke 15:8-10
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Once I get past check-in, security, passport control and the duty free lounge, I quite like flying. It does not make me scared; rather I get a thrill when we accelerate along the runway, and lift off. Once we’re up, I like to look out of the window. I love maps, so it’s fun to try to work out where we are if there is a break in the cloud. On one trip I was sure we were over Liverpool because I could see the River Mersey and the shape of the Wirral Peninsula where Birkenhead is- and I was right!
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The best Father ever: Sermon for Trinity Sunday 2015

Texts: Genesis 1:1–2:4a
Matthew 6.24-34

The best Father ever

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

Someone said to me recently, ‘We were lucky. We had good parents’. Not every child is so lucky. There was once a teacher who taught music in various schools. She had one pupil who played beautifully, who obviously had a lot of talent on her chosen instrument. So one day, the teacher asked the child, ‘What do your parents think of your playing?’ ‘They’ve never heard me play’, replied the child. ‘They never ask me to play’. Continue reading