Embraced by love- sermon for 15 November 2015

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
15 November 2015
(The Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost:
Year 2 (Mark), Narrative Lectionary)
Scripture Readings: Hosea 11:1-9
Mark 10.13-16
Embraced by love
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

We too often think of the books of the Bible as having been written so long ago, they cannot have much to do with us. The prophet Hosea preached almost 2,700 years ago. What can a text that old have to say to us? The introduction in the Good News version of the Bible to Hosea says that he ‘preached in the northern Kingdom of Israel… during the troubled times before the fall of Samaria in 721BC’. He preached in troubled times- times of uncertainty, with wars and rumours of wars abounding. And do we not, also, live in troubled times? Continue reading

Strictly come worshipping!- a sermon on David dancing before the Ark for 25 October 2015

Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-5 and 2 Samuel 6
Matthew 7.21 and 24 to 27

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

CeilidhA few months from now, something strange will start to happen in the PE classes in many Scottish primary and secondary schools. As the school Christmas dance approaches, school gym halls will no longer echo to the sounds of games or fitness routines. Instead, there will be dance music, as pupils start learning- dreaded words for many of them- social dancing. Boys and girls will be lined up on both sides of the hall, and have to pair off. And the PE teachers will start to initiate the embarrassed pupils in the secrets of the St Bernard’s Waltz, the Canadian Barn Dance, the Gay Gordons and the Dashing White Sergeant. Continue reading

Belonging and believing: a sermon on Ruth for 18 October 2015

Scripture Readings: Ruth 1:1-19a
Mark 3:31-35

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

Recently the vicar of St Mary’s Church in Wrexham was having a bit of a clear-out of his church cupboards. And as he did so, he made a surprising find- a virtually complete first edition of the Authorized Version of the Bible, the King James Bible, dating from 1611. The Rev Dr Jason Bray had no idea that the Bible was there- it had clearly been forgotten for centuries . The Authorized Version of the Bible was sent to churches across King James’s kingdoms, and as you probably know, our congregation has the care of a copy, which we have not forgotten about. Our copy is on display in the Old High Church, with a note pointing out a curious anomaly. Continue reading

Be grateful! A sermon for Harvest Thanksgiving 4 October 2015

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 4 October 2015: Harvest Thanksgiving
Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 26.1-11
Luke 4:1-4
Be grateful!
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

I’m about to become an Interim Moderator. That’s where another minister is put in charge of the Kirk Session for a parish where they have no minister at the moment. The Rev Jan Matheson, currently minister of the linked parishes of Cawdor and Croy, is moving to a parish in Glasgow. Jan is a good colleague, and we will miss her in Inverness Presbytery. Continue reading

To whom shall we go? A sermon for the Anniversary of the Battle of Loos

On 27 September 2015, the Colours of  the 4th/5th Battalion, the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, were laid up in the Old High Church. The Camerons were the local regiment, and the Old High was their Regimental Church, and now houses the Camerons Memorial Area. The service took place at the time of the anniversary of the Battle of Loos (1915) in which many Camerons were killed and injured. The Loos commemoration was previewed in the Inverness Courier

Scripture Readings: Ephesians 6.10-18 (King James Version)
John 6:60-69 (Good News Bible)

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

Today our congregation is delighted to once again play host to the members of the Cameron Highlanders Association. I know that you will enjoy the comradeship of your reunion weekend. Yet a service like this has a more sombre tone, especially when, as we do today, we recall an event which led to such loss of life for the regiment- and, of course, for many others. Some of you here served in the regiment, and heard about the Battle of Loos alongside other stories from your regimental history. Others of you are descended from family members who were at the battle- for you, this is family history. And then some of you will be here because of your connections with the battalions whose colours we receive into safekeeping here at the Old High today. Continue reading

At the Table- a sermon on Holy Communion, 20 September 2015

Scripture Readings: John 6.53-59
Mark 14.22-26

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

The BBC recently had a series about Indian railways, featuring the Calcutta station which gets as many passengers in a day as travel on the whole of the British Railway network. India’s railways are busy. So busy, Indians don’t just ride in trains- they ride on top of them, too.

There is a scene in the film Ghandi in which a Christian missionary, a friend of Ghandi’s, is- unusually for a Westerner- riding on top of a train. He finds himself in conversation with a Hindu, who is very suspicious of this Christian. The Hindu can’t understand Christianity, for he’s heard that Christians are the people who eat their God. Continue reading

Justice or charity?- a sermon for the Kirking of the Council, 13 September 2015

Scripture Readings: Amos 7.7-17
Luke 10.25-37

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

In 2012, there was massive media coverage when the Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise ship, ran aground off Italy, leading to the tragic deaths of 32 passengers and crew. But almost unnoticed, the Italian coastguard were also busy elsewhere:

That same day, the first of three boats carrying African refugees across the Mediterranean from Libya towards Malta and Italy was rescued by coastguards, in an incident which attracted no news coverage whatsoever. 72 were saved, including a pregnant woman and 29 children. The second boat was rescued two days later by a Maltese armed patrol vessel, assisted by the US Navy. The 68 who were saved included a mother who had just given birth… The third boat didn’t make it. A distress call warning of engine failure was intercepted by the Maltese maritime authorities the morning after the Concordia disaster. Then no more was heard….until the last week of January, when the first 15 bodies were washed up on Libyan beaches –at least 55 were lost.

I’m quoting there from a leaflet produced by the Church of Scotland Guild on the situation in Malta. Continue reading

Sermon for 6 September 2015 Companions- or enemies? How we spoil Eden

Scripture Readings: Genesis 2:4b-25 (Narrative Lectionary reading for Pentecost 16)
Mark 10.13-16

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

The Book of Genesis offers two stories about the creation of the world. This morning we have hear the start of the second one, the version which is about man and woman being created in the Garden of Eden. The trick with reading these stories is not to see them as accounts from ancient history, but stories about today. Adam- Adam is everyman, Eve is everywoman. Adam and Eve are me and you. This is a story about all of us. Continue reading

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