Faith in public: sermon for 29 June 2014 communion at St Stephen’s

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 25 May 2014: Year A, The Fifth Sunday of Easter

SERMON
Texts: Acts 17:16-31
John 14:15-21

Faith in public

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

In the Church of Scotland, all our Sunday services are traditionally described as ‘public worship’. For the death and resurrection of Jesus were public events. But how do we proclaim this in the public arena, how do we take this message into the world? Today’s reading from the book of Acts gives us some clues about how we can do it. It tells a story about St Paul visiting Athens. Luke, the writer of Acts, says that ‘all the citizens of Athens and the foreigners who lived there liked to spend all their time telling and hearing the latest new thing’. It was a world city, a centre of civilisation and philosophy, at the crossroads of east and west, multicultural and multiethnic. Paul must have been fired up by the opportunities it presented to argue out the case for the Christian message with representatives of all the other competing philosophies of the day.

Continue reading

Religion in schools again

With the ‘Trojan Horse’ claims that schools in Birmingham were the targets of takeovers by Muslim extremists, the place of religion in schools is back in the news again.

Perhaps it’s worth recognising that the schools involved are in England, and that they are what in Scotland we call non-denominational schools, ie not formally linked to any church or other religious group.

Earlier this year, I spoke about the place of religion in schools in a sermon. I wrote as a parent, a school chaplain, and a member of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland.

You can read the sermon here. Comments welcome!

Peter

God of many names- a sermon for Trinity Sunday 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 15 June 2015: Year A, Trinity Sunday

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

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

There’s a joke about a man who was once asked what he had wanted to be when he grew up, who answered, ‘When I was growing up, I wanted to be an orphan’! Fortunately, for most of us and for most of the time, our parents provided security and love as we grew up. And so, on this Father’s Day, as on Mother’s Day, children say ‘thanks’ to their parents; and parents ponder what their children have meant to them. Family relationships are often deep and enduring. But they all have their ups and downs. Some are frankly disastrous, which is why not everyone feels they can celebrate Fathers’ Day and Mothers’ Day. For we humans are not perfect. Our relationships are not perfect. Not all children are perfect, and not all parents are perfect. Continue reading

Gifts for all: a sermon for Pentecost Sunday 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 8 June 2014: Year A, Pentecost
SERMON
Texts: Acts 2:1-21
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

Gifts for all

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

I’m having an ecumenical week this week. On Wednesday night, we hosted a service at the Old High church for the local Methodist community, at which the President of the Methodist Conference, the Rev Ruth Gee, was the preacher. We were remembering first visit to Inverness of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. Wesley was one of the most remarkable men of the eighteenth century. He sought to bring to ordinary people a much warmer, more personal, experience of Christianity than was commonly found in the 18th century Church of England. Continue reading

Presence in absence: sermon for Ascensions Sunday 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 1 June 2014: Year A, Ascension Sunday

SERMON
Texts: Acts 1: 1-11
Ephesians 1:15-23

Presence in absence

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

Saint Paul has the reputation for being a grumpy sort of guy. That’s because his letters were often written in reply to questions and controversies, and his replies are often passionate and critical. ‘You foolish Galatians! Who put a spell on you?’ he exclaims in exasperation to the Christians of Galatia (Galatians 3.1). But the tone of the letter to the Ephesians is rather different- so different that many scholars have suggested that it was not Saint Paul who actually wrote the letter. Maybe it was just that the occasion was different- Paul writes, for once, to praise a group of Christians. Just before the passage we heard read to us Paul has written of how the Ephesians came to faith when they believed in Jesus. And so he writes: ‘For this reason, ever since I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks to God for you. I remember you in my prayers’. These are great words of encouragement. Continue reading

Life in its fullness- for everyone! A sermon for Christian Aid Week 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 11 May 2014: Year A, Christian Aid Sunday

SERMON
Texts: Psalm 23
John 10:1-10

Life in its fullness- for everyone!
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Someone told me a tale recently of a young girl from Glasgow sent to stay on holiday on some Hebridean island. The island aunt and uncle were strict Sabbatarians, and after church in the morning there was not a lot to do, for she’d been told that she ought to stay in and quietly read an improving book. She certainly wasn’t go out and to play and disturb the island’s Sabbath calm. But she asked her aunt if she could be allowed to at least go out to take a quiet walk to the bottom of the garden. Continue reading

Sermon for Kohima anniversary service, 4 May 2014: A companion on the way

More information about the Camerons Memorial Area

Press release about this service

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 4 May 2014: Year A, The Third Sunday of Easter

SERMON
Text: Luke 24:13-35 (read in the KJV)

the quotations are from the NRSV

A companion on the way
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

As I said earlier, it’s a privilege once more to be welcoming members of the Cameron Highlanders Association here to their old regimental church, the Old High Church of Inverness. The congregation of Old High St Stephen’s values the connection we have with you. We are honoured to be custodians of the Cameron Memorial, which we dedicated last year, and to now be taking into our safekeeping further items, including the 1st Battalion colours which the congregation of Glasgow Cathedral have so generously passed into our care.

If you are visiting us today, you join us at a time of year when the Church is still concerning itself with the implications of Easter. The Gospels give various accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, and his appearances to his disciples. One of the most intriguing of these stories is the one we have heard today. It is a strange tale, this story of the walk to Emmaus. But if we listen to this story with imagination, it can perhaps teach us about such things as memories, hope, and the presence of God in difficult times- themes which are very pertinent to today’s service. Continue reading

Faithful Thomas! A sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 27 April 2014: Year A, The Second Sunday of Easter

SERMON
Texts: 1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

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

This week there was controversy as the Prime Minister suggested that we shouldn’t be chary of calling Britain a ‘Christian country’. Perhaps once that wouldn’t have been such a controversial idea- but it seemed to worry some people, who felt moved to write to the papers decrying the idea. Continue reading

Sermon for Easter Day 2014: I have seen the Lord

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 20 April 2014: Year A, Easter Day

SERMON
Texts: John 20:1-18
Acts 10:34-43

“I have seen the Lord”
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

In our very materialist world, it is a cliché that ‘seeing is believing’. We kid ourselves that we get to know things by seeing them. For a long time, science worked that way- you did an experiment, and if you could see what happened, then you had discovered a new scientific truth. In fact a lot of science involves things we can never see- like tiny particles, or planets which no telescope could ever see- but that doesn’t mean that the tiny particles or distant planets don’t exist. Scientists can work out that they are there, without every actually seeing them. Continue reading

Sermon for Palm Sunday 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 13 April 2014: Year A, Palm and Passion Sunday

SERMON
Texts: Matthew 21:1-11
Matthew 27:11-56

Obedient to death

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

Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Fresco in the Parish Church of Zirl, Austria. Wikipedia

We have heard a lot of scripture today. We have heard the stories that stand at the beginning and the end of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem. He have heard of how he was welcomed as a king, but ended up on a cross- the great reversal of fortune that lies at the heart of the drama of Holy Week.

Continue reading