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

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

SERMON
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

SERMON
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

Anger management for churches: sermon for 16 February 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 16 February 2013: Year A, Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
SERMON
Texts: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9a
Matthew 5:21-26
Anger management for churches!

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

When I was a wee boy, television used to close down at night. And in central Scotland, the end of the night on STV was marked with a 5 minute epilogue known as Late Call, in which a clergyman, or some other worthy, churchy person, would offer a wee thought for the evening. I seem to recall that once or twice our own local minister did a week of Late Calls, which was quite exciting, in a small town kind of way!

All-night TV killed off the epilogue. Yet Late Call still survives in a very different form- on the internet. On You Tube, and you can find parodies of Late Call by that wonderful Glasgow comic actor, Rikki Fulton. For many years, Hogmanay TV wasn’t complete without Scotch and Wry and Rikki Fulton’s end-of-year address to the nation as the perpetually depressed Rev I M Jolly in Last Call. Continue reading

One body: a sermon for 9 February 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 9 February 2014: Year A, Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

SERMON
Texts: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Matthew 5:13-20

One body

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

CoalitionI once heard it said that political parties were ‘a coalition of different interests’. What that means is: the people in a political party have some ideals which unite them, which bring them together in order to work together. But within a party there will be people who have different emphases, who will support different ways of putting their beliefs into action. The Conservative Party, for example, has its Eurosceptics, and those who are pro-Europe. Some Labour Party members will be happier to be called ‘socialists’ because they have more left-wing views. All parties are like that- a coalition within one party!

And quite often, we use the phrase ‘a broad church’ to describe party, or some other organisation or movement, which encompass different kinds of people and with different ideas. The phrase originated in the mid-nineteenth century, when the Church of England had two wings, a High Church party and a Low Church party (see ‘Broad Church’ in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church; and Chambers Dictionary), and the Broad Churchmen wanted a liberal, inclusive way between the extremes. In fact, religious communities like are a bit like political parties in that respect. We are a coalition of interests, even in the same denomination, even in the same congregation. It was ever so. Continue reading

A faith for fools- sermon for 2 February 2014

Please see below for more information about Religious Observance in Scottish schools

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 2 February 2014: Year A, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

SERMON
Texts: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Matthew 5:1-12

A faith for fools
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This week I spent two days in Coatbridge, attending a meeting of the General Assembly’s Church and Society Council, of which I’m a member. I joined about a year ago, having been nominated both by the Presbytery of Inverness, and an existing member of the Council. They needed to have someone from the Highlands, and of course their work is to do with Christianity in public life, a topic I’d been looking at in my study leave the previous year in the United States.

We were mostly revising the reports to the General Assembly, which covered a dizzying array of topics. There will a report on the changing face of family life, on sport from a Christian perspective, on welfare reform, on Scotland’s relationship to Europe, and the continuing conflicts in the Middle East. Also reporting as part of Church and Society is the oldest committee of the General Assembly. The Education Committee was set up back in the nineteenth century, to keep an eye on developments in our state schools. And just before we met this week, education policy was suddenly all over the media. Continue reading

Well pleased! Sermon for 12 Januray 2014 (Baptism of the Lord)

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 12 January 2014: Year A, Baptism of the Lord

SERMON
Texts: Isaiah 42:1-9
Matthew 3:13-17

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

Back in October there was lots in the news about a baptism. The christening of Prince George made for lots of pictures in the papers and royal gossip. In an age when fewer and fewer families think about having their children baptised, it’s commendable that the royal family still goes ahead with the ceremony. Today, however, we are remembering another baptism- what would call, in a sense, the first ever Christian baptism. It was a very different event than the private service in the Chapel Royal of St James’s Palace, presided over by a bishop and an archbishop, and attended by royalty. Today we are thinking about a ritual carried out by a man in animal skins, baptising a carpenter, in a muddy river in front of a large crowd.

John the BaptistFor me, John the Baptist frames the New Year. We meet him in Advent, preaching repentance and God’s judgement. But he says he’s not the main man. For he speaks of ‘the one who will come after me’ who, he says, ‘will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’. John makes the one who will come after him sound pretty scary- he says of him: ‘He is much greater than I am. He has his winnowing shovel with him to thresh out all the grain. He will gather his wheat into his barn, but he will burn the chaff in a fire that never goes out’ (Matthew 3.12). Continue reading

I wish it could be Christmas every day: a sermon on John 1 for 5 January 2014

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness

Sunday 5 January 2014: Year A, Second Sunday of Christmas

SERMON 

So the decorations will soon be down. The last farewells have been made to family and friends who came to visit. We are beginning to return to work, to normality, when we once again can remember what day of the week it is. There may be some few reminders of Christmas left. In our house, still we’re eating Christmas pudding this week, bought cheap after the New Year because on Christmas Eve I bought too much brandy butter, and it seems a shame to put it to waste! But what other reminders of Christmas will you take with you into the coming year? Continue reading