God’s mission, and ours: Sermon for Trinity Sunday 2016

Scripture Readings: Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

God’s mission, and ours

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

When I was at school, I quite liked science- though I would never pursue it very far, because to do so you need to be good at maths, which I never mastered. But I did like the experiments. Earlier we were talking with the children about the different states of water- that ice and steam are, in fact, water in different states. At school, we once took a balloon full of hydrogen to the bottom of a playing field, put a naked flame to it, and it filled an empty cup with water- almost a magic trick. But the hydrogen had reacted with the oxygen in the atmosphere to make H2O- water. Liquid water, ice and steam are all made of hydrogen and water- different aspects of the same stuff. Light that you can see, infrared light that makes automatic doors work, X-rays, radar, electricity and magnetism, TV and radio waves are also different aspects of the same thing- different wavebands of electromagnetic radiation.

Nowadays, the scientists are trying to bring together all the different strands of knowledge about the universe, searching for the maths that will explain the forces which hold atoms together through to the gravitational forces which hold galaxies together. They all it ‘the theory of everything’- and they are tantalising close to working it all out. Continue reading

Children of the Spirit: a sermon for Pentecost 2016

Scripture Readings: Acts 2:1-13

Romans 8:14-17

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

Last Sunday, when we heard about the Ascension of Jesus, I said that the early Christians had a strong sense of the continuing presence of Christ among them. In his last conversation with his followers, Luke has the risen Christ tell them, ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift I told you about, the gift my Father promised. John [the Baptist] baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’[1].

In our reading for today, we hear what happened when the day arrive. On the Jewish festival of Pentecost, the Spirit arrives with power, colour and noise. Luke describes it in colourful language- a noise from the sky, tongues of fire touching each person, and an excitement that sends the believers out onto the streets to preach to people of every nation. The believers are so lively, so full of joy, so uninhibited about taking their message to the streets, that some people think they are drunk! Continue reading

Power and encouragement: a sermon for Ascension Sunday

Scripture Readings: Acts 1: 1-11

Ephesians 1:15-23

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

In the dim and distant past, when I was applying to train to become a minister, I asked a clergyman I knew well to write one of the references I was going to need. He read my application, and wrote me a reference (which must have been good enough!). But he made a comment that haunted me. He had read what I said about my personal faith in the application, and said to me, ‘There’s a lot about God in there. But you didn’t say what Jesus meant to you. Who is Jesus for you, Peter?’ That’s a question I’ve tried to live with ever since: ‘Who is Jesus for me?’ Ever since, I’ve tried to measure my Christian life and my ministry against my answers to that question. Continue reading

Meanderings or meanings? Sermon for 1 May 2016, The Sixth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings: Acts 16.6-15
Revelation 21:10 and 21.22-22:5
Meanderings- or meanings?

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

Travels1Few us of nowadays agree with Robert Louis Stevenson, who wandered the mountains of France on a donkey and wrote a book about it, and thought that ‘it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive’ . We mostly just want to arrive, to do whatever it is we want to do at the end of our journey. If we get stuck in snow on the A9 we probably won’t enjoy the scenery very much. The shops, amusement arcades and cafes of an airport terminal quickly lose their charm if we have to wait for hours for a plane. For we are usually in a hurry nowadays. Continue reading

A place for everyone: a sermon for 24 April 2016, the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings: John 13:31-35
Acts 11:1-18
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Coloured game menSome people have the idea that the Bible is a rather monolithic book- a book of unchanging rules, set in stone, unassailably infallible, without contradictions. It is, in fact nothing of the sort. It is, rather, a book full of stories about people who change their minds.
Today’s reading from the Book of Acts is a good example. Acts is the second volume of writings by the author of the Gospel of Luke. Its full title, ‘The Acts of the Apostles’ is the story of what the earliest Christians, and their leaders got up to. It’s the story of the beginnings of the Church. Continue reading

The Easter Church: a sermon for 17 April 2016, Easter 5

Scripture Readings: John 10:22-30

Acts 9:36-43

The Easter Church

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

What does it mean to follow Jesus Christ, and to be part of his church, in this day and age? We often feel we are up against awesome obstacles as we seek to be faithful to Christ today We know we have immense challenges as a church in faithfully witnessing to the love of Christ in our world today.

When Christians are faced with issues like those, we go back to the old stories. Today we read the story from the Book of Acts about the healing of Tabitha (also known as Dorcas). It is a rather lovely story, and it seemed appropriate for this service today, just before our Annual Meeting, for it tells us some deep truths about what it means to be a Christian, and how the church ought to be- not just back in the first century, but today. And since we are still in the season after Easter, it’s a story which reminds us that we are Easter people. Continue reading

Rise and shine! Easter Sunday sermon, 2016

Scripture Readings: John 20:1-18

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

Rise and shine!

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

In a world in which churchgoing is no longer de rigeur, many people have very little knowledge of the meaning of even basic Christian festivals such as Easter. School assemblies, therefore, the church a chance to talk about what our festivals are really about, to young people who may well not be very aware of their meaning.

On Thursday, I led an Easter Assembly for third and fourth year pupils at Inverness Royal Academy. I’d been asked to do so at the last minute- their usual chaplain was off sick- and so I elected just to tell the story of Easter, and attempt to explain why it was important to Christians. Assuming, as I always do, that the children in front of me had very little idea of Easter, beyond that it is a kind of spring festival with chocolate eggs.

One of the key things we have to try to understand in the story of Jesus’ death and crucifixion is the question, ‘How did it come to this?’ Continue reading

‘Remember me, Jesus’- a sermon for Palm and Passion Sunday 2016

Scripture Readings: Luke 19:28-40

Luke 23.1-5,13-25-48

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

At the heart of the Christian faith is a great story. For the content of our faith is not a list of abstract doctrines, or list of do’s and don’ts. It’s a story- the story Bible tells of God’s dealings with human beings. It is a story on an epic scale, which jumps around different locations- mostly what we call ‘the Holy Land’, but beginning somewhere in modern Iraq, and taking us to Egypt, Sinai, Arabia, Cyprus, modern Turkey, Greece and Rome. There is war, famine, disaster, as well as joy. All human life is here- friendship, betrayal, love and adultery, politics, deaths and births. All kinds of people are in it- there are acts of barbarity, cunning and evil, as well as acts of kindness and of love. There is faith, and there is faithlessness. Continue reading

Living under The Word- a sermon for the ordination of elders, 13 March 2015

Scripture Readings: Philippians 3:4b-14

Mark 10:41-45

Living under The Word

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

HEL219079 Portrait of John Calvin (1509-64) (oil on panel) by Swiss School, (16th century) oil on panel 41.5x28 Bibliotheque Publique et Universitaire, Geneva, Switzerland © Held Collection Swiss, out of copyright

Portrait of John Calvin (1509-64) (oil on panel) by Swiss School, (16th century)
Bibliotheque Publique et Universitaire, Geneva, Switzerland

Very often, the names of Christian denominations describe something of how they are governed. Catholics have a worldwide church structure. Episcopalians have bishops involved in the workings of their church. The Church of Scotland, for historical reasons, does not mention in its title the word which describes our kind of church government. It is, however, a word historically used by churches around the world which were influenced by our way of doing things. That word is ‘Presbyterian’. Continue reading

A new creation- sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Sunday 6 March 2016

Scripture Readings (from the New Revised Standard Version)
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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

One of the mysteries of church life, which after all these years I’ve still not solved, is the fact that so many church people seem to regard their role as preventing and hindering change. If you asked people beyond the church what they regarded as typical attitudes of religious people, they would probably say something like ‘conservative’ or ‘traditionalist’ or even ‘old-fashioned’. Religious people seem to find change difficult- it’s always been done that way is a familiar cry. Even change for the better is too often a subject of suspicion.

It may well be that in many religions, that is the correct attitude to take. And, no doubt, there are many things in our fast-changing world which Christians ought to be suspicious about. But the idea that Christianity is fundamentally not in favour of change is not, in my view, supported by the Bible. In fact, the opposite is the case. Continue reading