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

Faith in Conflict: as sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent, 21 February 2015

Texts: Philippians 3:17-4:4

Luke 13:31-35

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

The Pharisees, generally speaking, get a bad name in the New Testament. Again and again, we hear of Jesus in conflict with the Pharisees. Perhaps it was because that in some ways, they were quite alike. Both Jesus and the Pharisees called people to stick to God’s ways in a world dominated by the pagan rulers of Rome. Continue reading

Don’t just do something- stand there! A sermon for Transfiguration Sunday 7 February 2015

Scripture Readings: Exodus 34:29-35

Luke 9:28-36

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

The Labour politician Tony Benn, who died in 2014, was, like many of those who get to the top in politics, a very driven person. He was a Cabinet minister in the 1970s, and almost became Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in the 1980s. More recently, after retiring from the House of Commons at the last election (after 50 years as an MP), he travelled around the country with a sort of one-man show, which played to packed houses in theatres all over the country. For Tony Benn came from a political family, one with a stern sense of Christian duty. His diaries make it clear that he felt accountable for his use of time- it was a gift of God, which he had to make the most of. Continue reading

The fire and the dove- a sermon on the Baptism of Christ

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 43.1-7
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

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

The gospels tell us almost nothing about the training or education of Jesus. There is a little about his childhood in Luke, but soon we are hearing about the preaching of John the Baptist, in the passage we read today. John was a relative of Jesus, a prophet who preached that the Messiah- the one who would save God’s people- was about to appear. John called people to change their lives, to get ready for God’s saviour to appear among them. Crowds of people went down to the River Jordan to hear John’s preaching. And he would challenge them to respond by being baptised. John would immerse people in the waters of the River Jordan, to symbolise that they had died to their previous life- drowned it, if you like. They rose from the water into a new life, with their sins washed away, as water washes away dirt.

John the BaptistEventually, Jesus himself appeared, and was baptised by John in the river as well- and you can see a picture of it on the front of our order of service. Jesus’ baptism marks the point when Jesus passed from being a purely private figure to becoming a public preacher. This is a day he for which he would have been preparing for years. It is Jesus’ graduation day, his passing out parade. Continue reading