Old High St. Stephen's, Inverness

Welcome to Old High St Stephen's Church, Inverness

Month: January 2019

A Sign for Our Times: a sermon on the Wedding at Cana, 20 January 2019

Scripture Readings: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

John 2:1-11

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

The key to the story of the miracle at the wedding of Cana is, I believe, in the very last sentence of the story. It reads:

Jesus performed this first miracle in Cana in Galilee; there he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.

But the Good News translation is not quite so helpful here. The word ‘miracle’ is better translated as ‘sign’, as another translation puts it:

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.[1]

For a miracle is always a sign of something- a sign that something deeper is going on. In John’s Gospel, the miracles of Jesus play a slightly different role than in the other Gospels. They are a bit like direction signs- they point to something beyond themselves. The signs in John’s Gospel point to the glory of Jesus, and the power and love of God which he is bringing into the world, they are signs of the rule of God breaking into ordinary life. Not everyone will understand the signs. But for those who will see, these signs help us to see who Jesus really is.

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Sunday Bulletin 20 January 2019

WORSHIP THIS WEEK

Sunday 27 January 2019: Third Sunday after the Epiphany

10am Morning Worship at St Stephen’s

Led by Stewart Robertson

11.15am Sacrament of Holy Communion at the Old High

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION – Contact details from the Church Administrator

CHRISTIAN BASICS In the New Year, we will be running a series of classes for those interested in church membership or interested in learning about the Christian faith. If you would like to join us (even if you are already a member and would like a ‘refresher course’!) please contact Peter

PASTORAL CARE Peter, or your Elder, should be informed of anyone ill at home or in hospital.

ST STEPHEN’S CHOIR We would like to extend a warm invitation to interested members, adherents or friends to join the church choir. We are a cheery bunch of amateurs who enjoy getting together every Thursday evening at 7.15 pm to practise the hymns for the coming Sunday and to prepare two other short pieces for the service. Our Choir Director, Pam McCulloch, and accompanist Alyn Ross share their enthusiasm and infectious fun with us all. Do come along and join us, as we seek to support and enhance the weekly worship at St Stephen’s. For further information, please contact Pam.  All voices welcome, particularly gentlemen

CRAFT EVENING St Stephen’s Hall 7.30–9pm, Wednesday 23 January. Crafters and non-crafters welcome (you may wish to learn a craft). Friendly atmosphere and refreshments provided. Margaret McAleer.

HOLY COMMUNION will be celebrated at the Old High next Sunday (27 January). All are welcome at the Lord’s Table. There will be a retiring collection in aid of Mary’s Meals.

FOOD FOR FAMILIES The peeling, stirring and cooking has now been completed. A big thank you to the 12 members and friends who gave up their time to help with the project. Over 200 mince and potatoes meals have been provided by our congregation and it’s great to know that this will make a real difference to families in need at this time. Christine MacKenzie.

HIGHLAND FOOD BANK For January they would be very grateful to receive jars of coffee, packets of oatcakes, tins of corned beef, cartons of long life fruit juice, tins of ham. Many thanks for your continuing support. Margaret Neville.

SUNDAY BULLETIN Please send items for this sheet to our Church Administrator: Mrs Pat MacLeod (079 342 85924 invernesschurch<at>gmail.com (replace <at> with @). Deadline Wednesday at 12 noon. Please keep items as brief as possible, and include contact details and/or e-mail.

OTHER NEWS

WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY Pray for the City an ecumenical service of worship and prayer this evening at 6pm at Culduthel Christian Centre, Culduthel Avenue, Inverness IV2 6AS. Please join Christians from across the denominations in worshipping and praying together for the many issues which face our city and our society. Details from Jonathan Appleby.

Alzheimer Scotland – Action on Dementia are holding a training in technology event on Thursday 24 January 2019 at 2pm at the Inverness Dementia Resource Centre, Strothers Lane. Do you need more confidence around technology? Perhaps you have an iPad or tablet but are unsure how to use it, or get a bit lost navigating the internet. Alzheimer Scotland are looking to host classes about confident use of technology in 2019 and need your help understanding what topics to cover. Come along to have a chat about what you’d like to learn about. More information please from Karen Black.

ARGENTINE TANGO HIGHLAND A new club is starting on Friday evenings in St Stephen’s Hall from 8-9pm for those interested in learning tango dancing. These classes are for anyone who wants to learn tango or who wants to return to dancing. No partner is necessary.

CALMAN TRUST is a young people’s service based in the Highlands that offers housing support, training, employment opportunities, cooking services and general support to young people looking to get on the road to independent living. They are running a 10-week Life Skills programme for young people aged 16-18 to help them to live more independently. For all ages, they also offer a ‘cooking on a budget’ course. These groups are fun and relaxed. The next groups start later in January and there are some spaces available. Contact Liz or Gillian for more information. 3 Accent

By water and the Spirit: sermon for the Baptism of Christ, 13 January 2019

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 43.1-7

Luke 3:15-22

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

I well remember the day I graduated from Glasgow Uni. For once, I didn’t go the Uni in jeans and a sweatshirt- I had an academic gown to wear. There was lunch in the University dining room with my parents, and a meaningful chapel service, before we went to the Victorian splendour of the Bute Hall for the graduation ceremony itself. Military and police passing out parades, even the school end-of-term prize-giving is the same sort of thing. Such events leave us with no doubt that something important is happening. Perhaps we look back a bit and remember the times we had. But mostly it’s about looking forward, to more responsibilities, a career ahead. It is an end, and also a beginning.

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Sunday Bulletin 6 January 2019

WORSHIP THIS WEEK

Sunday 13 January 2019: First Sunday after the Epiphany (Baptism of the Lord)

10am Morning Worship at St Stephen’s

11.15am Morning Worship at the Old High

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION – Contact information from the Church Administrator

CHRISTIAN BASICS In the New Year, we will be running a series of classes for those interested in church membership or interested in learning about the Christian faith. If you would like to join us (even if you are already a member and would like a ‘refresher course’!) please contact Peter

WARMTH FOR THE HOMELESS Gary Ross, who has been joining us for worship at Old High on an extended visit from Texas, has provided suitcases at both our buildings. If you have any warm clothing, in good condition, which you would like to donate, please put them in the suitcase next Sunday, and Gary will deliver it to the Gateway in Church Street, who will provide the items to the local homeless community. Gary Ross

PASTORAL CARE Peter, or your Elder, should be informed of anyone ill at home or in hospital.

CHRISTMAS OFFERINGS AND THE GIVING TREE Thank you for all your offerings over the Festive Period, which raised £530 for Gateway Highland (formerly Highland Homeless Trust). Thanks, also, for all your Giving Tree gifts. As usual, the congregation has been very generous at Christmas!

OLD HIGH FLOWERS The flower list for the Old High is being prepared; if you would like to donate flowers during 2019 please speak to Sally McCubbin

FOOD FOR FAMILIES PROJECT providing meals to individuals and families who are in need. We hope to maintain the number of meals delivered this year. This year we will cook mince and tatties. All ingredients are provided, and I have put us down for cooking w/c 7 January with all meals being delivered by Friday 11 January. The process will be the same as before with the ingredients being delivered for cooking and the cooked meals being picked up by Gateway. The meals will be frozen prior to delivery to local schools, community centres and to families who have been referred from agencies such as Social Work, NHS Highland, Councillors, local community groups and local churches. If you wish to participate please contact Christine MacKenzie

HIGHLAND FOOD BANK (HFB) Lorna Dempster has written thanking the congregations of Old High St Stephen’s for their Harvest donations to the food bank which amounted to a magnificent 182 kgs of food. She has said that HFB and the thousands who are helped each year greatly appreciate the generosity. For December and January they would be very grateful to receive jars of coffee, packets of oatcakes, tins of corned beef, cartons of long life fruit juice, tins of ham. Many thanks for your continuing support. Margaret Neville

SUNDAY BULLETIN Please send items for this sheet to our Church Administrator: Mrs Pat MacLeod invernesschurch<at>gmail.com. Deadline Wednesday at 12 noon. Please keep items as brief as possible, and include contact details and/or e-mail.

OTHER NEWS

HEALING SERVICE Christian Fellowship of Healing (Highlands) will hold a healing service at St Stephen’s today at 4pm to which all are welcome. Contact David Martin.

WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY Pray for the City an ecumenical service of worship and prayer on Sunday 20 January at 6pm at Culduthel Christian Centre, Culduthel Avenue, Inverness IV2 6AS. Please join Christians from across the denominations in worshipping and praying together for the many issues which face our city and our society. Details from Jonathan Appleby

VOCATIONS INFORMATION DAY on Saturday 9 February at St John’s Episcopal Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh. The day includes an inspirational keynote speech on the Call to Serve Today, practical information and the opportunity to ask important questions about how God might be calling you. We’d like to encourage you to think of anyone you might want to make aware of this opportunity.  It is an engaging day, with the opportunity to mix with many at the same stage of exploration, and to hear about the different forms of ministry service in the Church of Scotland. The Vocations Information Day remains the first step in the Discernment Process for anyone wanting to explore the recognised ministries of the Church.  Please help us encourage others to explore their call to service further. Spaces are limited – booking essential. To register, contact Ministries Council, 121 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4YN

An unwelcome child: sermon for Epiphany, 6 January 2019

The Magi Journeying James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Scripture Readings: Ephesians 3:1-6

Matthew 2:1-18

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

They have haunted our Christmas imagination for centuries. They still haunt our Christmas cards, our carols (of course), our crib scenes. As if first century Bethlehem were not exotic enough for us, they turn up in their rich robes, their fancy camels, with the fragrance of another sort of East about them:

We three kings of Orient are

Bearing gifts we traverse afar

Field and fountain, moor and mountain

Following yonder star.[1]

Not the dusty east of poor Palestinian peasants under Roman occupation, but the spice-laden Persian east, the Aladdin east of our Western imagination- turbans, colourful robes, vast palaces, sultans, minarets and genies, astrology and magic and smoke and mirrors. We do not even know, really, if there were three of them, or even if they were all male, or whether or not they travelled on camels. They are unlikely to be kings, though they were probably advisors to kings. The Bible calls them wise men- magi (we get the English word magic from that word). Much of what we think we know about them comes is, simply, the accumulated imagination of two millennia.

They arrive late in the Bethlehem story: in fact, some say they shouldn’t be part of the Christmas story at all, for they may have arrived weeks after the birth; and so the church of old gave them this special festival to themselves after Christmas, the Epiphany. They arrive now because they have come a long way, and took a detour to consult with a tyrant:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who is to shepherd my people Israel.”’

They wander into our Christmas dreams, but, as Matthew tells it, when they wander into the story, they wander into trouble. As they are men of high social standing, they seek the new king first in a royal palace. There they meet Herod, the local king, a pantomime villain if ever there was one. Herod had not been expecting a new king, not least one announced by a star. He is worried, and calls in his own advisors. Instead of consulting the stars, they consult their old books, and by accident stumble on the old prophecy that a special ruler will one day come from Bethlehem.

They may have been wise men, these Persian mystics, but surprisingly Herod manages to pull the wool over their eyes. It’s funny how stupid intelligent people can be sometimes:

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’

Herod tries to use the magi. He knows it’s in Bethlehem the danger lies- but where exactly, he’s not sure. So he pretends to be a potential worshipper (when in fact he has far more nefarious intentions), and sends them off to do the finding for him. And so the naive wise men toddle off to Bethlehem:

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Entrance to the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Federico Busonero
Copyright: © UNESCO
Permanent URL: whc.unesco.org/en/documents/117541

The supposed site of the birth of Christ, in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, is apparently quite hard to get into- and not just because of the crowds. It’s a tiny cave, now under the high altar of the church, and it has a low entrance so that you have to stoop to get into it. For there’s a good chance that the stable was, in fact, a cave where the animals were kept. There is, of course, something incongruous about these richly dressed (as we like to imagine them) wise men stooping to get into a tiny cave to worship a baby. And so I’m told that even today, that if you want to visit the scene, you must bow down to get in. The son of a carpenter and a peasant-girl, worshipped by magi, worthy still of worship: here is, indeed, the mystery and magic of the story of Jesus’ birth.

The wise men worship, offer their mysterious gifts, and then fade out of our story, but not before they manage to put one over on Herod:

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

It would have come naturally to the magi to obey King Herod (just as it was natural for them to have originally sought their new king in the royal palace of Jerusalem). For the Wise Men were members of the establishment. They were accustomed to royalty, used to honouring power, comfortable with kings telling them what to do. But this time, they go back by another road, because they had had a dream (people put a lot of store in dreams back then as well).

Sometimes the most conservative and establishment and conformist of us find that we cannot just do as the powerful want us to do. Sometimes even respectable people find it necessary to break the law of the land. Rosa Parks, in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, was required to give up her to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, because that’s what the law of the city said. She refused to, and so set in action the civil rights movement. God sometimes calls us to take another road. Especially when the powerful have evil intent:

Now after [the Wise Men] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,

wailing and loud lamentation,

Rachel weeping for her children;

she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

The Wise Men, inadvertently, caused a massacre of children, though it is Herod who is guilty: a man ordering slaughter because he needs to preserve his own power. And that is why this story is so powerful- for we know who today’s Herod’s are, and who their victims.

In Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, children are still being killed because powerful people have ordered it. And they give political or strategic reasons why the children have to be killed- but it is revolting that it still happens today. At the Mexican border, children who are part of families trying to enter the United States are held in detention in conditions so bad, some of them have died recently. Children are still dying as their parents try to bring them into Europe across the Mediterranean in flimsy boats (who can forget the image of the three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body was photographed, not in a war zone, but on a Turkish tourist beach?). Just across the English Channel, there are still children waiting in limbo to be reunited with their parents in this United Kingdom. Children suffer when politics becomes more important than compassion.

We who claim to be inspired by the story of Christ cannot forget that he, too, was once a refugee, fleeing a violent, child-killing tyrant:

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.

God’s gift to the world is Jesus Christ. Christ is God’s way of reconciling the world to himself. Yet to undertake that plan, a plan in which the entire future of creation was at stake, God stoops into a cave in Bethlehem to be born, and very nearly doesn’t make it out of the manger. Which is what makes all of this more than just a nice story. I find it a sobering story- for it is a story about how God is in our turbulent world. Around the crib- that familiar scene of a holy family, with a child in the manger- there’s power politics, misunderstandings, terrific evil around the crib- Rachel weeping for her children. And all because of a child born to a peasant woman and a carpenter in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire, who was a threat to the power of an evil king.

We often speak of welcoming Christ at Christmas. And so we should. The Letter to the Ephesians reminds us that the birth of Jesus was part of plan, through which God would make his blessings available to all people. The Jewish people are already the special people of God; now, says Ephesians ‘by means of the Gospel the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in God’s blessings; they are members of the same body and share in the promise made through Christ Jesus’. The wise men, the magi, represent the Gentiles, the non-Jews, to whom the blessings of God are now also offered. They represent the wisdom of non-Jewish culture. They are, as we said, exotic. They remind us that the good news of Jesus Christ is for all people, regardless of their nationality- they remind us that the Gospel transcends nations and cultures. Everyone, of whatever race and nationality, is invited to worship the child in the manger.

But Epiphany also reminds us that for some, the good news of the Gospel is unwelcome news. Not everyone welcomes the disruption which Christ will bring into the world. Herod think the child is a threat to him, and he responds with violence; and there are still Herods who cannot see beyond keeping their own power in place, to whom the message of God’s love in Christ is a threat. For the adult Christ will preach against violence, and against the pretension of the powerful, and against the oppression of the weak and the poor for any reason. He survived the cradle, because the Wise Men took another road to avoid Jerusalem. But as an adult, he will himself go to Jerusalem, where the powerful will find him so threatening, they finally put him to death.

And yet: in Christ, God offers all his people blessing. In Christ, the light has come which shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never put it out. Thanks be to our God, who is involved in the darkest places in our world, and in our lives.

Ascription of Praise

To God be honour and eternal dominion! Amen.

1 Timothy 6.16 (GNB)

Biblical references from the Good News Bible, unless otherwise stated

© 2018 Peter W Nimmo

After sermon: Hymn: We three kings of Orient are

NOTES

[1] Carol by John Henry Hopkins (1820-1891)

Sunday Bulletin 30 December 2018

WORSHIP THIS WEEK

Sunday 6 January 2019: The Epiphany

11:15am Congregational Service at the Old High

Led by the Minister

No Service at St Stephen’s

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION

Contact Details from Church Administrator

WARMTH FOR THE HOMELESS Gary Ross, who has been joining us for worship at Old High on an extended visit from Texas, has provided suitcases at both our buildings. If you have any warm clothing, in good condition, which you would like to donate, please put them in the suitcase next Sunday, and Gary will deliver it to the Gateway in Church Street, who will provide the items to the local homeless community. Gary Ross

CONGREGATIONAL SERVICE Please note there will be a  Congregational Service at Old High next Sunday at 11.15am, on the first Sunday after the New Year (Epiphany). No service at St Stephen’s.

PASTORAL CARE Peter, or your Elder, should be informed of anyone ill at home or in hospital.

MINISTER’S HOLDAY COVER from 26 December 2018 to 2 January 2019 (inclusive dates) will be provided by Rev Alastair Younger. Alastair should also be advised of anyone ill at home or in hospital during that period.

CHRISTMAS OFFERINGS AND THE GIVING TREE Thank you for all your offerings over the Festive Period, which went to Gateway Highland (formerly Highland Homeless Trust). Thanks, also, for all your Giving Tree gifts. As usual, the congregation has been very generous at Christmas!

OLD HIGH FLOWERS The flower list for the Old High is being prepared; if you would like to donate flowers during 2019 please speak to Sally McCubbin

FOOD FOR FAMILIES PROJECT providing meals to individuals and families who are in need. We hope to maintain the number of meals delivered this year. This year we will cook mince and tatties. All ingredients are provided, and I have put us down for cooking w/c 7 January with all meals being delivered by Friday 11 January. The process will be the same as before with the ingredients being delivered for cooking and the cooked meals being picked up by Gateway. The meals will be frozen prior to delivery to local schools, community centres and to families who have been referred from agencies such as Social Work, NHS Highland, Councillors, local community groups and local churches. If you wish to participate please contact Christine MacKenzie

HIGHLAND FOOD BANK (HFB) Lorna Dempster has written thanking the congregations of Old High St Stephen’s for their Harvest donations to the food bank which amounted to a magnificent 182 kgs of food. She has said that HFB and the thousands who are helped each year greatly appreciate the generosity. For December and January they would be very grateful to receive jars of coffee, packets of oatcakes, tins of corned beef, cartons of long life fruit juice, tins of ham. Many thanks for your continuing support. Margaret Neville

HEALING SERVICE Christian Fellowship of Healing (Highlands) will hold a healing service at St Stephen’s next Sunday (6 January) at 4pm to which all are welcome. Contact David Martin

SUNDAY BULLETIN Please send items for this sheet to our Church Administrator: Mrs Pat MacLeod (079 342 85924 invernesschurch@gmail.com. Deadline Wednesday at 12 noon. Please keep items as brief as possible, and include contact details and/or e-mail.

CHRISTIAN BASICS In the New Year, we will be running a series of classes for those interested in church membership or interested in learning about the Christian faith. If you would like to join us (even if you are already a member and would like a ‘refresher course’!) please contact Peter

OTHER NEWS

VOCATIONS INFORMATION DAY on Saturday 9 February at St John’s Episcopal Church, Princes Street, Edinburgh. The day includes an inspirational keynote speech on the Call to Serve Today, practical information and the opportunity to ask important questions about how God might be calling you. We’d like to encourage you to think of anyone you might want to make aware of this opportunity.  It is an engaging day, with the opportunity to mix with many at the same stage of exploration, and to hear about the different forms of ministry service in the Church of Scotland. The Vocations Information Day remains the first step in the Discernment Process for anyone wanting to explore the recognised ministries of the Church.  Please help us encourage others to explore their call to service further. Spaces are limited – booking essential. To register, contact Ministries Council, 121 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4YN

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