Old High St. Stephen's, Inverness

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A healing community: sermon for the Kirking of the Council, Sunday 9 September 2018

Scripture Readings: Psalm 146

Mark 2.1-12

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

There is a bit of a hubbub in the lakeside Galilean town of Capernaum. News has got around about a young rabbi from the nearby town of Nazareth, whose preaching and teaching is sincere and heartfelt, and who has also got a reputation for healing miracles. He’s been in Capernaum already, then went on a preaching tour around the local synagogues; now he is making a return visit. This was an age and a place when people had an entirely different attitude from us to personal space and public space. You left your door open as an invitation to anyone to wander in. In a small, humble house, there would be no entrance hall- from the street, you stepped directly into the family’s living quarters.

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Cherish the light! Sermon for The Kirking of the Council, 10 September 2017

Order of service

Scripture Readings: Philippians 4.4-9
Matthew 5.1-16
Cherish the light
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

On the 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin approached the surface of the moon in their fragile Lunar Module, the Eagle. It was a fraught descent. Aldrin was calling out computer data to Armstrong as they approached, but the computer played up- and only cool heads meant that the landing was not abandoned. And as he approached the surface, Armstrong spotted that their landing site was strewn with boulders the size of small cars. In his attempt to find a clear site to land, Armstrong almost used up all his fuel reserves, which would have meant that they could not return home, or crashed among the boulders.

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Leftover people: Sermon for the Kirking of the Council, 11 September 2016

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 1.15-18 (not Lectionary)

Luke 15:1-10

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

At the beginning of today’s Bible reading, Jesus of Nazareth is in trouble. This happened to Jesus a lot. Again and again, he went against people’s expectations, and this upset some of them.
Luke tells us that, ‘all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him’. Tax collectors were not popular in a country under Roman occupation. Sinners were those who were thought to have broken moral and religious rules.
This causes ‘the Pharisees and the scribes’ to grumble. These are the respectable, those who think of themselves as very religious and moral. Nowadays they might be called ‘role-models’, to show the rest of us how to live. Admired by most people, they have a high opinion of themselves, for they are the kind of people who usually think they are right. And they believe that they have God on their side.
So they grumble: ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them’. They think that Jesus is attracting the wrong crowd. How can Jesus be a respected religious teacher, if his audience attracts people who are pretty irreligious? As the Pharisees and the scribes see it, there must be something wrong with a religious teacher who attracts the outcasts, the scum, the dregs of society, the irreligious, the immoral.

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Justice or charity?- a sermon for the Kirking of the Council, 13 September 2015

Scripture Readings: Amos 7.7-17
Luke 10.25-37
Sermon

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

In 2012, there was massive media coverage when the Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise ship, ran aground off Italy, leading to the tragic deaths of 32 passengers and crew. But almost unnoticed, the Italian coastguard were also busy elsewhere:

That same day, the first of three boats carrying African refugees across the Mediterranean from Libya towards Malta and Italy was rescued by coastguards, in an incident which attracted no news coverage whatsoever. 72 were saved, including a pregnant woman and 29 children. The second boat was rescued two days later by a Maltese armed patrol vessel, assisted by the US Navy. The 68 who were saved included a mother who had just given birth… The third boat didn’t make it. A distress call warning of engine failure was intercepted by the Maltese maritime authorities the morning after the Concordia disaster. Then no more was heard….until the last week of January, when the first 15 bodies were washed up on Libyan beaches –at least 55 were lost.

I’m quoting there from a leaflet produced by the Church of Scotland Guild on the situation in Malta.

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Choose life!- Sermon for the Kirking of the Council 2014

The Kirking of the Council is an annual community event when members of the Inverness City Committee of Highland Council, and other community representatives, process to the Old High Church to take part in our Sunday worship.

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 14 September 2014: Year A, The Kirking of the Council
SERMON

Texts: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 5:1-11,33-37

Choose life!

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

There’s an story about an English vicar who always seemed to give away his politics by his choices of hymns. If the Tories won an election, the first hymn the following Sunday was something like ‘Now thank we all our God’. If Labour won, it would be ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways’. On one exceptional occasion, the Liberals won the local council election. So it was with great anticipation that his congregation came to church the following Sunday. The first hymn given out was, ‘The Lord moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform’.

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Who needs reconciliation anyhow?: Sermon for Sunday 7 September 2014

A note from the Minister: after completing this sermon I fell ill and was unable to deliver it on Sunday morning. I’m grateful to the Rev Morven Archer who took our services in my place, and who used much of the material below. This is the sermon I would have preached had I been able to. I’m glad to say I’m on the mend, since you ask!

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 7 September 2014: Year A, Proper 18

SERMON
Texts: Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

Who needs reconciliation anyhow?
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This week the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Rev John Chalmers, chaired a ‘respectful dialogue’ on the independence referendum. It was held in a Glasgow church, but the rest of us could participate because if was put out live on the Internet. At the Crown Church, we watched the speakers live on a big screen, had own audience comments section, and emailed our thoughts back to Glasgow. It was a fascinating experience, being linked up in that way to others around the country. As I was checking that I could communicate with the person receiving the emails in Glasgow, I suddenly thought of the Eurovision Song Contest- ‘Hello, this is Helsinki, here are the votes of the Finnish jury’. Maybe one day the General Assembly will be replaced by this kind of technology- although perhaps the Assembly will be unlikely to turn into a version of Eurovision.

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A politician's dilemma: sermon for the Kirking of the Council 2013

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 8 September 2013: The Kirking of the Council

SERMON

Texts: John 18.28-19.16a (NRSV)

A politician’s dilemma

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

You might think that today’s readings are more appropriate for Good Friday than for the Kirking of the Council. But whenever I read or hear the sequence of stories in the Gospels about the last days of Christ’s life, I’m always struck by how public the events are. Today we’ve read of the encounter of Jesus with the most powerful government on earth at the time.

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Cracked cisterns: sermon for 1 September 2013 (Proper 17)

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday Sunday 1 September 2013: Year C, Proper 17

SERMON
Texts: Jeremiah 2:4-13
Luke 14:1-14

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

Next Sunday we’ll once again hold the Kirking of the Council service at the Old High Church. In some ways it’s a different kind of service than most Sundays, because it involves the local community in a way that most of our worship does not.

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Kirking of the Council 8 September 2013

Read the sermon for the Kirking of the Council here.
Photographs now online here .

Kirking jpeg

Many representatives of the life of the city joined us on Sunday 8 September for the Kirking of the Council .
The Kirking is the annual service at which members of the Inverness City Committee of the Highland Council attend the Old High Church. The event is open to all, with a special invitation to those who work in public service.

Antonio Ciseri (1871) Ecce homo! (Behold the man!). (Depicting Pontius Pilate presenting a scourged Christ to the people) Wikipedia Commons: public domain


The preacher was the minister of Old High St Stephen’s, the Rev Peter W Nimmo. He preached on the trail of Christ before Pontius Pilate, with the sermon title ‘A Politician’s Dilemma‘, which is now available online.
Prayers were led by the Rev Colin Macleod of the Free North Church, and the Rev Alastair Murray, Moderator of Inverness Church of Scotland Presbytery. We also heard from Lorna Dempster, Co-ordinator of Highland Foodbank (Blythswood Care).
A special offering was taken for Christian Aid’s Syria Crisis Appeal.
A parade, including local schools, members of uniformed youth organisations, the University of the Highlands and Islands, and soldiers of 3 Scots from Fort George, left and returned from the Town House.
Read the Highland Council news release before the Kirking here.
If you’re wondering why we host the Kirking, read a sermon about the Kirking here.
For more information, contact the Peter W Nimmo (01463 250 802).

Healing for all?: sermon for 27 September 2012

Old High St Stephen’s, Inverness
Sunday 7 October 2012
based on 27 September 2009- Proper 21

SERMON
Texts: James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-41

Healing for all?
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

A few weeks ago, when there was some controversy about the Kirking of the Council, many of those who wrote to our local papers about it- and many who spoke to me- said that one of the great things about the Kirking, as it has now developed, was an important event in the life of our community. For we need events which strengthen the ties among us, which foster a sense of community. For human beings are social animals- we need to feel we belong somewhere. We need to belong to groups, communities, tribes, teams.

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