Old High St. Stephen's, Inverness

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Beneath the surface: Sermon for 17 June 2018 (Proper 6)

Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 16.1-13

Mark 4:26-34

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

The prophet Samuel was on a mission to find a new king for Israel. At Bethlehem, he was sure he’d got his man when he met Eliab, son of Jesse. He thinks that Eliab has all the right qualifications- an eldest son, he looks the part. We’re told he’s tall and handsome- just how you’d need to look to lead an army into battle. This must be the man, thought Samuel. But God had other ideas. In his heart, Samuel heard God speak:

Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.

Six more sons of Jesse were brought to Samuel, but none of them were the man God wanted. Puzzled, Samuel asked Jesse, ‘Have you any more sons?’ There was just the youngest son left over, out on the hills watching the sheep- no-one had thought to bring the youngest son along to meet the prophet. And when David is brought to him, God tells Samuel that this is the man.

David was to become the greatest of Israel’s kings, and one of the most important characters in the Bible story. But he was very nearly overlooked. Samuel thought Eliab was the boy he was looking for- but God surprised him. Because God looks at things differently- God is not interested in outward appearances, but looks into our hearts. So Samuel has a surprise when he discovers that the king is to be David, the youngest son. Often it is the least expected person through whom God can works miracles.

We live in an age when style and image is everything. Millions of pounds are spent on clothes, make-up, beauty treatments, diet foods. Even your house and your car is supposed to say something about you. No doubt a lot of this is pretty harmless. But there’s heartbreak as well- young women who diet until they damage their health, boys who get bullied at school for wearing the wrong kind of trainers. In a society obsessed with appearance, rumours of a few pounds added onto a celebrity bum can make front page news. In China many years ago, women had their feet bound up because small feet were thought to be beautiful. And isn’t there an African tribe where they wear metal rings around their necks to make their necks longer? In our own culture there are people who reckon they can only find happiness through cosmetic surgery procedures like breast enlargement. For we are obsessed by looks and by status.

But God has the bigger picture. The good news is that God doesn’t care if you’re fat or thin, blonde or grey haired. It’s what’s inside that counts for God- it’s what’s in your heart that’s important. And so God tells Samuel: it’s not what’s on the outside that’s important: I look below the surface, below what you can easily see. It’s not Eliab, nor any of the other sons Jesse is presenting to you. Bring the youngest one- the one who’s looking after the sheep. And so David is brought to Samuel, and David begins his journey to the throne.

It is a religious insight, this truth that appearances aren’t everything. Jesus once said,

I came to this world to judge, so that the blind should see and those who see should become blind (John 9.35)

That, I think, is Jesus’ judgement on our surface-obsessed society. St Paul speaks about people

who boast about people’s appearance and not about their character’(1 Corinthians 5.12)

He teaches us that as Christians, we are to judge people by a different standard:

No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards

Instead, he reminds us that those who are joined to Christ- and that is what we signify at baptism- are seen by God in a whole new light:

Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5.17).

Too many of us today lack any spiritual insight- we suffer from spiritual blindness. We are obsessed with outward appearance, and lack the insight to see any deeper. And yet we think we can see it all. Jesus judges us and says, ‘You think you can see, but you are really blind- blind to what really matters’.

But that is not quite all that the story of Samuel anointing David is about. I used to think that the moral of this story is that outward appearances don’t matter to God. But when I read it more closely this week, I realized that there’s a bit more to it than that. When Samuel has seen the rest of Jesse’s sons, he asks for David to be sent for. Listen again to what the text says of David when he appears:

He was a handsome, healthy young man, and his eyes sparkled. The Lord said to Samuel, “This is the one- anoint him!”

You see, David, too, looked the part. If he’d been an ugly, puny weakling he wouldn’t have made much of a king. His outward appearance did matter to God, because God could use that outward appearance. He would look the part of a king. But it was more than just David’s looks which were important. There was an inner something which set David apart from his brothers, something which Samuel only recognised when it was shown to him by God.

Inside a mustard seed, said Jesus, there is a world of possibilities. Sow that tiny seed, and something will grow out of it. Jesus exaggerates: the mustard seed does not become the largest of all trees. But his point is that from very small, insignificant things, can come amazing things. And this is why this is a parable of Christ’s kingdom. From the smallest seeds, from seemingly insignificant things, God can do a lot.

When a new baby comes into a family. we all look at the helpless baby, and wonder what will become of him or her. Because even although the child is helpless, nevertheless the possibilities are endless. Will she be a brain surgeon, an inventor, a writer or an actor or an artist? But even if she does not, she will still have the opportunity to do great things- to be a wonderful daughter, to be a good friend to someone in need, to make a positive contribution to the life of the society she will grow up in.

In every age and culture there people who are marginalised, demonised or forgotten. Like mustards seeds, they are the overlooked, apparently unimportant. But it has often been Christian people who said, ‘These are children of God, they should not be treated like this’. That’s why Christians fought to abolish things like slavery and child labour. It’s why Christian agencies are involved in helping the homeless, or rehabilitating drug users. It’s why Christians in India reach out to the ‘untouchables’, those at the bottom of the Hindu caste system. It’s why any kind of racism, or any discrimination against someone because of their nationality, or any other reason, is anathema to the Gospel. That’s why Christian churches are so involved in looking after the refugees coming ashore on the Mediterranean or attempting to settle in our cities. That’s why it’s important that we support initiative like the food banks, taking care of people our politicians seem to think can be forgotten about. I think it’s what motivates Street Pastors, who don’t just see party goers or revellers, but the people behind the bravado, or the drunkenness- a mother’s son, a father’s daughter, a child of God like you and me who needs help, who needs to hear the good news that God loves them, and that there is meaning in life.

Others look at the outward appearances, but God sees the heart. And Christians should see, not a refugee, not a foreigner, not an untouchable, not a homeless or drug-addicted statistic, not someone who’s drunk too much and is headed for a brush with the police- we should see a child of God.

For if you believe in God, the world looks different. People who seem fit only for charity or pity or worse suddenly seem full of possibilities. As Christians, we have to learn, as Samuel learned in our Old Testament story, to see under the surface: seeing beyond first impressions, beyond a person’s skin colour or nationality or accent or social standing, to the person behind the statistics, the fellow human being, a child of God like us.

When we celebrate the Sacraments in church, we take ordinary things- bread and wine, or today for young water for baptism, and we set them aside and treat them as if they were special. It is not that they are any different than any other bread, wine or water. But for people of faith, they come to have inner meanings, spiritual meanings. So we talk of water which washes away sin and bread and wine which is the body and blood of Christ. Another example: this building, this place where we meet, is only wood and stone and iron. Yet for people of faith, it becomes the house of God when we worship here. With faith, you can begin to be able to see the world differently.

And you begin to see people differently. And then all kinds of things are possible. If you can learn to see Jesus Christ in bread and wine, and believe in forgiveness just because water is poured out, and building as the house of God, then you can also start to see people differently. In faith, you look at other people and see something beautiful and unique in each of them. For they are children of God, the neighbours whom Christ has commanded you to love, whoever they are, however they look. For the gift of faith is that we see the world in a whole new way.

And, if we will accept it in faith, it is God’s gift to us to know that God judges us differently from the world around us. We who know of God’s love are not immune to our culture’s obsession with fashion and looks and status. But if we know that we are children of God, then that is a wonderful status already.

A few years ago, Susan Boyle appeared on Britain’s Got Talent. She didn’t look like a star, but turned out she had an amazing voice. But even if she had never been ‘discovered’ by Britain’s Got Talent, even if she’d never become famous, she would still have the knowledge that she is a child of God, that she is loved by God. And there were already lives touched by her: press reports spoke of her volunteering with her local Church and looking after her siblings and elderly mother. Susan Boyle might have impressed Simon Cowell, but in God’s eyes she was a great person already.

And if we will accept it, each of us are seen by God differently. We may be apparently ordinary, but we are God’s children. And the everyday things that we do in our lives are judged differently by God as well. So when we do a small thing for the Kingdom- a smile, a helping hand, something which perhaps no-one even knows about, but only God knows about- then that, says Jesus is a bit like the mustard seed. What we think is great and what God knows is great can be very different. So go from here and sow the seeds of kindness, of goodness and of love. Forget whether what you do is cool or fashionable or will make you famous. For God judges these things differently. And in the end, only God’s judgement of you, of who you are and what you do, really matters.

Ascription of Praise

The God of grace who calls you all
to his eternal glory in Christ
restore, establish and strengthen you.
All power belongs to God for ever and ever, Amen.

Based on 1 Peter 5.10-11: c.f. BCO 1994, p584

Biblical references from the Good News Bible, unless otherwise stated

© 2018 Peter W Nimmo

Orders of Service for Sunday 17 June 2018

You can download a copy of the Orders of Service here

Singing in all circumstances : sermon for 10 June 2018

Scripture Readings: Colossians 3.12-17

Luke 7.29-35

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

When we go to war, we have marching songs. When we find romance, we have love songs. When we love to dance to music- whether it’s Scottish country dance music, or the heavy beat at a night club, or the various forms of ballroom. Our entertainment is full of music- not just concerts, but it’s in the background to our films and television dramas. Who can forget the zither music of The Third Man or the double based terror of Jaws? I saw a play recently where the on-stage players were an absolutely vital part of the action: Amadeus (which has also been a film) – the story of Mozart and his rival, Salieri, a story which could hardly be told without music. Sometimes our music is sublime, sometimes it’s trashy- but we humans are musical animals, and it’s hard to imagine life without music.

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Order of Service for Sunday 10 June 2018

You can download a copy of the Order here

Sunday Bulletin 3 June 2018

Sunday 10 June 2018: Proper 5
10am Morning Worship at St Stephen’s
11.15 am Morning Worship at the Old High
(Laying up of the Colours of Inverness and Highland Branch
of the Parachute Regiment Association)
ANNUAL MEETING OF THE CONGREGATION will take place during our Sunday morning worship today. We will be looking back on 2017, with a financial report from our Treasurer. Coffee and tea after the service will give a chance for feedback. The accounts and budget, which have been approved by our Kirk Session, are now available via our website at http://www.oldhighststephens.com/2018/05/17/annual-accounts-2017/. For a paper copy, please contact our Church Administrator, Pat MacLeod: there are also copies at the church doors today. More details from our Depute Christine MacKenzie.
ACTION TEAMS 2017-18 REPORTS
PASTORAL CARE TEAM 2017-18 During the past year the Pastoral Care Team has organised two short Communion Services, specifically for the elderly and housebound, and an annual Afternoon Tea. At Christmas they arranged for cards to be sent out to members who are often unable to come to Church. They also were responsible for organising the Giving Tree in both church buildings and Cliff Sim at St Stephen’s and Diana Fraser and Sheila MacLeod at Old High saw to the distribution of all the gifts. Bulbs are also delivered to the recently bereaved.
Throughout the year there is a monthly lunch at the Craigmonie Hotel and transport is provided. Members of the Team also assist elders by visiting elderly or sick members of the congregation. Three Team members also are part of the Friends of Cameron House. This specialist Home, in our parish, for people with dementia, is a CrossReach establishment and we are happy to be involved. Val Cantlay Convenor, Pastoral Care Team
OUTREACH AND COMMUNICATION ACTION TEAM There has been a lot of discussion at our meetings this year about further ideas for future outreach, without any decisions being reached, and it was felt we needed further guidance on the way forward. The Christian Aid coffee morning took place on 12 May at St Stephen’s and was judged to be very successful. The plant stall in particular benefited from the good weather and was very popular. The sum of £950 was raised. Finding volunteers for the door-to-door collection is becoming increasingly difficult, but the collection is continuing this year. Our team is very small and it is proposed that it merges with the Social and Fundraising Team which is equally short of numbers. Jennifer Morrison
NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION
SOUTHSIDE NURSING HOME There will be a short service, led by Jim Alexander, at Southside Nursing Home immediately after this morning’s service at St Stephen’s. If you are able to assist with the singing, your assistance would be much appreciated. Please speak to Jim after the service. We still also seek members willing to lead these services on a rota basis; please contact Janet Robertson janetnfraserbtinternet.com.
CHRISTIAN AID WEEK 2018 Many thanks to all who helped in any way with the Christian Aid effort this year at Old High St Stephen’s, whether as a baker, kitchen helper, server, stallholder, plant grower, house to house collector, money counter, coffee drinker or you gave a donation. The sums raised this year, compared to last year are:
2018            2017
Total House to House                                  2,577.27      3,271.55
Church Collection                                            693.76        584.25
Coffee Morning                                             1,024.00       880.95
                                                                  4,295.03    4,736.75
Add Charity Cheque to House to House      120.00      220.00
Add Gift Aid                                                        502.11      472.00
                                                                  4,917.14    5,428.75
The House to House is down this year, mainly due to a reduced number of collectors, but the church collection and coffee morning have both increased a bit and so compensate a little. A great effort – thanks again. Ken Cantlay.
SUNDAY EVENING DISCUSSION GROUP will meet in St Stephen’s vestry on Sundays 3rd and 17th June and 1st July to complete its reading of Rowan Williams’ book “Being Disciples”. Contact Andrew Stevenson.
KIRK SESSION The next meeting will be held on Tuesday 5 June at 7.30pm in the Old High Hall. Contact Linda Philip lindajphiliphotmail.com
OHSS MAGAZINE editor Willie Morrison requires articles and photos for the June issue. Please submit whatever you can, as early as possible, by e-mail to williekenilweb. The deadline is Friday 15 June.
HIGHLAND FOODBANK During the months of June and July the Foodbank would welcome donations of the following: Cartons of Long Life Juice; Breakfast Cereals; Tins of Potatoes, Corned Beef, Tomatoes. Thank you to all who regularly bring donations of food. It is much appreciated. Bill Guthrie williamguthriegooglemail.com
OLD HIGH CHURCH OPENING 2-4pm each Friday afternoon. Summer Opening programme from Friday 1 June to Friday 28 September; opening times: Tuesday to Friday inclusive 10am -12 noon and 2-4pm. Contact Sheila MacLeod maclosheiaol.com
OLD HIGH MUSIC: HIGHLAND YOUNG MUSICIANS Saturday 9 June at 12 noon. the annual concert by young musicians. Feedback from previous years placed this as a highlight of the whole season. This year the recital is being organised by the Agar Trust, which supports aspiring young musicians with exceptional musical abilities, who are living in rural parts of Scotland, pursue their music education. There will be piano, flute, French Horn, tuba and bagpipe performances. Details from Andrew Stevenson at stevenson.atabtinternet.com
OLD HIGH HALLS RENTALS If anyone can take this role on, please get in touch with Christine Mackenzie.
TREASURER VACANCY Sandy Cumming is standing down as our Treasurer after several years of service. We urgently need someone to fill this vital role! If you are interested, or know someone who might be willing to serve in this way, please contact Sandy Cumming.
PASTORAL CARE Peter, or the Rev Arthur Sinclair, our Pastoral Assistant, should be informed of anyone ill at home or in hospital.
SUNDAY BULLETIN ITEMS should be sent to the Church Administrator at invernesschurchgmail.com. Deadline Wednesday at 12 noon. Please keep all items as brief as possible, and include contact details (phone and/or email).
OTHER NEWS
ELEVATE HIGHLANDS next meeting is on Friday 1 June at Barn Church, Culloden, with worship, a message, some fun messy games (expect to get wet – spare clothes advised!) and BBQ. Don’t miss it! Doors at 7:15pm, for a 7:30 start. For S3-S6 but a special welcome to those currently in S2. For full details please follow our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elevatehighland or contact Greg Youngson elevatehighlandgmail.com
VOCATIONS INFORMATION DAY Saturday 9 June 2018 at Doubletree Hilton by Dunblane Hydro, Dunblane. For those with an interest in Ministry of Word and Sacrament, Diaconal Ministry or Readership, and as a much wider exploration of the ministry of the whole people of God; compulsory for potential candidates for ministry. . For more information, speak to the Minister or visit http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/serve/ministries_council/education_and_support/vocations-information-day

Common clay pots: a Reflection for Sunday 3 June 2018

This reflection was given during our Sunday Service which also acted as our Congregational Annual Meeting, and included a report from our Treasurer

Scripture Readings: Mark 2:23-3:6

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

It’s a bit odd for me to be reviewing the year 2017 in the life of our congregation, not least as I spent most of that year off for health reasons. As I returned to work towards the end of the year, I remember vividly feeling an overwhelming emotion of thankfulness. This year is the seventieth anniversary of the National Health Service- and I give thanks daily for the people and the technology that have enabled me to return back to work after what could have been a very debilitating problem with my heart.

But I am also thankful for what happened in this congregation during that time.

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Order of Service for Sunday 3 June 2018

You can download a copy of the Order here

Annual Accounts 2017

Our annual accounts for 2017 are now available to view here.

The proposed budget for 2018 is available to view here.

We will be hearing from our Treasurer at the Annual Meeting of the Congregation, which will take place during worship on Sunday 3 June. This will be a Congregational Service at St Stephen’s at 10am (no service at Old High that day).

Sunday Bulletin 27 May 2018

Sunday 3 June 2018: Proper 4

10am Congregational Service, with Annual Meeting at St Stephen’s
(No service at Old High Church)
NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION
SACARMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION will be celebrated at the Old High today. All welcome at the Lord’s Table. The Retiring Offering will be in aid of Mikey’s Line a text-for-support helpline which is supported by a volunteer bank of young people over weekends. It provides a valuable service for young people who are too distressed to talk over the phone. The Hive, is a drop-in centre in Academy Street, which is run by the Mikey’s Line charity and offers advice for anyone over 17 who feels they need help. www.mikeysline.co.uk.
CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR THE OLD HIGH CHURCH Architect Alan Marshall will present his interim report to the Congregation on Saturday 2 June from 10.30am until 12.30 pm, in the Old high Church: Do come along and hear his ideas! Contact: Jim Alexander jbdalex<at>yahoo.com.
ANNUAL MEETING OF THE CONGREGATION will take place during our Sunday morning worship on Sunday 3 June. This will be a congregational service at St Stephen’s at 10am (no service at Old High). We will be looking back on 2017, with reports from our Treasurer and Session Clerk. Coffee and tea after the service will give a chance for feedback. The accounts are now available via our website at http://www.oldhighststephens.com/2018/05/17/annual-accounts-2017/. For a paper copy, please conact our Church Administrator, Pat MacLeod. More details from Christine MacKenzie.
OHSS MAGAZINE editor Willie Morrison requires articles and photos for the June issue. Please submit whatever you can, as early as possible, by e-mail to willie<at>kenilweb.com. The deadline is Friday 15 June.
CRAFT EVENING St Stephen’s Hall 7.30–9pm, Wednesday 30 May. Come along with your craft or if you wish to learn a craft you will be made very welcome. At present there is knitting, crochet, cross stitch, tapestry and card making but we would welcome any other craft. Refreshments. Margaret McAleer.
HIGHLAND FOODBANK would be grateful for donations of the following items: Tins of Potatoes, Tins of Mince/Stew, Cartons of UHT Milk, and Sugar. Please bring these to Church and leave in the Food boxes provided. Thank you! Bill Guthrie williamguthrie<at>googlemail.com
OLD HIGH CHURCH OPENING 2-4pm each Friday afternoon. Summer Opening programme from Friday 1 June to Friday 28 September; opening times: Tuesday to Friday inclusive 10am -12 noon and 2-4pm. Contact Sheila MacLeod macloshei<at>aol.com
OLD HIGH CHURCH OPENING VOLUNTEERS Meeting on Tuesday 22 May at 2pm in the Old High Church to finalise arrangements for the Summer Opening. New Volunteers welcome. More information from Sheila MacLeod macloshei<at>aol.com.
MEET & EAT We meet for Lunch at 12.30pm on Thursday 31 May at the Craigmonie Hotel, Annfield Road.  All welcome. To book your place please contact Val Cantlay val.cantlay<at>btinternet.com
OLD HIGH MUSIC: HIGHLAND YOUNG MUSICIANS Saturday 9 June at 12 noon. the annual concert by young musicians. Feedback from previous years placed this as a highlight of the whole season. This year the recital is being organised by the Agar Trust, which supports aspiring young musicians with exceptional musical abilities, who are living in rural parts of Scotland, pursue their music education. There will be piano, flute, French Horn, tuba and bagpipe performances. More details from Andrew Stevenson at stevenson.ata<at>btinternet.com
OLD HIGH HALLS RENTALS If anyone can take this role on, please get in touch with Christine Mackenzie.
TREASURER VACANCY Sandy Cumming is standing down as our Treasurer after several years of service. We urgently need someone to fill this vital role! If you are interested, or know someone who might be willing to serve in this way, please contact Sandy Cumming.
PASTORAL CARE Peter, or the Rev Arthur Sinclair, our Pastoral Assistant, should be informed of anyone ill at home or in hospital.
SUNDAY BULLETIN ITEMS should be sent to the Church Administrator at invernesschurch<at>gmail.com. Deadline Wednesday at 12 noon. Please keep all items as brief as possible, and include contact details (phone and/or email).

‘Fire and Water’: Sermon for Pentecost 2018 21 May 2018

Scripture Readings: Acts 2:1-21

 John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

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

I’m tempted to start today with a poll, and ask you all what you watched on TV yesterday. Did you watch the royal wedding, or the FA cup final? Or did you sit at your computer and watch the live feed from Edinburgh of the opening day of the Church of Scotland General Assembly? Or maybe you read a book, or took a walk in the countryside? (It was my day off yesterday, so as my son, Daniel, was a guard on a steam train on the Strathspey Railway, so I took a trip with him!).

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