Old High St. Stephen's, Inverness

Welcome to Old High St Stephen's Church, Inverness

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Funeral Announcement – Mrs Fraser Fraser

Mrs Mary Fraser, Diriebught Road, Inverness has died.

Mrs Fraser’s funeral service will be held on Thursday 2 May at 10.45am at the funeral home of W T Fraser, 5 Culduthel Crescent, Inverness IV2 6AB.

Further details from the Funeral Director, W T Fraser (01463) 243232

Sunday Bulletin 21 April 2019

WORSHIP THIS WEEK

Sunday 28 April 2019: Second Sunday of Easter

10am  Congregational Service at St Stephen’s: Annual Meeting and Ordination of New Elder

No Service at the Old High

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION (Contact details from the Church Administrator)

NEXT SUNDAY: CONGREGATIONAL SERVICE AT ST STEPHEN’S For our Annual Meeting, we will hold a Congregational Service at St Stephen’s at 10am (no service at Old High). We will hear a report from our Treasurer, Ken Cantlay, look back on the year 2018, and have the joy ordaining a new elder, Rosa McDermid. Join us in the hall afterwards where you can ask questions and enjoy discussion! Our Accounts are now available: copies are at the door of the Church, or you can contact our Church Administrator for copies.

KIRK SESSION will meet at 9.45am next Sunday in connection with the Ordination the new elder. More details from Christine Mackenzie.

LOCAL CHURCH REVIEW The Presbytery’s regular 5 yearly Local Church Review (LCR) for Old High St Stephen’s is now underway. The visiting team are Rev Ian Manson (Kilmorack and Erchless), Rev Robert Brookes (Cawdor and Croy), Sheila Proudfoot (Ness Bank) and Jim Anderson (also Ness Bank). The team have already met with the Leadership Group and this was a very good meeting. The next step is to meet with the Kirk Session and Congregation. This meeting will be held in the Old High Church Hall on Saturday 27 April from 10.00 – 11.45 am. Refreshments will be provided from 9.30 am. This is an important meeting as it gives everyone an opportunity to have input into the future of our congregation going forward and particularly towards moving to one place of worship, please come if you can. If you have any questions on this Review please speak to the Minister, or to Christine MacKenzie. The Rev Ian Manson has provided the details of the purpose of the meeting: see separate page, which you should bring along on the day.

OLD HIGH CHURCH OPENING PROGRAMME 2019 The Old High Church will be open from 2-4 pm each Friday afternoon from 19 April until 31 May. The Summer Opening Programme will commence on Tuesday 4 June (10am-12 noon and 2-4pm) on Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday and Friday each week. We are organising an Open Afternoon for new Volunteers next month. It is not too late to join the Team. For more information please contact Sheila MacLeod.

Old High Music On Saturday 27 April at 12 noon we are delighted to welcome back Kevin Duggan, Director of Music at Dunblane Cathedral. Some of you will remember the outstanding organ recital he gave in 2017. For this occasion he has crafted together a programme around the theme “Danish Connections”, covering the period from Buxtehude in the 17th century, via Nielsen in the 20th to his own composition – all of which he will introduce on the day. We hope that many of those attending the Congregational Meeting in the OH Hall that morning will come across to the church afterwards to enjoy this hour of music. Brochures are at the doors detailing the recitals for 2019. More details from Andrew Stevenson. Join the Music Email list: ohssmusic<at>gmail.com.

St Stephen’s Church and Community Choir present ‘May’s Miscellany’ – a concert to uplift the spirit- at the One Touch Theatre, Eden Court at 7.30pm on Wednesday 8 May. This is our debut at Eden Court where we look forward to your continued support. We are lucky to be supported by two local young musicians, Sandy Scott-Brown (cello) and Catriona Mackenzie (piano) who I am sure will delight you with their skill and musicianship. The proceeds from this concert will go to the Calman Trust. Tickets (£12) are available from Eden Court though please ask any choir member to assist if you have difficulty accessing the box office. Contact Pam McCulloch.

MEET & EAT There will be a Lunch at 12.30pm at the Craigmonie Hotel on Thursday 25 April. Everyone is welcome. Further information from Val Cantlay (231 298) val.cantlay@btinternet.com

HIGHLAND FOOD BANK I received a letter from Highland Food Bank thanking us for our continued support. The requests for April and May are for deodorant for men and women, tins of corned beef and tins of potatoes. Margaret Neville.

RETIRING OFFERING We collected the fantastic sum of £501.37 for the Flood Appeal for East Africa and the money has now been forwarded to Christian Aid. Ken Cantlay.

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

CHRISTIAN AID COFFEE MORNING The coffee morning will be held on Saturday 11 May in St Stephen’s Hall from 10am to 12 noon. There will be the usual baking and gardening stalls for which donations will be welcome and they can be dropped off at St Stephen’s vestry on Friday 10 May at 7.30pm. The hall will be available the same evening for setting up. Tickets will be available at St Stephen’s on 28 April and at both churches on 5 May. Further information from Jennifer Morrison.

CHRISTIAN AID WEEK 12-18 MAY 2019 collection envelopes available for collectors to pick up at both churches today. Contact Deborah Macrae if you have any questions or if you want to become a collector. All help welcome.

READERS AT OLD HIGH WANTED Our band of regular readers at the Old High on Sunday mornings is gradually diminishing. Please contact Margaret Young if you would like to swell our numbers. Thanks.

TABLE FOR SALE We have a handsome wooden table at the Old High Church which is surplus to requirements, and for sale to any member in return for a donation. If you interested, please contact Pat MacLeod, Church Administrator.

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

PRESBYTERY OF INVERNESS

Local Church Review: Old High St Stephen’s

Congregational meeting

Saturday 27th April, 10.00 – 11.45, Old High Church Hall

The meeting will be led by four people appointed by the Presbytery to be the Local Church Review team for the parish: Rev Ian Manson, Rev Robert Brookes, Sheila Proudfoot and Jim Anderson.  Their role is to help the congregation to produce its five-year plan.

The time will be divided into three sessions…

  1. Thinking about the context we find ourselves in and the broader picture of what is happening in the Church of Scotland, as a basis for starting to think about what are the most important tasks facing our church today.
  1. Thinking more specifically about our own situation, and stepping out of our immediate concerns, we will think about what we would like our church to be known for in ten years’ time.
  1. Thinking more practically about what steps we might take to move towards what we would like to become, and how we might come up with a plan for the next five years which can take us in that direction.

Rev Ian Manson

Review Team Convenor

Hope, joy and resurrection! Sermon for Easter Sunday 2019

Scripture Readings: John 20:1-18

Isaiah 65:17-25

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

You couldn’t miss the story of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, during this Holy Week. Thankfully, no-one was hurt in Paris, but much worse has happend this morning in Sri Lanka, where many people seem to have been killed and injured in terrorist attacks on hotels, and on churches where people were gathering for Easter Sunday. The people of Sri Lanka really need our prayers today.

In Paris, the damage to Notre Dame wasn’t quite as extensive as the images of the roof ablaze on Monday night first suggested. Those pictures of that great roof on fire were heart rending, but I’m sure many of you, like me, were struck by the images we saw of the inside of the building after the fire; above all, those pictures which showed the great gold cross above the altar, apparently unharmed, amid the rubble, soot and ashes of destruction.

Read More

Holy Week and Easter services

This year we are sharing Holy Week with our friends at Ness Bank Church of Scotland and St John’s and St Michael’s Episcopal Churches. Do join us as we prepare for Easter!

Holy Week 15-19 April 2019

Monday

7pm Taizé service at St John’s Episcopal Church, Southside Road

Tuesday

6.30pm

Concert by US student choir at Ness Bank Church

Wednesday

7pm Reflecting on Holy Week at St Stephen’s

Maundy Thursday

7pm Communion at Ness Bank

Good Friday

The Old High Church will be open for reflection, 2-4pm
7.30pm Good Friday Evening Service with Musik Fyne,  St Michael’s Abban Street

Holy Saturday

8pm Easter Vigil at St John’s Episcopal Church, Southside Road

Easter Sunday

Services as usual at 10am (St Stephen’s) and 11.15am (Old High)

Sunday Bulletin 14 April 2019

WORSHIP THIS WEEK
Tonight
7.30pm Faith for the Future: Lent Study and Worship
at St Stephen’s
Sunday 21 April 2019: Easter Sunday
10am Morning Worship at St Stephen’s
11:15am Morning Worship at the Old High
NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION
SERVICES FOR HOLY WEEK AND EASTER This year we are sharing Holy Week with our friends at Ness Bank Church of Scotland and St John’s and St Michael’s Episcopal Churches. Please join us as we prepare for Easter:
Holy Week
15-19 April 2019: Monday 7pm Taizé service at St John’s
Tuesday 6.30pm Ness Bank with concert by US student choir to follow
Wednesday 7pm Reflecting on Holy Week at St Stephen’s
Maundy Thursday 7pm Communion at Ness Bank
Good Friday Old High Church open for reflection throughout the day
Good Friday Evening Service with Musik Fyne, 7.30pm St Michael’s Abban Street
Saturday 8pm Easter Eve St John’s
Easter Sunday services as usual at 10am (St Stephen’s) and 11.15am (Old High)
PASTORAL CARE Peter, or your Elder, should be informed of anyone ill at home or in hospital.
SOUTHSIDE NURSING HOME There will be a short service, led by Malcolm Macrae, at Southside Nursing Home immediately after this morning’s service at St Stephen’s. If you are able to assist with the singing, or chatting to the residents, this would be much appreciated: speak to Malcolm after the service. We also seek members willing to lead these service on a rota basis; contact Janet Robertson.
OLD HIGH CHURCH OPENING 2019 Last year we had over 6,500 visitors visit the Old High Church, many of them from around the world. However we are finding that more and more local people are taking the chance to visit the building. We have had hundreds of prayer tags put on the Prayer Tree, so it’s obvious we are meeting a real spiritual need for a quiet space in our busy city centre. Please do consider giving a few hours to be part of this fantastic outreach by our congregation. Prospective volunteers are invited to meeting on Monday 15 April at 2pm in the Old High Church to plan the programme for this year. New members welcome. If you can spare two hours per week/month to show people around the church please come along to the meeting or contact Sheila MacLeod.
CRAFT EVENING St Stephen’s Hall 7.30-9pm, Wednesday 17 April. Crafters and non-crafters welcome (you may wish to learn a craft). Friendly atmosphere and refreshments provided. Margaret McAleer.
OLD HIGH MUSIC On Saturday 27 April at 12 noon we are delighted to welcome back Kevin Duggan, Director of Music at Dunblane Cathedral. Some of you will remember the outstanding organ recital he gave in 2017. For this occasion he has crafted together a programme around the theme “Danish Connections”, covering the period from Buxtehude in the 17th century, via Nielsen in the 20th to his own composition – all of which he will introduce on the day. We hope that many of those attending the Congregational Meeting in the OH Hall that morning will come across to the church afterwards to enjoy this hour of music. Brochures are at the doors detailing the recitals for 2019. More details from Andrew Stevenson. Join the Music Email list: ohssmusic<at>gmail.com
LOCAL CHURCH REVIEW The Presbytery’s regular 5 yearly Local Church Review (LCR) for Old High St Stephen’s is now underway. The visiting team are Rev Ian Manson (Kilmorack and Erchless), Rev Robert Brookes (Cawdor and Croy), Sheila Proudfoot (Ness Bank) and Jim Anderson (also Ness Bank). The team have already met with the Leadership Group and this was a very good meeting. The next step is to meet with the Kirk Session and Congregation. This meeting will be held in the Old High Church Hall on Saturday 27 April from 10.00 – 11.45 am. Refreshments will be provided from 9.30 am. This is an important meeting as it gives everyone an opportunity to have input into the future of our congregation going forward and particularly towards moving to one place of worship, please come if you can. A list of questions from the LCR team will be made available shortly and these will be included in the Order of Service. There is an organ recital in the Old High from 12 noon and hopefully many will wish to attend that after the meeting. On the following day Sunday 28 April we have a Congregational Service at St Stephen’s which will include the Ordination of a new elder and the Congregation’s Annual Meeting. Therefore it’s a busy weekend with lots of important events to attend. If you have any questions on this Review please speak to the Minister, or to Christine MacKenzie.
CHRISTIAN AID WEEK 12-18 MAY 2019 collection envelopes available for collectors to pick up at both churches today. Ccontact Deborah Macrae if you have any questions or if you want to become a collector. All help welcome.
CHRISTIAN AID COFFEE MORNING Saturday 11 May in St Stephen’s Hall. There will be the usual plant stall for which contributions will be welcome. Contact Jennifer Morrison for further information.
LENT STUDY: FAITH FOR THE FUTURE this evening, 7.30-8.30pm at St Stephen’s. All welcome, even if you’ve not attended previously.
TABLE FOR SALE We have a handsome wooden table at the Old High Church which is surplus to requirements, and for sale to any member in return for a donation. If you interested, please contact Pat MacLeod, Church Administrator.
SUNDAY BULLETIN Please send items for this sheet to our Church Administrator: Mrs Pat MacLeod (079 342 85924 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.

The Strange Power of the Cross: Sermon for Palm/Passion Sunday 14 April 2019

Scripture Readings: Luke 19:28-40

Luke 23.1-5, 13-48

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

View of the Scottish Parliament. The ruined Holy Rood Abbey can be seen just behind the royal palace of Holyrood

This week, an American asked my why our Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh is known as ‘Holyrood’. He said he could see that it was something holy, but what was a ‘rood’? I explained that the Parliament stood near the ruins of the Abbey of the Holy Rood- the word ‘rood’ is an old word, from German or Scandinavian, for a gallows or a cross. In modern English, the area would be called ‘Holy Cross’. Our Parliament’s name reminds us of the central sign and symbol of the Christian faith. A place of political power has a name which reminds us of a powerful religious symbol: the cross upon which Jesus of Nazareth died.

The cross stands at the heart of the Christian 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, Malta 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.

And the climax of this story is one week in Jerusalem. That’s why the Church traditionally makes much of Holy Week, when our thoughts turn to those events in Jerusalem. It’s been called ‘the longest week in history’. A week that begins with crowds welcoming their saviour, and ends with the same crowds turning against him. All played out in a seething cauldron of national and religious passions. For this is an occupied city, ruled by a superpower, but whose people have a staunch sense of their own identity, bolstered by their unique religion- although there are different sects to contend with. Perhaps it wasn’t so different from Jerusalem today.

And into this cauldron Jesus rides on a donkey. And since people in complicated situations very often like simple solutions, they greet him. Surely he’s the Messiah, promised by the prophets. Surely this is God intervening decisively in favour of his chosen people, getting ready to free Israel from Roman rule?

Yes, God is involved- but not in the way they thought. God’s story is not the story the crowds would like to have. By Friday, the sense of disappointment is palpable. He’s not the Messiah they waited for. He’s not done what they expected of him. And behind the scenes, powerful men- their religious elite- have swung the will of the crowd in another direction. Those who on Sunday shouted ‘Hosanna’ will by Friday cry ‘Crucify him!’

It’s one of the great turnarounds in history- how the Jerusalem crowd changed its mind. And it’s frightening story- for we know that this story is true. Not simply historically true- that it happened back then. But true of any crowd of people, in any age. We love to build up heroes, and knock them down. And whereas a few priests and scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees could manipulate the first-century Jerusalem crowd, today our modern media takes these things into a new dimension. Now millions can be swayed to love or hate a public figure by journalists and publicists, or by even by otherwise ordinary people getting caught up in a social media frenzy.

When Jesus stood before Pilate, on trial for his life, he would have known that his public who once loved him had now turned against him. But he was not motivated by some need to be loved by the crowd, like a modern showbiz star. Much more important for Jesus was that he did God’s will. That wasn’t easy- before his arrest, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed that God would take away the fate awaiting him. But in the end, he stuck to his principles. God came before the crowd. The passion of Jesus is, above all, the story of man who did what was right, regardless of what the public thought of him, regardless of the cost to him.

We Christians have thought a lot about Christ’s death over the centuries. The Bible itself, and preachers and theologians since, have seen all sorts of meaning in this death of Jesus. Hymn writers have been inspired by it- Isaac Watts wrote about surveying ‘the wondrous cross’, Thomas Kelly called it, ‘the balm of life, the cure of woe’. Graham Kendrick says that Jesus gave his life ‘that we might live’[1]. The cross, an instrument of his execution- has become the symbol of Christianity. We call the day he died ‘Good Friday’. What can be good about the cross? How can we say anything positive about the spectacle of an innocent man put to death for preaching about the love of God? For surely it’s disturbing to spend so much time reflecting on death, as Christians do? Surely we could find a cheerier story than this to live by?

But I think the story of Jesus’ death cross is a realistic story. For when you think about the story of Christ’s journey to the cross, it brings you face to face with how the world really is if you look at the cross, you’re forced to look at the world as it really is. The political machinations which put Jesus on the cross are revealed for what they really are. For the Roman Empire was built, not on noble ideas, but on slavery, oppression and terror. The religious leaders who put Jesus on the cross are revealed for what they are- not noble guardians of God’s word, but small-minded bigots who would rather an innocent man died than they lost their power over the people.

The cross tells us the truth about power, and corruption, and the depths to which people will sink. The cross tells us the truth about humanity, and so it tells us the truth about ourselves. People who know the story of Christ, and how he came to die on the cross, should not be surprised that people are persecuted for their beliefs. For the story of Christ is the story of a good man who spoke the truth, and was killed for doing so. We who know the story of Holy Week should not be surprised to hear politicians use religion as an excuse to discriminate against others because they are of a different faith, race, or nationality, for the Holy Week story a story about powerful people using religion to whip up hatred. And we who know the story of Holy Week know, in our heart of hearts, that it’s not just other people who are sinners. We know that we, too could so easily have been in the crowd that shouts ‘Hosanna’ on Sunday and ‘Crucify him’ on Friday.

Holy Week is a dark tale of religion being used for terrible ends. And we are all too aware that that still happens today- almost every day we hear on the news of atrocities carried out or prejudices justified by an appeal to one religion or another. In many parts of the world, there are people who rise to power claiming to defend their particular religions community from “non-believers”. This has happened in Islam, it happened in India with Hinduism. The Rohingya people of Burma have been pushed out of their homes in Burma because their Muslim religion is seen as a threat to the Buddhist culture of Burma. Extreme nationalism and bigotry are too often made respectable by claims to be defending religion.

It has also happened many times in Christian history. Leaders love to claim that they have God in their side. Right wing politicians in America have long claimed that their Christian culture is under attack. They use religious language, and stir up people by playing to their religious feelings. We are also starting to see that happen across Europe, too. We hear people talking about how ‘Christian Europe’ is being undermined by various dark forces. Sometimes they blame secularism. Sometimes they blame immigrants, especially Muslims. And sometimes these people who talk about defending ‘Christian culture’ give the game away, when they blame the Jews. For the Nazis, too, used to like to try to use religion to justify what they were getting up to.

Whenever we hear people saying they are trying defend a Christian culture, we should be very, very suspicious. For the chanced are that, like the leaders of Jesus day, they are trying to sway the crowd for their own ends. Holy Week is a story of religious and political leaders manipulating public opinion to make it possible for Jesus to be put to death. And we who know the story of Holy Week should shudder, for we know that it is still possible, and that even in our own age, people can use religion to manipulate the crowd for evil ends.

And so repentance is necessary- and forgiveness is possible. In Luke’s account of the death of Jesus, there is one person- an unlikely person- who understands the need for turning to God:

One of the criminals hanging there hurled insults at [Jesus]: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

The other one, however, rebuked him, saying, “Don’t you fear God? You received the same sentence he did. Ours, however, is only right, because we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong.”

And he said to Jesus, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!”

Jesus said to him, “I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me.”

That second criminal understood that the death of Jesus had meaning for him. And if we can admit that the story of the cross tells us the truth about ourselves- that we are all broken, that none of us is perfect, that we are all make mistakes- terrible mistakes- then we begin to see that the cross tells us the truth about God as well.

We like power, we are attracted by power, but the power of the cross is a strange power. The power of the cross is in its powerlessness. For the cross of Christ shows us a God who does not side with powerful people who think they’ve no need to repent. The God we meet on the cross is a God who stands alongside the weak and powerless and humble. The kingship of Christ is represented by him riding on the humblest of animals, a donkey. The God we find in the story of Jesus is a God who aligns himself with others who suffer. And so even as he dies, he can promise a criminal, another condemned man, ‘Today you will be in Paradise with me’. That’s his promise to anyone who turns to him, in faith and in humility.

The story of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter is full of truth about our world, and about ourselves, and about our God. It reminds us how religion can be misused for evil ends. The cross convinces us of our need for repentance. And it also shows us the means of forgiveness. For we can all pray, ‘Remember me, Jesus’, and know the promises he offers.

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

© 2019 Peter W Nimmo

Notes

[1] CH4 392, 405, 374

Funeral Announcement – Mr Alistair Leckie

Mr Alistair Leckie, formerly of Murray Road, Smithton, Inverness, died on 6 April 2019.

Mr Leckie’s funeral will be held on Monday 15 April at 12.30pm at the Old High Church, Church Street, Inverness IV1 1EY.

Further details from the Funeral Director D Chisholm & Sons, Huntly Street, Inverness IV3 5HP (01463) 712255

Sunday Bulletin 7 April 2019

WORSHIP THIS WEEK
Tonight
7.30pm Faith for the Future: Lent Study and Worship
at St Stephen’s
Sunday 14 April 2019: Palm and Passion Sunday
10am Morning Worship at St Stephen’s
11:15am Morning Worship at the Old High
NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION (Contact details from Church Administrator)
PASTORAL COVER Peter will be on holiday from 5-12 April inclusive. For any urgent pastoral needs, please contact your elder, or the Rev Alastair Younger
OLD HIGH CHURCH OPENING 2019 Last year we had over 6,500 visitors visit the Old High Church, many of them from around the world. However we are finding that more and more local people are taking the chance to visit the building. We have had hundreds of prayer tags put on the Prayer Tree, so it’s obvious we are meeting a real spiritual need for a quiet space in our busy city centre. Please do consider giving a few hours to be part of this fantastic outreach by our congregation. Prospective volunteers are invited to meeting on Monday 15 April at 2pm in the Old High Church to plan the programme for this year. New members welcome. If you can spare two hours per week/month to show people around the church please come along to the meeting or contact Sheila MacLeod
OLD HIGH MUSIC On Saturday 27 April at 12 noon we are delighted to welcome back Kevin Duggan, Director of Music at Dunblane Cathedral. Some of you will remember the outstanding organ recital he gave in 2017. For this occasion he has crafted together a programme around the theme “Danish Connections”, covering the period from Buxtehude in the 17th century, via Nielsen in the 20th to his own composition – all of which he will introduce on the day. We hope that many of those attending the Congregational Meeting in the OH Hall that morning will come across to the church afterwards to enjoy this hour of music. Brochures are at the doors detailing the recitals for 2019. More details from Andrew Stevenson. Join the Music Email list: ohssmusicgmail.com.
LOCAL CHURCH REVIEW The Presbytery’s regular 5 yearly Local Church Review (LCR) for Old High St Stephen’s is now underway. The visiting team are Rev Ian Manson (Kilmorack and Erchless), Rev Robert Brookes (Cawdor and Croy), Sheila Proudfoot (Ness Bank) and Jim Anderson (also Ness Bank). The team have already met with the Leadership Group and this was a very good meeting. The next step is to meet with the Kirk Session and Congregation. This meeting will be held in the Old High Church Hall on Saturday 27 April from 10.00 – 11.45 am. Refreshments will be provided from 9.30 am. This is an important meeting as it gives everyone an opportunity to have input into the future of our congregation going forward and particularly towards moving to one place of worship, please come if you can. A list of questions from the LCR team will be made available shortly and these will be included in the Order of Service. There is an organ recital in the Old High from 12 noon and hopefully many will wish to attend that after the meeting. On the following day Sunday 28 April we have a Congregational Service at St Stephen’s which will include the Ordination of a new elder and the Congregation’s Annual Meeting. Therefore it’s a busy weekend with lots of important events to attend. If you have any questions on this Review please speak to the Minister, or to Christine MacKenzie.
CHRISTIAN AID WEEK 12-18 MAY 2019 Christian Aid collection envelopes will be available for collectors to pick up at our churches from Sunday 14 April. Please contact Deborah Macrae if you have any questions or if you want to become a collector. All help welcome.
CHRISTIAN AID COFFEE MORNING Saturday 11 May in St Stephen’s Hall. There will be the usual plant stall for which contributions will be welcome. Contact Jennifer Morrison for further information.
LENT STUDY: FAITH FOR THE FUTURE this evening, 7.30-8.30pm at St Stephen’s. Looking at the prophet Amos as he stands up to authority. Everyone welcome, even if you’ve not attended previously.
TABLE FOR SALE We have a handsome wooden table at the Old High Church which is surplus to requirements, and for sale to any member in return for a donation. If you interested, please contact Pat MacLeod, Church Administrator.
RECORDINGS OF SERVICES If you or someone you know can’t get to church, we have recordings of our services available on CDs or USB sticks (which lets you listen on your computer). Please contact Pat, our Church Administrator, for more information.
SERVICES FOR HOLY WEEK AND EASTER This year we are sharing Holy Week with our friends at Ness Bank Church of Scotland and St John’s and St Michael’s Episcopal Churches. Please join us as we prepare for Easter:
Holy Week
8-13 April 2019: Monday 7pm Taizé service at St John’s
Tuesday 6.30pm Ness Bank with concert by US student choir to follow
Wednesday 7pm Reflecting on Holy Week at St Stephen’s
Maundy Thursday 7pm Communion at Ness Bank
Good Friday Old High Church open for reflection throughout the day
Good Friday Evening Service with Musik Fyne, 7.30pm St Michael’s Abban Street
Saturday 8pm Easter Eve St John’s
Easter Sunday services as usual at 10am (St Stephen’s) and 11.15am (Old High)
SUNDAY BULLETIN Please send items for this sheet to our Church Administrator: Mrs Pat MacLeod (079 342 85924)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 next Sunday (14 April) at 4pm to which all are welcome. Contact David Martin.

Sunday Bulletin 31 March 2019

WORSHIP THIS WEEK

Tonight

7.30pm Faith for the Future: Lent Study and Worship

at St Stephen’s

Sunday 7 April 2019: Fifth Sunday in Lent

10am    Morning Worship at St Stephen’s

11:15am Morning Worship at the Old High

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION – contact details from the Church Administrator invernesschurch<at>gmail.com

RETIRING OFFERING: CHRISTIAN AID DISASTER RELIEF More than 2 million people have been affected by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Many people have been killed and an estimated 400,000 have lost their homes. These devastating tolls are set to rise in the coming days once the full extent of the damage becomes clearer. Those affected- especially those in remote areas- are in desperate need of food, water, clothing, shelter and medicine. Christian Aid is acting as part of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to raise urgent funds. Working with our local partners on the ground in Zimbabwe and Malawi, we are helping to provide much-needed emergency assistance. Please donate to the DEC Cyclone Idai Appeal so we can be there for those in need. There are plates at the door this morning, or you can donate at www.christianaid.org.uk .

LOCAL CHURCH REVIEW The Presbytery’s 5 yearly Local Church Review (LCR) for Old High St Stephen’s is now underway. The visiting team are Rev Ian Manson (Kilmorack and Erchless), Rev Robert Brookes (Cawdor and Croy), Sheila Proudfoot (Ness Bank) and Jim Anderson (also Ness Bank). The team have already met with the Leadership Group and this was a very good meeting

The next step is to meet with the Kirk Session and Congregation. This meeting will be held in the Old High Church Hall on Saturday 27 April from 10.00 – 11.45 am. Refreshments will be provided from 9.30 am. This is an important meeting as it gives everyone an opportunity to have input into the future of our congregation going forward and particularly towards moving to one place of worship, please come if you can. A list of questions from the LCR team will be made available shortly and these will be included in the Order of Service. There is an organ recital in the Old High from 12 noon and hopefully many will wish to attend that after the meeting.

On the following day Sunday 28 April we have a Congregational Service at St Stephen’s which will include the Ordination of two new elders and the Congregation’s Annual Meeting after the service. Therefore it’s a busy weekend with lots of important events to attend. If you have any questions on this Review please speak to the Minister, or to Christine MacKenzie.

LENT STUDY: FAITH FOR THE FUTURE Peter, our minister, is offering a Lent Study and discussion on Sunday nights in Lent. We live in an age of uncertainty, where many fear for the future. Brexit, the rise far right politics, climate change, and much more, are causes of concern for many people. The prophets on the Old Testament spoke to people in their times of uncertainty – what can we learn from them that would help us to have hope today and in the years to come. Can we have a faith for the future? Sunday evenings, starting on this evening, 7.30-8.30pm at St Stephen’s. Contact Peter for more details.

CHURCH MAGAZINE The magazine is in the pews today for distributors to collect. Jennifer Morrison.

HIGHLAND FOOD BANK For the months of February and March they would welcome donations of tins of corned beef, tins of potatoes, small sizes of washing powder and small sizes of washing up liquid. they are particularly short of those items. Many thanks for your continued support. Contact Margaret Neville.

CRAFT EVENING St Stephen’s Hall 7.30–9pm, Wednesday 3 April. Crafters and non-crafters welcome (you may wish to learn a craft). Friendly atmosphere and refreshments provided Jennifer Morrison.

PASTORAL COVER Peter will be on holiday from 5-12 April inclusive. For any urgent pastoral needs, please contact your elder, or the Rev Alastair Younger.

CHRISTIAN AID WEEK 12-18 MAY 2019 Come and help collect for Christian Aid. Please contact Deborah Macrae if you want to find out more. All help welcome.

CHRISTIAN AID COFFEE MORNING Saturday 11 May in St Stephen’s Hall. There will be the usual plant stall for which contributions will be welcome. Contact Jennifer Morrison for further information.

OLD HIGH CHURCH OPENING Once again we are appealing to the congregation to help us open the Old High to visitors this summer. Last year we had over 6,500 visitors, many of them from around the world. However we are finding that more and more local people are taking the chance to visit the building. We have had hundreds of prayer tags put on the Prayer Tree, so it’s obvious we are meeting a real spiritual need for a quiet space in our busy city centre. Please do consider giving a few hours to be part of this fantastic outreach by our congregation. All our volunteers report that it is fascinating, enjoyable, and fulfilling to meet our visitors. If you would like to know more, please contact our Church Administrator, Pat MacLeod.

WORD FOR TODAY The latest free daily readings guide is now in the vestibules of both churches. Contact Ruth Martin.

CROSSREACH Latest news magazine and prayer diary are available at church doors. Rae Swan.

TABLE FOR SALE We have a handsome wooden table at the Old High Church which is surplus to requirements, and for sale to any member in return for a donation. If you interested, please contact Pat MacLeod, Church Administrator.

RECORDINGS OF SERVICES If you or someone you know can’t get to church, we have recordings of our services available on CDs or USB sticks (which lets you listen on your computer). Please contact Pat, our Church Administrator, for more information.

OLD HIGH MUSIC Brochures are at the doors detailing the recitals for 2019. More details from Andrew Stevenson. Join the Music Email list: ohssmusic<at>gmail.com.

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

SUNDAY BULLETIN Our Church Administrator is now on holiday. A request was issued for items for the Sunday Bulletins 24 March and 31 March to be with her before she left, but any additional items should be forwarded to the Minister.

OTHER NEWS

THE WASHINGTON AND LEE UNIVERSITY SINGERS from Lexington, Virginia, USA, will perform at Ness Bank Church on Tuesday 16 April 2019 at 7pm (following Holy Week service at 6.30pm). Concert repertoire includes Irish and Scottish selections, American Folk Hymns, and Spirituals. Free entrance.

“What a Wonderful World” Songs in Celebration of Life, presented by the Inverness Singers in the Crown Church on Wednesday 3 April at 7.30pm. Entry by programme for the suggested donation of £8 (£4 for children and students) available from Ken and Margaret Young, and at the door on the night. A donation from proceeds will be made to Mikeysline. Baking stall. Parking in the Crown School playground.

INK CARTRIDGES RECYCLING If you have individual or accumulated old ink cartridges they can be recycled by putting them in a free post envelope from Currys/PC World. A small supply of these envelopes are available in St Stephen’s front door vestibule. David Martin.

A mother’s care, a father’s welcome: sermon for 31 March 2019

Scripture Readings: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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

Today we get the Gospel in a story. Here is a parable that speaks of sin and guilt- because the Gospel is realistic about the brokenness of humanity. Here is a parable which speaks of grace and forgiveness- because the Gospel is about hope for our broken humanity. It’s a story of hope for each of us, and for our broken world.

It’s a story that began as an answer to grumblers. We might not like grumblers, but sometimes they ask good questions. And so here is Jesus taking on the grumblers:

One day when many tax collectors and other outcasts came to listen to Jesus, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law started grumbling, “This man welcomes outcasts and even eats with them!” So Jesus told them this parable:

HM Revenue and Customs form

Nowadays someone working in the tax office might not be very popular, but it’s a respectable enough job. But the tax collectors of Jesus’ day were lumped in with outcasts because that’s what they were- the hated agents of the Roman occupation forces. But something about Jesus attracted tax collectors and others who were not seen as respectable members of society.

The Church goes wrong if we try too hard to be respectable. For if Jesus was truly at the heart of the Church, we would be attracting the tax collectors and outcasts of today. And as happened in Jesus’ day, we would then attract the scorn of the respectable, the sort of people who think religion belongs to them. If the modern equivalent of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law are grumbling about the sort of people who go to a church, then that church is probably doing something right!

So, Jesus tells a story which is good news to the outcasts, and scandalous to the respectable. But he begins by talking about guilt and sin:

“There was once a man who had two sons. The younger one said to him, ‘Father, give me my share of the property now.’ So the man divided his property between his two sons.

After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living. He spent everything he had.

Then a severe famine spread over that country, and he was left without a thing. So he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him out to his farm to take care of the pigs. He wished he could fill himself with the bean pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything to eat.

At last he came to his senses and said, ‘All my father’s hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am about to starve! I will get up and go to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers.” So he got up and started back to his father.

In a way, this is an odd story for Mothering Sunday. For it is the story of a father and his sons- there is no mother in this story. Yet it is a story about parenting, and we ought not to get too hung up on matters of gender here. Fathers and mothers, sons and daughters- they can all show love for one another, or they can fall out!

And so we get this story of a poor little rich boy (but he could have been a girl!). He takes his share of his father’s wealth, and travels the world, spending his inheritance with no thought of tomorrow. Later we will hear that some of the money went on prostitutes.

It is hard to have any sympathy with this young man… until, perhaps, we hear of what happens to him. He does well in the boom years, but fails when the famine comes. Once he had never had to earn his living- now he has to find work, anything, however menial, in order to survive. Once he was a rich man’s son: now he’s merely a farmhands, who is so hungry he wishes he could eat the animal feed. And it’s pigs he’s looking after- the ultimate humiliation for a good Jewish boy.

As I say, it’s hard to have much sympathy for this young man, except that we might feel sorry to see him fall so far. For the Bible’s view of human nature is that we are all flawed, that we all make mistakes, that just as the son in the story separates himself from his father as he goes his own way, so we all are in constant danger of falling into a pig sty of our own making.

Many people nowadays would deny that they sin. They don’t believe they have any sins needing to be forgiven. Famously, Donald Trump has said on number of occasions that he has never asked God for forgiveness. He once said in an interview:

I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad.[i]

That’s such a striking insight into his personality: he thinks he is good, and doesn’t ever need to seek forgiveness. But many people think that way. They would have no idea what St Paul is on about when he talk about Christ changing people from being enemies of God into his friends. ‘How can I be an enemy of God?’ they say- ‘I’m a good person, really’.

But if we are really honest, we will admit it: that there is something of the lost son in me. I’ve taken wrong turnings, done wrong things. I do have things I need forgiven for. I am far from perfect. I need forgiveness. Which, of course, explains a lot about the state of humanity!

Eventually, the young man in the story at last does something right. He sees a way out of his mess, a way out of the pig sty which his life has become. ‘I will get up and go to my Father’. But it’s not a very heroic thing to do- it’s quite a calculated move: ‘All my father’s hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am about to starve!’ He does not deserve his Father’s sympathy, and he’s not going to look for it. He just wants decent food and a comfortable bed. The last thing he wants, or deserves, is a warm welcome.

“He was still a long way from home when his father saw him; his heart was filled with pity, and he ran, threw his arms around his son, and kissed him.

‘Father,’ the son said, ‘I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.’

But the father called to his servants. ‘Hurry!’ he said. ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Then go and get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast! For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’ And so the feasting began.

He’s still a long way from home when the father sees him- has the father always been looking out for him ever since he left. It’s the father who runs to the son, and throws his arms around him, and kisses him.

And now, at last, the boy’s attitude seems to change. He finally confesses- to himself, to his father, to God- that he is in the wrong, and that he really cannot expect any favours from the father: “‘Father,’ the son said, ‘I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.’” In the emotion of the moment he doesn’t even get to the bit where he offers to work as a hired hand for his father. For the father is so delighted to get his son back that he immediately treats him as his son again. Father calls for the best robe, and ring for his finger, shoes for his feet- and prize calf to be killed for the celebratory feast.

It does not matter anymore to the father that his son had turned his back on him. It does not matter that he squandered his inheritance. It does not matter that the boy disgraced the family name. It does not matter that he ended up a pig keeper. It does not matter that he came back and presumed upon the father’s good will. Only one thing matters, and it is the reason for the feast: “‘For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’ And so the feasting began”.

If, as you hear this parable, you identify with the lost son, then this is the natural end to the story. And that happy ever after ending is how many Christians have heard the story down through the centuries. This was a story which originally must have given joy and hope to the outcasts with whom Jesus was spending so much time: they would have identified with the Prodigal Son, have seen in his story a reflection of their experience in meeting Jesus- the one who, in God’s names, welcomes back the runaways with forgiveness and grace.

But Jesus hasn’t quite finished with the story. Remember the grumblers at the start of the story, the religious people whom Jesus scandalised? Well, this story is for them, too. And for them, Jesus brings back into the story someone we have only heard mentioned in passing right at the beginning:

“In the meantime the older son was out in the field. On his way back, when he came close to the house, he heard the music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him, ‘What’s going on?’

‘Your brother has come back home,’ the servant answered, ‘and your father has killed the prize calf, because he got him back safe and sound.’

The older brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in. But he spoke back to his father, ‘Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends! But this son of yours wasted all your property on prostitutes, and when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him!’

‘My son,’ the father answered, ‘you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’”

To the older son, the father can only give, once more, the reason he already gave for the feasting. And he says, not that his son was dead and lost, but ‘your brother was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found’.

And that is the answer Jesus gives to the grumblers, to those who are scandalized by his spending time with outcasts, to those who are revolted by his message that God’s grace and forgiveness is open to anyone: these so-called outcasts and prodigals are your brothers and sisters. So don’t judge them because you think you’re better than them. Just join the party to celebrate God’s grace!

Whether we admit it to anyone, whether other can see it or not: we all of us carry a burden of shame and disgrace. None of us does not need to ask for forgiveness. But when we admit that, we will be overwhelmed by the free grace of our loving Father. Here is a message for today, for we still are grappling with guilt and shame- what Christianity calls sin.

When we speak of guilt and shame sin only, we have not yet spoken about the Gospel. Rather, as St Paul puts it, the Gospel message is that God was reconciling all humanity to himself in Christ[ii]: everyone, even those who have just come out a pig sty. That is a scandalous message, and it often causes a lot of grumbling. But it is what Jesus did, and taught, and said we should do likewise.

Ascription of Praise

To God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,

who gave himself for our sins,

to rescue us out of the present wicked age

as our God and Father willed;

to him be glory for ever and ever! Amen.

from Galatians 1.4

Biblical references from the Good News Bible, unless otherwise stated

© 2019 Peter W Nimmo

[i] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/06/08/trump-on-god-hopefully-i-wont-have-to-be-asking-for-much-forgiveness/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0999b16a6dd2

[ii] 2 Corinthians 2.19

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