Old High St. Stephen's, Inverness

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The time is coming… Sermon for The First Sunday of Advent 2018

Scripture Readings:

Jeremiah 33:14-18

Luke 3.1-20

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

We may be governed currently by people who think that experts aren’t important, but I love to listen to an expert who knows his stuff and can explain it to the rest of us- whether it’s David Attenborough on wildlife or Brian Cox on astronomy, or Neil Oliver on history. And I do love Melvyn Bragg’s Radio 4 show, In Our Time, with the best people in their field (there was an excellent one on Dietrich Bonhoeffer recently).

A few weeks ago I heard an expert give a fascinating talk.

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What Kind of a King?: sermon for Christ the King, 25 November 2018

Scripture Readings: Psalm 93

John 18.28-38a

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

On this Sunday which is designated as ‘Christ the King’, perhaps the first thing we should admit is that Jesus nowhere in the Gospels referred to himself as a King. But the word ‘Christ’ in Greek literally means ‘the anointed One’[1]– and as kings are anointed, that implies that Christ is a king of some sort. According to Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus was born, the wise men from the East came to King Herod looking for a king, and were told to look for him in Bethlehem. Afterwards, King Herod tried to murder the baby king, leading to a slaughter of innocents[2]. And today’s Gospel reading, from near the end of Jesus’ life, puts him once again in front of a secular ruler in Jerusalem, with his life at stake.

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What do we do with our remembrance? Sermon for Remembrance Sunday 2018

Scripture Readings: Micah 4.1-5

Luke 1.67-80

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

Our church buildings, like many church buildings, are full of memorials. There are the obvious ones: the lists of names from both world wars inside St Stephen’s, the congregational memorial on the outside wall of the Old High Church; the Camerons memorial area inside the Old High. We have memorials to memorial to ministers, organists, town worthies, and congregation members in both our buildings. There is stained glass in the chancel of St Stephen’s gifted by a Royal Artillery officer; and at the Old High, another stained glass memorial from a mother to her child. There are number of individual memorials at the Old High, ranging to a memorial to a General Wimberley, who led the 51st Division at Alamein, to the mention on his family memorial of Ensign James Grant who died at the Battle of Waterloo, aged only 15.

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Never Forgotten: Sermon for All Saints Sunday, 4 November 2018

Scripture Readings: 1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

Never forgotten

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

Some years ago I did a primary school assembly on Hallowe’en, and since they’d just had a Hallowe’en disco during the week and I knew it would be on their minds, I thought I may as well talk about it. When I asked them if they would be going out on Hallowe’en, it turned out that the vast majority were planning to- even if nowadays they refer it is as ‘trick or treating’, instead of guising and they lamps of pumpkins rather than turnips. Hallowe’en has changed since I was a lad- too commercialised for me now. But for most children, it’s still a lot of fun, probably because dressing up is such fun.

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What must we do? Sermon for Sunday 14 October Proper 23

Our text from the Letter to the Hebrews today begins with a vivid image:

The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together.

A sharp sword was the deadliest weapon of ancient times- the Kalashnikov of the Roman era. So this image is like something from a very bloody battle- or a very graphic horror film. A sword that cuts through flesh, joints and marrow is an unsettling thought. And it is used to describe the word of God.

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Welcome the children: sermon for Sunday 23 September 2018: Proper 20 Year B

Scripture Readings: James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

Mark 9:30-37

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

This morning at the Old High Church we are celebrating the baptism of Johnny Baird. It’s always great to have a service at which the child is the centre of attention. For lots of different reasons, we are seeing fewer children in our churches nowadays, and I think that’s a great pity. Children ought to be the centre of the church’s attention more often. After all, in today’s Gospel reading, a child becomes the centre of attention, because Jesus puts him or her there.

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Wisdom’s Call: sermon for 16 September 2018 (Proper 19, Year B, RCL)

Scripture Readings: Proverbs 1:20-33

Mark 8:31-38

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

I read about a survey this week that claimed that men aged between 18 and 34 are so concerned about how they look, they spend two hours a week thinking about what they are going to wear[1]. Once, we gents used to complain that the ladies were keeping us late because they took so long to get ready. Perhaps now the roles are reversed!

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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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A polluted faith, a polluted planet: sermon for 2 September 2018 (Proper 17)

Scripture Readings: James 1:17-27

Mark 7.1-8, 20-23

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

On December 7, 1972, a photograph was taken which literally changed the way we look at the world. It was taken by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, which was returning from the final manned mission to the moon. It is perhaps the most memorable of all the images of the Apollo missions, but it shows, not the moon, but the earth. Taken from a distance of about 29,000 kilometres (18,000 miles) from the surface from the earth, it showed, almost for the first time, an image of the entire planet: a colourful mixture of blue ocean, white clouds, brown and green earth, set in the background pitch black darkness of space. Nicknamed ‘The Blue Marble’, for that is what it looks like, it is one of the most reproduced images in human history[1].

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A different sort of wisdom: sermon for 19 August 2018: Proper 15 Year B RCL

Scripture Readings: 1 Kings 3:3-14

            John 6:48-58

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

Today I want to look at just a few verses from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, verses which the Lectionary gives us to read and consider alongside the other passages we have already had read to us today. The letters you find at the end of the New Testament were written to encourage or cajole the earliest Christian communities which were springing up around the Roman Empire in the decades following the resurrection of Christ. They were written at a time when Christians were in a tiny minority, in a multicultural Empire in which Christians were often treated with disdain, disapproval or even open persecution. And I think that today they can speak to us with a new urgency and power, for as Christians living in Europe we also increasingly aware of being a minority in a culture which seems increasingly indifferent or even hostile. Like those first Christians we too are now in a minority. Perhaps, therefore, we can begin to learn from those letters which speak of the pressures and problems which come from being part of a minority faith.

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