Old High St. Stephen's, Inverness

Welcome to Old High St Stephen's Church, Inverness

Funeral Announcement Mrs Isabella Paton MacTaggart (Pat)

Mrs MacTaggart, formerly of Muirfield Park,  died on 10 January 2020. She was 92 years.
Mrs MacTaggart’s funeral will be held on Monday 20 January 2020 at 1pm at Inverness Crematorium (Large Chapel).
Further details from the Funeral Director is D Chisholm & Sons (712255)

Sunday Bulletin 19 January 2020

WORSHIP THIS WEEK
Sunday 26 January 2020: Third Sunday after Epiphany
10 am Morning Worship at St Stephen’s
Led by Stewart Robertson, Reader at Crown Church
11.15 am Sacrament of Holy Communion at the Old High
led by the Minister

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION – contact details from the Church Administrator
OLD HIGH MUSIC At One with Music is a parallel lunchtime recital series offering regular 1 hour concerts in Inverness. These are held at 1pm on Fridays in the Spectrum Centre. However, in 2020 all the piano recitals in that programme will now take place in the Old High Church, in partnership with Old High Music. The first of these will be a piano recital by Ailsa Aitkenhead on Friday 24 January at 1pm. As a commemoration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, she will perform one of his major Piano Sonatas, along with work by Chopin. Donations of £7.50 requested at the door. More details from Andrew Stevenson.
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION will be celebrated at the Old High Church next Sunday 26 January. All welcome at the Lord’s Table. The Retiring Collection will be for Friends of Cameron House who fundraise to provide additional comforts for residents such as pictures, garden, curtains etc. Members of our congregation are part of the friends group and of course the home is within our parish. Christine Mackenzie Christine Mackenzie, Acting Session Clerk.
COMMUNION SERVICES The Kirk Session has decided that we no longer require to have cloths on each pew for Communion services. This is a tradition which has died out in many churches, and it requires quite a lot of work. Of course, we continue to use a white cloth on the Communion Table, as has been the tradition of the Christian Church for centuries. The Session would like sincerely thank all who, over the years, have laundered and ironed our cloths, and prepared the pews before each Communion Sunday. Christine Mackenzie, Acting Session Clerk.
WARMTH FOR THE HOMELESS CAMPAIGN Our local Homeless Community and Gateway would like to thank you for your kind donation of six suitcases full of used warm clothes, they were greatly appreciated. With our temperatures still hovering around zero, we will continue to collect used warm clothes with the last date for donations Sunday 16 February. Suggestions: Dog blankets, Socks, Hats, Gloves, Scarves, Warm clothes, Boots, Trainers, Sleeping bags, Roll mats, Rucksacks. Please leave your donations in the suitcases located in the entry halls (to be collected by Gary Ross).
HIGHLAND FOOD BANK have asked that from November to January we donate Cartons of long life fruit juice; Small washing powder/gel; Tins of corned beef/ham; Jam. You will also be happy to know that some of the folk who use St. Stephen’s hall during the week have said that they are happy to bring along small donations on a regular basis, so crates have been supplied for this at the back of the hall. Thank you again for your generosity. Margaret Neville.
SHARING YOUR FAITH (SYF) Discussion Groups will restart in 2020. If you are interested in joining a group, please speak to or email me with first and second choices of day and time that suit you best. Dot Getliffe.
OLD HIGH CHURCH REDEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION PROJECT A small exhibition about the architect’s ideas is now on display at the Old High. You can visit it following services at Old High, and we will have more opening times in the New Year. There are also forms available for visitors to give feedback. More information at https://www.oldhighststephens.com/2019/12/05/old-high-development-project-exhibition/, where you can also download the architect’s report.
CHRISTMAS OFFERINGS The offerings taken at the various services over the Christmas period at St Stephens amounted to £458.07 with all funds going to GATEWAY the Highlands’ charity for vulnerable and homeless people https://homelesstrust.org.uk/. The Community Choir “Singing Around the Christmas Tree” event raised £210.76 for CLARITY WALK, a social enterprise with a mission of helping improve mental health in the Highlands by organising free walks for all fitness levels. Participants are asked to disconnect from technology and reconnect with others, nature and yourself with a 1 hour ‘No Phone’ walk. Proven to be effective for combating anxiety, depression and loneliness, as well as having many physical benefits, followed by a coffee after the walk at a local café. Details of walks and how you can donate, at their website https://www.claritywalk.co.uk/
FOOD FOR FAMILIES Many thanks to everyone who participated in the Food for Families programme for 2019/20. Over 200 portions of mince and tatties have been made. Thank you all for giving up your time to make a difference to those in need within our community, it is much appreciated. Christine Mackenzie.
SUNDAY BULLETIN Volunteers are needed to fold the weekly bulletin once a month. Can you help please? Further details from Rae Swan.
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
ECUMENICAL SERVICE OF WORSHIP AND PRAYER 6pm this evening at Culduthel Christian Centre, Culduthel Avenue, Inverness IV2 6AS. Please join us in worshipping together and in praying together for the many issues which face our city and our society. Contact: Jonathan Appleby or Peter, our Minister.
GROW is on Saturday 29 February 2020 in Culduthel Christian Centre, Culduthel Avenue, Inverness. What is it? One Stop Shop for anyone who works or wants to work with a Christian focus on children and young people. Workshops look fantastic! This will equip OHSS for when we get more youngsters in. There is also a workshop for working with Toddlers and Their Carers. Dot would LOVE if 2 or 3 folks could go with her to represent our ‘GROWing’ church. Brochure/registration form and more details from her. Pray and see if it appeals!? Only £8….

Sunday Bulletin 12 January 2020

WORSHIP THIS WEEK

Sunday 19 January 2020: Second Sunday after Epiphany

10 am Morning Worship at St Stephen’s

11.15 am Morning worship at the Old High

Both services led by Rev Arthur Sinclair

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION

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.  Please speak to Malcolm after the service.  We still also seek members willing to lead these services on a rota basis; please contact Janet Robertson.

OLD HIGH CHURCH REDEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION PROJECT A small exhibition about the architect’s ideas is now on display at the Old High. You can visit it following services at Old High, and we will have more opening times in the New Year. There are also forms available for visitors to give feedback. More information at https://www.oldhighststephens.com/2019/12/05/old-high-development-project-exhibition/, where you can also download the architect’s report.

CHRISTMAS OFFERINGS The offerings taken at the various services over the Christmas period at St Stephens amounted to £458.07 with all funds going to GATEway the Highlands’ charity for vulnerable and homeless people https://homelesstrust.org.uk/. The Community Choir “Singing Around the Christmas Tree” eventraised £210.76  for CLARITY WALK, a social enterprise with a mission of helping improve mental health in the Highlands by organising free walks for all fitness levels. Participants are asked to disconnect from technology and reconnect with others, nature and yourself with a 1 hour ‘No Phone’ walk. Proven to be effective for combating anxiety, depression and loneliness, as well as having many physical benefits, followed by a coffee after the walk at a local café. Details of walks and how you can donate, at their website https://www.claritywalk.co.uk/

Old High Flower List The draft flower list is on the notice board. Addresses and phone numbers have been removed to comply with Data Protection.  If you wish to add your name to the list or change a date please contact Sally McCubbin.

WARMTH FOR THE HOMELESS CAMPAIGN We are again be running our Campaign over the festive period and would be very grateful for donations of used clothes that will be passed onto our Homeless Community by the Gateway Centre. Suggestions: Dog blankets, Socks, Hats, Gloves, Scarves, Warm clothes, Boots, Trainers, Sleeping bags, Roll mats, Rucksacks. Please leave your donations in the suitcases located in the entry halls (to be collected by Gary Ross.

Food for Families Many thanks to everyone who participated in the Food for Families programme for 2019/20. Over 200 portions of mince and tatties have been made. Thank you all for giving up your time to make a difference to those in need within our community, it is much appreciated. Christine Mackenzie.

HIGHLAND FOOD BANK have asked that from November to January we donate Cartons of long life fruit juice; Small washing powder/gel; Tins of corned beef/ham; Jam. You will also be happy to know that some of the folk who use St. Stephen’s hall during the week have said that they are happy to bring along small donations on a regular basis, so crates have been supplied for this at the back of the hall. Thank you again for your generosity. Margaret Neville.

OLD HIGH ST STEPHEN’S WINTER WALK this afternoon, to Canal at Dochgarroch and  cuppa at An Talla. Meet at St Stephen’s car park at 1.30pm or Dochgarroch 1.45pm. Varying length of walk with cuppa at 3pm till 4pm. More details from Deborah Macrae.

CRAFT EVENING St Stephen’s Hall 7.30–9pm, Wednesday 15 January 2020. Crafters and non-crafters welcome (you may wish to learn a craft). Friendly atmosphere and refreshments provided Susan MacLeod.

Old High Music At One with Music is a parallel lunchtime recital series offering regular 1 hour concerts in Inverness. These are held at 1pm on Fridays in the Spectrum Centre. However, in 2020 all the piano recitals in that programme will now take place in the Old High Church, in partnership with Old High Music. The first of these will be a piano recital by Ailsa Aitkenhead on Friday 24 January at 1pm. As a commemoration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, she will perform one of his major Piano Sonatas, along with work by Chopin. Donations of £7.50 requested at the door. More details from Andrew Stevenson.

THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION will be celebrated at the Old High Church on 26 January. All welcome at the Lord’s Table. The Retiring Collection will be for Friends of Cameron House who fundraise to provide additional comforts for residents such as pictures, garden, curtains etc. Members of our congregation are part of the friends group and of course the home is within our parish. Christine Mackenzie.

Sharing Your Faith (SYF) Discussion Groups will restart in 2020. If you are interested in joining a group, please speak to or email me with first and second choices of day and time that suit you best. Dot Getliffe.

SUNDAY BULLETIN Volunteers are needed to fold the weekly bulletin once a month. Can you help please? Further details from Rae Swan.

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

INVERNESS SINGERS ‘Desert Island Disc’ Evening in Smithton Free Church on Friday 17 January at 7:30pm. Enjoy an evening of conversation and music as Fiona MacDonald, BBC World Service, interviews two special guests – Thomas Prag  [ex Local Councillor] and Eileen MacIntosh [Soprano]. To book tickets contact Margaret Livingstone, Convenor of Fundraising Committee.

ECUMENICAL SERVICE OF WORSHIP AND PRAYER 6pm on Sunday 19 January at Culduthel Christian Centre, Culduthel Avenue, Inverness IV2 6AS.  Please join us in worshipping together and in praying together for the many issues which face our city and our society. Contact: Jonathan Appleby.

INVERNESS STREET PASTORS January:  As in a number of other cities and towns, there are no Street Pastor patrols In Inverness during the month. The training schedule for new Street Pastors and Prayer Pastors begins on 25 January. There are 2 particular Prayer Opportunities Sat 18 January, at The Hub, Castle Street Baptist Church 9.45 am for coffee and catch up, then time to pray for Street Pastors (and to look at part of Session 1 of the ‘Prayer Course’ with Pete Greig). Sun 19 January, 6 – 7.30 pm – Prayer for our City – held at Culduthel Christian Centre.

GROW is on Saturday 29 February 2020 in Culduthel Christian Centre, Culduthel Avenue, Inverness. What is it? One Stop Shop for anyone who works or wants to work with a Christian focus on children and young people. Workshops look fantastic! This will equip OHSS for when we get more youngsters in. There is also a workshop for working with Toddlers and Their Carers. Dot would LOVE if 2 or 3 folks could go with her to represent our ‘GROWing’ church. Brochure/registration form and more details from her. Pray and see if it appeals!? Only £8…. 

Sunday Bulletin 5 January 2020

WORSHIP THIS WEEK

Sunday 12 January 2020: First Sunday after Epiphany: Baptism of the Lord

10 am Morning Worship at St Stephen’s

11.15 am Morning worship at the Old High

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION – contact details from the Church Administrator

OLD HIGH CHURCH REDEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION PROJECT A small exhibition about the architect’s ideas is now on display at the Old High. You can visit it following services at Old High, and we will have more opening times in the New Year. There are also forms available for visitors to give feedback. More information at https://www.oldhighststephens.com/2019/12/05/old-high-development-project-exhibition/, where you can also download the architect’s report.

WARMTH FOR THE HOMELESS CAMPAIGN We will again be running our Campaign over the festive period and would be very grateful for donations of used clothes that will be passed onto our Homeless Community by the Gateway Centre. Suggestions: Dog blankets, Socks, Hats, Gloves, Scarves, Warm clothes, Boots, Trainers, Sleeping bags, Roll mats, Rucksacks. Please leave your donations in the suitcases located in the entry halls (to be collected by Gary Ross.

HIGHLAND FOOD BANK have asked that from November to January we donate Cartons of long life fruit juice; Small washing powder/gel; Tins of corned beef/ham; Jam. You will also be happy to know that some of the folk who use St. Stephen’s hall during the week have said that they are happy to bring along small donations on a regular basis, so crates have been supplied for this at the back of the hall. Thank you again for your generosity. Margaret Neville.

OHSS WINTER WALK next Sunday, 12 January, to Canal at Dochgarroch and  cuppa at An Talla. Meet at St Stephen’s car park at 1.30pm or Dochgarroch 1.45pm. Varying length of walk with cuppa at 3pm till 4pm. More details from Deborah Macrae.

Sharing Your Faith (SYF) Discussion Groups will restart in 2020. If you are interested in joining a group, please speak to or email me with first and second choices of day and time that suit you best. Dot Getliffe.

ACCOMMODATION REQUIRED My name is Hannah and I’m 35 years old. I will be moving to Inverness on the 17 January for 12 months to cover maternity leave as a veterinary epidemiologist at the SRUC. I’m looking to rent a room (for around £400/month incl) within 2-3 miles of the SRUC (which is near Raigmore hospital). I’ve been serving in Central Asia for the past 4 years so I will be travelling light – just a couple of suitcases and probably purchasing a bike! – so, ideally, somewhere with bedsheets provided, the ability to borrow plates and pans for cooking etc (don’t worry I clean up after myself) and Wi-Fi. If you would be able to help.

GROW is on Saturday 29 February 2020 in Culduthel Christian Centre, Culduthel Avenue, Inverness. What is it? One Stop Shop for anyone who works or wants to work with a Christian focus on children and young people. Workshops look fantastic! This will equip OHSS for when we get more youngsters in. There is also a workshop for working with Toddlers and Their Carers. Dot would LOVE if 2 or 3 folks could go with her to represent our ‘GROWing’ church. Brochure/registration form and more details from her. Pray and see if it appeals!? Only £8….

SUNDAY BULLETIN Volunteers are needed to fold the weekly bulletin once a month. Can you help please? Further details from Rae Swan.

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.

An undeserved gift: sermon for Christmas Eve 2019

Scripture Readings: Luke 2.1-20

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

‘…there was no room for them to stay in the inn’.

Those last words of the first part of our Bible reading tonight are terrible words. There is no room at the inn for a woman, who has travelled a long way, and who is about to give birth. No room for her faithful husband, who has come all from Nazareth with her, because the Emperor Augustus demanded it. No room for the child who is born, not even a place to lay him- just an animal feeding trough.

It’s nice to romanticise the Christmas story. We like to imagine Mary might have had a donkey to ride, but the story doesn’t mention any little donkey for Mary to ride along dusty roads. We like to imagine the baby snug in the straw, but a manger is hardly the cleanest place to put a new-born child. We like to imagine animals kneeling to worship, but if there were any animals at the back of the inn, they were likely grumpy at being disturbed, smelly, liable to bump into the new mum and dad and their baby at any time.

‘…there was no room for them to stay in the inn’.

Here is the creator of the universe coming to earth in human form. But there is no room for him. He is laid in a manger- no nice government Scandinavian baby box for Jesus and Mary. He is shoved round the back for the inn is full up.

But maybe that is the point. No room at the inn tells us that this Christ is going to be the one for all for whom there is no room. For in any country, in any community, there are people who feel as if there is no room for them. The people for whom the rest of us are too heartless to make any room.

No room for the rough sleeper, who for whatever reasons, we can’t find a place for anywhere. No room for the families with children who we cannot seem to find houses for, just bed and breakfast accommodation. No room any more for the immigrants from the European Union, who came here to make a home and contribute to society, but who are now made to feel unwelcome in a country they had called home. No room for the refugees, traumatized by war and dangerous journeys, treated as a threat by many people when they thought Britain would be a safe place to come to. No room at the inn for them, and for many others who need a place to stay, because we will not make room for them.

In the Christmas story, the Christ child is one of those for whom there is no room. In the Christmas stories of Matthew’s Gospel, this becomes even more the case. That’s the version with King Herod murdering all the children in the town of Bethlehem, causing Mary and Joseph to flee into Egypt until it is safe to return- so Jesus spends the first few years of his life a refugee in a foreign country. And as he grows, he will always be an outsider. His preaching upsets the religious establishment. He isn’t a Pharisee, or a Sadducee- he doesn’t fit into any party. Eventually, he becomes the ultimate outsider- a criminal, executed because he seems like a danger to the peace. There was no room for him.

In Christ, God identifies with all find themselves as outsiders- those for whom there seems to be no room for them. And so Christmas is a time for us not just to celebrate, but to be challenged. Are there people we have no room for, people we send into the shed, while we are cosy and comfortable in the inn? Can’t we treat other fellow humans better than that? And why do we treat them as a burden anyway? What if the stranger, the homeless, the refugee, the immigrant are not threats to us, but gifts to us. People whom we can get to know, who will bring us new ideas and experiences, who will bring much to the places they have travelled to?

And when God comes to us- do we make room? This is the point at which we preachers make an appeal to you to make some room in your lives for Christ this Christmas. And preachers complain that our increasingly secular culture, and our increasingly busy lives, people squeezing God out- you’re not making room for God. But, in fairness, it’s hard. We are not living in an age or a place which takes God seriously. We don’t talk about God much, we pretend that we think the concept of God is no longer important for art, culture, politics and morality. God really is an outsider now- strange, troubling, and often unwelcome.

And yet- in our culture, where we will not make room for the God who was born in a stable, is it any wonder that hatred and abuse towards those who are different from the majority is on the increase? In a world in which the God of Jesus Christ is pushed out, is it any wonder we have to fact check what our politicians say? In a world which has forgotten the Christian Christmas story, is it any wonder that greed, excess, selfishness and hatred seems to be squeezing out love?

At Bethlehem, God came to us from glory, before time and space, eternal and almighty- but born in a stable, for there is no room for him in the inn. And the One for whom there was no room at the inn is bound to ask us- what about the people today for whom there is no room? What are you doing for them? Do you even think about them? And- this is the really hard part- are you willing to give up some of your comfort to make room for them?

And so, in a way, the coming of Christ is a judgement on us, and our selfishness, and our lack of love. But Christmas is primarily a gift to us, if we will let it be so. For surely only a God who loves us dearly would go to the trouble of coming among us, sharing our joys and sorrows, living and dying as we do? And the good news is that the Christ who was born and lived and died among us also rose from the grave. He came as an outsider, and we often make no room for him. Yet he offers us the greatest Christmas present of all time: forgiveness, a new start, and a faith to live our lives by. And a message of love- love for our neighbours, whoever they may be. Love for those we think of as strangers, love, even, for our enemies.

Because at Christmas, God offers our broken, frightened, suspicious world the gift of love. Into our dark world, when we do not deserve it, has come light, in the form of the free gift of the child in the manger. He offers us God’s grace and love, but also the gift of being able to love other people. This Christmas, will you let God’s love flow through you, to those who really need it? For in our dark world, where the forces of evil are so prevalent, we need some love, love which will shine like light in the darkness.

Ascription of Praise

Glory to God in highest heaven,

and on earth peace to all in whom God delights!

Amen.

Luke 2.14 (alt)

Biblical references from the Good News Bible, unless otherwise stated

© 2019 Peter W Nimmo

OHSS Winter 2019 Magazine

You can download a copy of the latest Magazine here

“I am the Lord’s servant”: A sermon on Mary for Advent: 15 December 2019

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-55

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

If you have taken a walk past Crown Church recently, you will see that they have a wonderful bit of public witness happening in their wee church garden just now: a crib scene. Mary and Joseph are standing at a stable, awaiting the arrival of the baby Jesus. Meanwhile, out on the lawn, the wise men are approaching (I think they get nearer every day). No doubt there are shepherds and angels still to come. You should go and see it if you haven’t yet.

Read More

Old High Development Project Exhibition

We now have a small exhibition about our proposed redevelopment of the Old High Church, based on a report by architect Alan S Marshall.

You can visit the exhibition when the church is open to the public:

Sundays after the 11.15am service (that is, from around 12.15am)

Fridays in Advent, 12 noon to 2pm.

We hope to open the church on further dates in the New Year.

Documents

The reports we comissioned are available to download:

Architect’s Report

Congregational Meeting March 2018

Architect’s Report Appendices

Indicative Cost Summary

Appendix C Indicative Cost (detailed)

For more information, please call 01463 250 802, or email invernesschurch<a>gmail.com (replace <a> with @)

Time to wake up! Sermon for The First Sunday of Advent, 1 December 2019

Scripture Readings: Romans 13.8-14.4

Matthew 24.36-44

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

Today’s Bible readings mention, among other things, drunkenness and debauchery, flooding, burglary, and people who disappear unexpectedly. For it is Advent, and strange things happen in the Biblical texts we hear at this time of year.

As the Christmas party scene gets into its swing, I wonder how many people will heed the words of St Paul which we read this morning:

Let us conduct ourselves properly, as people who live in the light of the day- no orgies or drunkenness!

Yes, it’s hard work being a Christian on a night out! The run-up to Christmas is really now part of Christmas itself, for all the preparing for ‘the big day’ is part of the process- indeed, it is part of the fun, if you like shopping or baking Christmas cakes. Christmas may be commercialised, but Advent hardly registers on the consciousness of the general population. We have Advent calendars for the kids, which are hardly more than countdowns until Santa comes. But we preachers will witter on about Advent for the next four weeks, and I wonder if anyone is taking much notice? When Christmas starts in mid-November, what can Advent possibly mean?

The Church season of Advent season of Advent is a strange sort of time. It’s supposed to be about looking forward to Christmas, to the day when we will remember the birth of the baby of Bethlehem. But how can you look forward to something which has already happened?- how can we be expectant about a birth which happened 2,000 years ago?

Yet all this confusing of past, present and future shouldn’t be disconcerting for Christians. For we Christians know what we are living in an in-between time in history. In Jesus Christ, God has come among us, in the child of Bethlehem. But the risen and ascended Christ is, in a mysterious way, still to come. And that should make a difference to the way we live.

We see this in the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. In the first part of the reading, Paul is trying to encourage the Christians of Rome to lead good lives. He reminds them of Christ’s command to love, so that they fulfil the Law of God:

The commandments… are summed up in the one command, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”. If you love someone, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.

And then towards the end of the passage, Paul speaks of a practical application of the command to love: how to deal with disagreements.

But between these two sections, in the midst of all this discussion about ethics (about how we are to live), we have some verses which tell us something about why we should love one another. It is because, he says, we are living in in-between times. At this point, Paul sounds like someone who feels that time is passing quicker than other people realise. He tells the Christians of Rome,

You must do this, because you know that the time has come for you to wake up from your sleep. For the moment when we will be saved is closer now than it was when we first believed. The night is nearly over, day is almost here.

There is an urgency here, and urgency which we also find in the preaching of Jesus. Consider this strange wee parable, which Jesus tells in our Gospel reading today:

If the owner of a house knew the time when the thief would come, you can be sure that he would stay awake and not let the thief break into his house. So then, you also must always be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him.

I’m sure you can think of many things the Bible says about Jesus- Prince of Peace, Son of God, Redeemer, the Word made flesh. But Jesus as a burglar- had that ever occurred to you before? But there it is, that’s what he apparently said. Not the most obvious thing to say about Jesus, but here he is, saying it about himself: I’m like a thief in the night!

Even odder is this strange passage- words which, again, are said to be the words of Jesus:

At that time two men will be working in a field: one will be taken away, the other will be left behind. Two women will be at a mill grinding meal: one will be taken away, the other will be left behind. Watch out, then, because you do not know what day your Lord will come.

Now, this is really strange stuff. Jesus seems to be saying that, at some point in the future, we’re suddenly going to find our neighbours and friends disappearing round about us, as if they’d suddenly been dematerialised and teleported on the starship Enterprise? What are we supposed to make of stuff like this?

It’s all about urgency, the sense that anything can happen at any time. And throughout, Jesus is urging us to watch out, keep alert, look for the signs that the unexpected it going to happen. Otherwise, we will be like the folks in Noah’s day, whom Jesus said didn’t know what has happening until they were swept away by the flood.

So St Paul tells the Christians of Rome that they’ve to wake up:

…the time has come for you to wake up from your sleep.

We humans spend about a third of each day asleep. But sometimes it is as if we are asleep the rest of the time, too. We can be jolted when something apparently unexpected happens because we were not alert enough to see it coming: a health problem that leads to hospitalisation, the seemingly happy marriage which- to everyone’s surprise- ends suddenly, the discovery that we have friend who’s deeply unhappy, and we never really noticed.

It happens on a world scale, too: everyone’s asleep, until something wakes us up. In summer 1914, European culture was seemingly at its peak, but within a few months the nations were slaughtering because a royal was shot in Sarajevo. 1989: Communism in Russia and Europe seems monolithic, but a few demonstrations and it all comes tumbling down. In 2007, bankers and investors, who treated the markets like as a casino where they would always win, did not expect their game to quite suddenly unravel, as the world was pitched into economic misery. Britain was, what one might describe as a stable country, until the EU referendum in 2016 pitched our politics and economy into chaos.

Often, there are those who can see what is coming. They are more awake than the rest of us, see the danger signs that all is not as it should be. But the rest of fail to be awake enough, for we have not been alert. And we are taken by surprise when the unexpected- ‘the wake-up call’- finally happens, and we sleepwalk into disaster.

As Paul writes to the Romans about how to love, he reminds them to remain alert. In their waiting, they are not to be lulled by the false security of the darkness. Love your neighbour, he says; avoid the darkness- because the time has come for you to wake up from your sleep. Night is nearly over, dawn is breaking, and soon all will be light.

And so, says Paul, we are to live in the light which is dawning: live by Christ’s law of love. He’s reminding us that it is as if any day now God will bring to completion the work he began in Jesus. We are to love one another, and not to have orgies or get drunk or fight or be jealous- because thief in the night is about to surprise us!

Christianity is an historical faith. We look backwards to the story of God’s dealings with Israel, which come to a climax in the history of Jesus Christ. Yet our historical faith points us towards the future. Christianity isn’t nostalgia- it’s about looking forward with hope.

In the life of Jesus, God has intervened once more in the history of the Jewish people, but now this old story takes on universal significance. For with Christ’s resurrection, we are pointed to the day when death everywhere will be defeated. And no longer is this history just about one nation: now it is about us all, about the whole of creation, which God wills to bring into a loving relationship once more with him.

Looking back to the biblical story of God’s dealings with this people, we are given hope for the future: the history which is past is leading to the end of history. And we are caught up in that process, in God’s great plan for the future of creation. This is our Christian sense that we live between the times when God has done great things in the past and the day when God brings it all to completion. We live between those times, looking back, yes, but also looking forward with hope. This is what Advent reminds us about.

Christians are folk who have learned from the Bible what God did in Jesus Christ. Responding to God’s love with faith, we now have hope, because God, we know, is taking things further. Not everything is quite complete. In Jesus’ and Paul’s day, many people had a sense that the end of the age was nigh. They looked forward to a day when, all at once, God’s reign of peace and justice was established on earth.

But early on, Christians, such as Paul, saw that the end of the world was, in a way, already underway. From them we get this sense of living in an in-between time. We know that evil has ultimately been defeated already the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Darkness still lingers, but, like people waiting for the sunrise, Christians can see the light on the horizon. We know the sun will soon appear, but the end is not quite yet.

And so we wait. And as Paul acknowledges, the waiting can be hard. We might get drowsy, and even fall asleep. We might allow the darkness, rather than the light, to lull us, so that our selfish appetites and desires get in the way of loving as Christ calls us. The vices Paul lists- orgies, drunkenness, immorality, indecency, fighting, jealously- even if we manage to avoid these things ourselves, they are still around us, for many still live in the dark! And these vices can seem attractive, acceptable, desirable, so that we are tempted to leave the light and spend some time in the darkness ourselves. In the light, you love your neighbour. In the dark, you become selfish.

In Jesus Christ, the light of the world has come to us. And his light is still dawning, especially in the lives of those who choose to live in his way, his light. He taught us to love, not just by tell us, but by showing us how to do it. In Advent, we are reminded that God’s Kingdom is it hand, already appearing among us. ‘The night is nearly over, the day is almost here’, says Paul, which for me, conjures up an image of a sunrise: the dawn light beginning to banish the darkness. Dawn is coming, and so we have hope! So let’s live in the light, this Advent, and always.

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

The path of peace: sermon for Remembrance Sunday 2019

Scripture Readings: Micah 4.1-5

Luke 1.67-80

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

Yesterday, 9 November, is a date of great significance for Germany. As the media has been reminding us, it was the date that the Communist authorities opened up the Berlin Wall, 30 years ago, in 1989. But 9 November is also the anniversary of other historic events which led to that war, so that it has become known as ‘the Day of Fate’.

It was on 9 November 1918 that Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated, making possible the Armistice a few days later, on 11 November, which ended the fighting of the Great War, and which we in this country keep as our Remembrance Day. On 9 November 1923, an attempted coup d’état in Munich the so called Beer Hall Putsch- but brought Hitler national attention. By 1938, his Nazi party was in power, and 9 November that year they carried out a pogrom which saw synagogues and Jewish shops destroyed, Jews beaten and murdered, and the start of the removal of the Jews into concentration camps.

So it is ironic that the fall of the Berlin wall should have happened on 9 November. That event finally ended the division of the country which had prevailed since the Second World War, a war caused, of course, by aggression racism, antisemitism and extremist nationalism.

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