Old High St. Stephen's, Inverness

Welcome to Old High St Stephen's Church, Inverness

Sunday Bulletin 16 February 2020

WORSHIP THIS WEEK

Sunday 23 February 2020: Transfiguration Sunday

10am Sacrament of Holy Communion at St Stephen’s

Led by Rev Alastair Younger

11.15am Morning Worship at the Old High

Led by Vivian Roden, Reader at Moy, Dalarossie and Tomatin

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION – contact details from the Church Administrator

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 being today. Please leave your donations in the suitcases located in the entry hall (to be collected by Gary Ross.

Sunday Evening Discussion Group will meet again this evening at 7pm in the vestry to discuss an article that follows on from the Conversations in Discipleship explored 2 weeks ago: considering what being a disciple may mean in our Church of today. More details from Andrew Stevenson.

BIG CLEAN of St Stephen’s Church and Halls will take place on Saturday 14 March from 10am to 12 noon. Tea and coffee provided! Details from Joan Darcy.

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 forms available for visitors to give feedback. Information https://www.oldhighststephens.com/2019/12/05/oldhighdevelopmentprojectexhibition/, where you can also download the architect’s report.

Old High Church Opening 2020 The first meeting of the Volunteers in 2020 is to be held at 2pm on Monday 17 February in the church. New volunteers are most welcome. For further information please contact Sheila MacLeod.

THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION will be celebrated at St Stephen’s Church on 23 February. 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, 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.

WORD FOR TODAY daily bible readings (Feb-Apr) are available in both buildings.

OHSS Magazine editor Willie Morrison urgently requires articles and photos for the March 2020 issue. Please submit whatever you can, as early as possible. Deadline Friday 20 March.

POSSIBLE VACANCY As has already been announced, Peter, our Minister, will be preaching at Cambuslang Parish Church next Sunday 23 February, as the sole nominee for their vacancy. As is the custom of the Church of Scotland, there will be a vote following that service for the congregation to decide whether or not to call Peter as their new Minister. If they do so, it is expected that Peter will take up his new post sometime in June, which will, at that point, cause a vacancy for Old High St Stephen’s. However, it is to be hoped that well before then arrangements will be made for the vacancy in our congregation, such as the appointment of an Interim Moderator (who would chair the Kirk Session in a vacancy). More information will be shared as soon as it becomes available. Christine Mackenzie, Acting Session Clerk.

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

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!? Still time to register. Dot is going! Only £8…. 

CHURCH OF SCOTLAND APPOINTMENT OF ASSEMBLY TRUSTEES We welcome applications for membership to the Assembly Trustees. Can you bring your professional expertise and passion for the Church, to a rewarding role as an Assembly Trustee? Would you like to share your skills and knowledge to serve on a recently created body within the Church of Scotland? Closing date 12 noon Wed 26 February 2020 Interviews Thursday 26 and Friday 27 March 2020. Information/Application Pack. https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/about_us/vacancies_and_volunteering. John Chalmers, Assembly Trustees Convener, Norma Rolls, Assembly Trustees Vice convener.

Sunday Bulletin 9 February 2020

WORSHIP THIS WEEK
Sunday 16 February 2020: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
10 am Morning Worship at St Stephen’s
11.15 am Morning Worship at the Old High

NEWS FROM OUR CONGREGATION – contact details from Church Administrator
SHARING YOUR FAITH (SYF) STOP PRESS! A new Connect Group is starting again on Friday 14 February at the home of Jennie McIntosh, 13 High Street, Fortrose from 2-3.30pm. Please don’t be put off by the venue, it’s to
accommodate Jennie and will be well worth it! Everyone is welcome, especially in light of recent developments – a chance to grow in discipleship. Contact me for more information or if you need a lift. It’s only a 4-week commitment. Dot Getliffe, Mission Develop Worker.
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 hall (to be collected by Gary Ross.
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 forms available for visitors to give feedback. Information https://www.oldhighststephens.com/2019/12/05/old-high-development-projectexhibition/, where you can also download the architect’s report.
CRAFT EVENING St Stephen’s Hall 7.30–9pm, Wednesday 12 February 2020. Crafters and non-crafters welcome (you may wish to learn a craft). Friendly atmosphere and refreshments provided. Contact Susan MacLeod.
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION will be celebrated at St Stephen’s Church on 23 February. 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, 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.
WORD FOR TODAY daily bible readings (Feb-Apr) are available in both buildings.
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.
POSSIBLE VACANCY As has already been announced, Peter, our Minister, will be preaching at Cambuslang Parish Church on Sunday 23 February, as the sole nominee for their vacancy. As is the custom of the Church of Scotland, there will be a vote following that service for the congregation to decide whether or not to call Peter as their new Minister. If they do so, it is expected that Peter will take up his new post sometime in June, which will, at that point, cause a vacancy for Old High St Stephen’s. However, it is to be hoped that well before then arrangements will be made for the vacancy in our congregation, such as the appointment of an Interim Moderator (who would chair the Kirk Session in a vacancy). More information will be shared as soon as it becomes available. Christine Mackenzie, Acting Session Clerk.
OTHER NEWS
CHURCH OF SCOTLAND APPOINTMENT OF ASSEMBLY TRUSTEES
(Presbytery Clerks, Session Clerks, Ministers, Ministries Development Staff, Nomination Committee and CSC Staff). We welcome applications for membership to the Assembly Trustees. Can you bring your professional expertise and passion for the Church, to a rewarding role as an Assembly Trustee? Would you like to share your skills and knowledge to serve on a recently created body within the Church of Scotland? Closing date 12 noon Wed 26 February 2020 Interviews Thursday 26 and Friday 27 March 2020. Information/Application Pack. https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/about_us/vacancies_and_volunteering. John Chalmers, Assembly Trustees Convener, Norma Rolls, Assembly Trustees Vice-convener.

Bodybuilders! Sermon for 9 February 2020 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Scripture Readings: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a (NB not the Lectionary reading for this Sunday)

Matthew 5:13-20

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

Sometimes you’ll hear the phrase ‘a broad church’ to describe a political party, or some other organisation or movement, which encompasses different kinds of people and with different ideas. The phrase originated in the mid-nineteenth century, when the Church of England had two very vocal wings, a High Church party and a Low Church party. Between them stood the Broad Churchmen, who wanted a middle way, inclusive way between the extremes[1]. In fact, religious communities like are a bit like political parties in that respect. Churches are a coalition of interests, even in the same denomination, even in the same congregation. It was ever so.

Read More

Sunday Bulletin 2 February 2020

WORSHIP THIS WEEK
Sunday 9 February 2020: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
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
SOUTHSIDE NURSING HOME There will be a short service, led by Jim Alexander, at Southside Nursing Home immediately after this morning’s service at St Stephen’s. If you are able to assist with the singing, or chatting to the residents, this would be much appreciated. Please speak to Jim after the service. If you would like to help lead these services, please speak to Janet Robertson
SUNDAY EVENING DISCUSSION GROUP continues at 7pm in St Stephen’s vestry this evening, looking at Conversations in Discipleship – a pamphlet from the Mission and Discipleship Council of the Church of Scotland. All congregations have been urged to look at this material and report back on their responses to it. This is a ‘stand-alone’ event where it would be good to have as many as possible contributing to the discussion. More information from Andrew Stevenson.
WORD FOR TODAY daily bible readings (Feb-Apr) are available in both buildings.
SHARING YOUR FAITH (SYF) STOP PRESS! A new Connect Group is starting again on Friday 7 February at the home of Jennie McIntosh, 13 High Street, Fortrose from 2-3.30pm. Please don’t be put off by the venue, it’s to accommodate Jennie and will be well worth it! Everyone is welcome, especially in light of recent developments – a chance to grow in discipleship. Contact me for more information or if you need a lift. It’s only a 4-week commitment. Dot Getliffe, Mission Develop Worker.
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 hall (to be collected by Gary Ross.
HIGHLAND HOMELESS TRUST write: ‘Please pass on to the congregation our many thanks for the continued support we receive from them, in particular the generous donation of £458.07 and the huge donation of Christmas presents for our clients. All our clients were hugely appreciative of the gifts they received, and I appreciate the time and effort taken by folk to wrap these up at what is a busy and expensive time of the year for everyone. Again, many thanks for your continued support’. Alex Gilchrist, General Manager, Gateway
MAGGIE’S HIGHLANDS has written thanking us for our donation of £609.35: ‘Your support means so much to the people who come through our doors. The time after a cancer diagnosis can be filled with worry and uncertainty of the future, but your generosity means that people get the support they desperately need, and at a time they need it most. Your kindness means they can be comforted by a qualified member of staff, get helpful advice about eating well, or money worries. Or they can simply find a peaceful place to sit in the garden when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Inside our centre people can start to find answers to the difficult questions a cancer diagnosis can bring. Thank you for making sure our centre will always be there to everyone who needs us. If you or anyone you know ever needs us simply visit or get in touch’. Charlotte Boa, Centre Fundraising Organiser.
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 forms available for visitors to give feedback. Information https://www.oldhighststephens.com/2019/12/05/old-high-development-project-exhibition/, where you can also download the architect’s report.
THANK YOU Robin Versteeg would like to thank everyone so much for the beautiful card and very generous gift he was presented with on leaving Old High last month. He and Emma are extremely grateful for the support and friendship shown to them and Elijah and Ezra from the OHSS congregation throughout Robin’s time as organist. They miss everyone very much and are looking forward to returning in March!
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
CHURCH OF SCOTLAND APPOINTMENT OF ASSEMBLY TRUSTEES (Presbytery Clerks, Session Clerks, Ministers, Ministries Development Staff, Nomination Committee and CSC Staff). We welcome applications for membership to the Assembly Trustees. Can you bring your professional expertise and passion for the Church, to a rewarding role as an Assembly Trustee? Would you like to share your skills and knowledge to serve on a recently created body within the Church of Scotland? Closing date 12 noon Wed 26 February 2020 Interviews Thursday 26 and Friday 27 March 2020. Information/Application Pack. https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/about_us/vacancies_and_volunteering. John Chalmers, Assembly Trustees Convener, Norma Rolls, Assembly Trustees Vice-convener.

The fool on the cross: sermon for 2 February 2020: The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Scripture Readings (NRSV): 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Matthew 5:1-12

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

Quite often, we hear the word ‘multicultural’ to describe society today. It’s a word which reflects the reality that Scotland is home to people of many different faiths and belief systems. In fact, it’s the reality for most of the world. People do not simply stay where they are born, for humans seem to have a necessity to travel, to move around.

Read More

Follow who…? Sermon for 26 January 2020: Third Sunday after Epiphany

Scripture Readings:

1 Corinthians 1.10-18

Matthew 4.12-25

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

The story’s told of the young minister who was inducted to a Highland parish, and was soon told by his Session Clerk that he’d better go and visit old Mrs McWhuchle at the Big Hoose. So off he went, and he visited her faithfully, although after a while he couldn’t honestly have said he enjoyed the visits very much. After some months, the Session Clerk asked him how he was getting on with old Mrs McWhuchle. ‘Oh, she’s quite polite’, said the minister, ‘but… well, she’s always telling me about what a saint old Mr McSporran, the previous minister was, and how I can’t match up to him’. ‘Och, don’t worry son’, said the Session Clerk, ‘She said that to Mr McSporran as weel’.

The personalities of leaders have always loomed large in the Church. St Paul deals with it the passage we heard today from First Corinthians. Like all of Paul’s letters, his letters to the Christians of the Greek port city of Corinth are not abstract theological tomes. They are real letters, written in response to real problems.

So Paul writes to the Corinthians,

…some people from Chloe’s family have told me quite plainly, my friends, that there are quarrels among you.

‘Chloe’s family’ was probably not really her actual family, but rather what we might call the ‘Church family’ which met in Chloe’s house. They’ve written to Paul because they are worried about division in the Church of Corinth, and we get to read Paul’s reply to them.

Paul sees that factions have appeared in the Christian community of Corinth which threaten the unity of the Church. They have given themselves labels, naming themselves after senior figures within the Church. So some say, ‘I follow Paul’, and other say, ‘I follow Apollos’, and another group says, ‘I follow Peter’ and another ‘I follow Christ’.

It’s a phenomenon which is always seems to have turned up in the history of the Church. ‘I follow Francis’, said the Franciscans, centuries later; ‘I follow Luther’, said the Lutherans; ‘I follow Calvin’, said the Calvinists. And: ‘I preferred Mr McSporran’, said Mrs McWhuchle at the Big Hoose! Just a few short years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, it happened in Corinth, and Paul has to appeal to the Corinthian Church: ‘Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose’.

Paul can see the dangers of this factionalism- even when one faction calls itself after him! ‘I follow Paul’, said that particular group. They were proud to follow Paul, who had been the one who had established the Church in their city. And so they tried to be faithful to his memory, and to keep the traditions he had handed on.

But another group claimed: ‘I belong to Apollos’. Apollos, the Acts of the Apostles tells us, was ‘an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures’[1]. Paul had started the Church in Corinth, but when he left to go and plant more churches elsewhere, he left Apollos in charge to nurture what he had planted. But now Apollos has his fan club. They’re people who realise that you can’t sit still all the time, who want to develop things. Paul says this of himself and Apollos in chapter 3 of this letter:

After all, who is Apollos? And who is Paul? We are simply God’s servants, by whom you were led to believe. Each one of us does the work which the Lord gave him to do: I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow. The one who plants and the one who waters really do not matter. It is God who matters, because he makes the plant grow. There is no difference between the one who plants and the one who waters; God will reward each one according to the work each has done. For we are partners working together for God, and you are God’s field. You are also God’s building. Using the gift that God gave me, I did the work of an expert builder and laid the foundation, and someone else is building on it.[2]

Paul has done his bit- now it’s put to Apollos to develop what he started. What wisdom there is in Paul’s words- the true humility of someone who knows he is the servant of a higher power, without whom neither his nor anyone else’s labours will bear fruit. Paul and Apollos are both important in God’s plan, for each has their particular gifts and tasks, and each are essential.

There’s also another party at Corinth that says, ‘I follow Peter’. It’s a great thing to say you belong to Peter, for Peter was the chief apostle, the one nominated by Jesus to be the rock on which he would build his Church. So I can imagine the Petrine party saying, ‘We look to Peter, because he is the chief apostle. Our faith is the one, true, apostolic faith’. And ever since, there have always been Christians who have argued that their interpretation of things is correct because it is based on apostolic tradition. They will argue against those who try to reinterpret the faith, calling them ‘modernisers’ who give in to easily to the spirit of the age. It’s more faithful, they claim to a stand firm on the rock of tradition.

We need solid rocks in our storm-tossed age. There are those who say that there are no fixed  points any more, that everything you think you know about God and the world, or about what is right and wrong- all of it is relative, we make it up as we go. In this post-modern age, when we carried about on the currents of lots of different philosophies and lifestyles and belief systems, many people are looking for a rock, solid ground, somewhere where they are not going to be swept off their feet. For some, the traditions of certain Churches, or a particular interpretation of the Bible, seem to provide that solid ground.

But think again about the metaphors Paul used to describe his relationship to Apollos. We need a solid foundation, a bedrock on which to build. But there is no point in laying a good foundation if you don’t build on it. It’s important to remember that there was a seed once planted- but we must water and tend the seed.

There was yet another faction in Corinth, and perhaps they were the most dangerous of the lot. They were the ones who tried to overcome all the factions by saying. ‘I follow Christ!’ Of course, everyone in the Church says they belong to Christ- the Catholics, the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the dour Psalm singers and the happy-clappies. And maybe they do all belong. But in Corinth, the people saying ‘I follow Christ!’ were doing so in a way that implied that anyone else didn’t really follow Christ.

And that is something are still prone to do. We cry, ‘I follow Christ!’ in way which implies that other Christians don’t really follow Christ. And so we judge other Christians (something which Christ specifically commanded us not to do), because they are not the same kind of Christians as we are.

All these divisions at Corinth brought out Paul’s sarcasm:

Christ has been divided into groups! Was it Paul who died on the cross for you? Were you baptized as Paul’s disciples? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius. No one can say, then, that you were baptized as my disciples. (Oh yes, I also baptized Stephanas and his family; but I can’t remember whether I baptized anyone else.)’[3].

What a sad thing for Paul to say- ‘thank God I never baptized many of you lot!’ But he means that who did the baptising doesn’t matter a whit. It is into whom you were baptised that’s important. When Paul of Apollos or Peter or anyone else baptised you, they baptised you into Jesus Christ. Baptism means that we are united with Jesus Christ. ‘Christ did not send me to baptize’ says Paul: ‘He sent me to tell the Good News’- that is, the message about Jesus Christ.

How often do we in the Church put to the forefront, not the Good News about Jesus Christ, but charismatic leaders and heroes of the faith, or fine buildings, or hallowed theological traditions, or carefully constructed theological systems, or favourite forms of worship, or what we think are burning issues- and they draw our eyes away from Jesus Christ!

The Swiss theologian Karl Barth, writing just after the First World War, imagined the rather moribund Church of his day being like a shell-crater in no-man’s land. It is the remains of what was once a great explosion of power, something which shattered the earth, and changed the landscape. We are drawn to the shell-hole, which now, however, is empty. The power which created the shell-hole was in the past, and how it has dissipated. How often are we intent on preserving the shell-holes, instead of seeking the power which first created them?

The power was a person with a message about the necessity of turning our lives around because God’s Kingdom is near. He called some fishermen one day, and called them not to be Pauline or Petrine or Apolline, or Presbyterian or Episcopalians or Catholics or liberals or evangelicals- or Old Highers or St Stephenians! He simply said, ‘Come with me’, and they went, not knowing where, such was the power of this man.

They went with him as he preached the kingdom and cured the sick and taught them how to fish for people. They went him until he was arrested, and although they mostly abandoned him when he was put to a shameful death on a cross, they afterwards rediscovered his power, and they learned how they could still go with him, still plant for him and water for him, and lay foundations for him and build on those foundations for him. They and their successors discovered many ways to respond to his call when he says, ‘Come with me’.

Listen again to Paul’s appeal to the Church at Corinth 2,000 years ago, and hear him as he speaks directly from Scripture to us today:

By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my friends, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.

Those words are still God’s Word to the Church today: to the Church across the world, divided into denominations; to our own denomination, the Church of Scotland, as it wrestles with how best to apply the Gospel in today’s Scotland; to our own congregation, to this diverse group of people, who have become part of the Church in so many different ways, each with our own stories, our varied experiences of life, our different ideals and values which are important to us, where we struggle to agree about how we go forward from here.

And especially we should hear those words as, today, we gather around the Table, where not me, not the Church, but Christ himself is the host. For we were all baptised into Jesus Christ. He calls us, again and again: ‘Come with me’. And it is when we go with him, and not off on our own, not following lesser leaders, that we find our unity as a Church, as a congregation.

May God bless us all as we follow where he leads.

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

© 2020 Peter W Nimmo

After sermon: offering

Notes

[1] Acts 18.24, NRSV

[2] 1 Corinthians 3.5-10a

[3] 1 Cor. 1.13-16

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 @)

Page 1 of 12

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén