Monthly Archives: January 2016

Sermon for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C (and the Sunday of Christian Aid Week) 24/01/2016

Luke 4:14-21
4:14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.

4:15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

4:16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,

4:17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

4:20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

4:21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

 

–ooOOoo–

My late mother once when on holiday, attended Sunday worship at a particular Kirk.

It must have been during a vacancy, as there was an elderly retired minister taking the service.

All was going well – up until the time he got into the pulpit.

He prayed the words from Psalm 19: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”……

Then said something along the lines of “some people here have told me that my sermons are too long – this will not be the case today…..

…….adding, “Your offering will now be received”, before descending to his place behind the Communion Table.

And that was it!

Sometimes, when visiting a new place, the preacher will perhaps inject a bit too much verbiage into his or her message.  Occasionally, it may just be a wee bit “de trop”, lengthy, and convoluted.

Think of St Paul at Troas – here’s the account of his preaching from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles:

“Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third storey and was taken up dead.”

(Acts 20 vv 7-9 NKJ)

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When I was in my first Charge in the 1970s, I exchanged pulpits with the Minister of my home congregation on the outskirts of Glasgow.

I was greeted very warmly by everybody, and welcomed back by the Beadle, old Sam, who had known me since I was literally in short trousers.

With dignified ceremony, he carried the Good Buik into the Sanctuary, ahead of me, placed it on the lectern, then – with a respectful bow to me – ushered me into the pulpit, before sitting himself down in the front pew.

We got to the Sermon.  “May the words of my mouth……” and, like Pavlov’s dog, that was the trigger….. Sam dozed off and within seconds was snoring …. in a dignified way, of course.

Well, after my preaching heart, soul, kitchen sink etc etc for a period of time, I staggered across the finishing line.

“Amen” said I…… and, as if by magic, old Sam awoke from his slumbers.  He even had the nerve to say to me after the service, “My yon was a braw sermon, young Sanny!”

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In today’s story from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus goes home to Nazareth and preaches what could be the shortest sermon in history.  He goes to the synagogue there, is given the Scroll of Isaiah, and he reads from the 61st chapter:

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to    bring the Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to announce release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who have been oppressed; and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” 

Then he sits down, saying: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. 

 

Jesus-Synagogue-Nazareth

That’s it: a very short sermon.

And his audience went “Wow!”

Because of who he was… obviously – Joe the carpenter’s son whom they’d known since he was a wee laddie……..  but also because of this short simple message.

You see, these folks would have been tied up in rules, regulations, red-tape, convoluted complexities.  A barren, calcified kind of faith.

If you like, they were sleep walking through religion. Their eyes were closed in blissful slumberous ignorance as to what the heart of faith really is.

As the Prophet Micah put it “what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Jesus showed them the wisdom from God which exposed their ignorance of God’s wide mercy.

As the hymn tells us:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty…

…For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

(F W Faber, 1862)

 

Before we blame this congregation in the Nazareth Synagogue, what about so many of us? – some are dogmatic literalists, some are legalists, some are so tied up in Church politics that we miss the core message of a truly living, active faith – a faith lived in action.

How many of us are effectively asleep to the injunction and call to love our neighbours as ourself?.

…and that includes  bringing the Good News to the poor,  announcing release to the captives, recovering sight to the blind, and setting at liberty those who have been oppressed

 

This is the Sunday of Christian Aid Week which ends tomorrow on the Festival of the Conversion of St Paul (25 January)

– incidentally, remember the account in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles: Saul, as he was, was stricken with blindness on the way to Damascus… and was made to see the true way with new eyes – brought out of sleep, if you like, by Ananias in “The Street called Straight” in Damascus.

OK – Christian Aid.

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Think back to the floods of just a few weeks ago

“Why do we spend money in Bangladesh when it needs spending in Great Britain?” asked an MP, “It’s tragic for those families and I think we should pause allocating funds abroad for those reasons as well.”

Somebody else added, “What we need to do is to sort out the problems which are occurring here and not focus so much on developing countries. We need to put that right as soon as possible.”

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: “As our own people suffer, the Government continues to spend £12billion abroad on foreign aid. Wrong.”

But somebody else (Liam Cox) blogged, “I live in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire,” – a place which was very badly flooded in the days after Christmas.

And then he went on to remind his Facebook friends of devastation on a very different scale befalling human beings around the world.

“I’m alive,” he wrote. “I’m safe.

“My family are safe. We don’t live in fear. I’m free.

“There aren’t bullets flying about. There aren’t bombs going off. I’m not being forced to flee my home and I’m not being shunned by the richest countries in the world or criticised by its residents.

He continued: “All you morons vomiting your xenophobia on here about how money should only be spent ‘on our own’ need to look at yourselves closely in the mirror.

“I request you ask yourselves a very important question… ‘Am I a decent and honourable human being?’ because home isn’t just the UK, home is everywhere on this planet”.

Somebody else – interviewed on TV from his devastated home in Cumbria said that one major positive result of the flooding there was how the community came together to help each other – many total strangers.

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Broaden this – community… aren’t we all citizens of one world… with rich and safe, and poor and distressed within the one family of humankind?

We live with an “us/them” mentality.  We view people as right or wrong, good or bad, in or out.  We are impoverished by our lack of vision, captive to behaviours that demean and devalue other people, and blinded by attitudes that folks of different skin tone or culture or gender or sexual orientation or political persuasion are less than children of the living God and don’t deserve to be treated as brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Christ’s message should prompt us to value people we would sometimes rather ignore; and because to be the church, we must be daring and bold enough to step beyond traditional boundaries to encounter God in radically new ways.

Dare we choose to live into the truth which is at the very heart of the gospel, the truth proclaimed by Jesus when he opened the book of the prophet Isaiah?

If we don’t, we rob ourselves of the incalculable joy of serving the one whose first word and last word is never anything less than love.

Let’s waken up to what we are called to do!

eutychus

Let us pray.  Ever gracious God, as we seek to become moreChristlike in our behaviour and action, enrich and empower us with the simple straightforward truth of the gospel.  Make us bold in our witness so that your love is known to all people.  This we pray in the name of our Saviour and Lord.  Amen.

 

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These guys look deranged …. and this was before the reception booze

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After you die…..

What happens after you die?

The hospital gives your bed to somebody else!   (Jennifer Lawrence)

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Remains to be seen

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January 20, 2016 · 15:56

Trump’s call to whatever

 

A Satirical Look at His Liberty Speech
GrAl / Shutterstock.com
By Ed Spivey Jr. 01-19-2016

Donald Trump accidentally struck a dissonant chord this weekend when speaking before students at Liberty University, a major Christian college known for turning Bible-believing, Christ-centered young people into loyal Republicans. Liberty is a required stop for all presidential candidates wishing to establish their evangelical bonafides in the Virginia town of Lynchburg, which most white people read as “Welcomeburg,” but people of color, not so much.

Trump held his audience spellbound for the first part of his message, which included a reference to Jesus turning over the voter registration tables in the temple, but then he invoked a scripture from the second book of Corinthians. “Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame.”

As sympathetic as Liberty University students would be to sports metaphors — most in the audience were waving their “Christianity is Number One” foam fingers — Trump’s use of “two” instead of “second” prompted laughter from some of the students in attendance, students who would no doubt be disciplined later, perhaps by having their guns confiscated for a semester, leaving them defenseless against professors who insist on assigning term papers of more than 140 characters.
Trump quickly recovered, however, and talked directly to the evangelistic impulses of the group: “Jonathan Three Hundred and Sixteen has always meant a lot to me. That’s the Great Commission, a really fabulous commission, which normally is 3 percent of the final sales price, depending on the broker, although you might be able to squeeze out another half point.
“That was Jesus talking, terrific guy, Hispanic, I think, but since he’s the Son of God, I invited him to my first wedding. Super guy, ate a lot of shrimp, as I recall, and we were running out but He made some more. He offered to make more wine, too. He’s like a one-man Costco. But I told him he didn’t need to, because we have fabulous caterers, really the best caterers, and he said ‘I know that, Mr. T., I know everything.’ And then he laughed.

“Marla loved Him. No wait, that’s my second wife. But everybody loved him, including Bill Clinton, who was also at my third wedding.”
Trump went on to claim that “Christianity is under siege” and that he was the only presidential candidate who understood the biblical call to whatever.

“In Second Connecticut 4:18, that’s the terrific verse about doing unto others before they read the fine print. It was written by Pontius Paul who was on the Road to Epiphany, and called all Christians to look at the mustard seed not as half empty, but as half full, and that’s so important for us today, because the country—at least the part I don’t own—is a mess, a fantastic mess. We’ve got to take it back and tell the Saudis and the U.N. we don’t want their oil or anything.”
Trump also spoke with vigor about the undocumented and vowed as president he would forcibly remove the scourge of illegal Canadians, starting with Ted Cruz.

“And China, I can negotiate with China and get a better deal because I’m a great negotiator, I’m a terrific negotiator. I even used the Lord’s Prayer after my Eye of the Needle Casino went bankrupt in Atlantic City. The Lord’s Prayer has that fabulous part about forgiving our debts, which I mentioned to the banks I owed, and I’m waiting to hear back from them. You kids can pray for that. Pray for this country, of course, which is a mess, but also for my casinos and my golf courses, which employ a lot of people, a few of them legal.”

At the end, as the students filed out after dismissal, Trump noted that “look, they’re giving me a standing ovation!”

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Afterwards….

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January 14, 2016 · 11:47

Booze

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January 10, 2016 · 14:49

Salt & Pepper

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January 9, 2016 · 12:10

Later…..

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January 8, 2016 · 10:36

Taxi!

A taxi passenger tapped the driver on the shoulder to ask him a question. The driver screamed, lost control of the car, nearly hit a bus, went up on the footpath, and stopped inches from a shop window.

For a second everything went quiet in the cab, then the driver said, “Look mate, don’t ever do that again. You scared the daylights out of me!”

The passenger apologized and said, “I didn’t realize that a little tap would scare you so much.”

The driver replied, “Sorry, it’s not really your fault. Today is my first day as a cab driver – I’ve been driving a hearse for the last 25 years.”

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