Tag Archives: division

Sermon (based on Luke 12, verses 49-56)

 

I would like to tell you this morning about a family.

The couple aren’t married, but have been together for about 10 years. He’s 40 next month & his partner is three years younger.

Both are very intelligent- in fact, he’s got three degrees – all from Glasgow University.

They have two beautiful daughters – one is 8 & the other is two.

They’re a lovely and loving family and are very happy with life.

The parents aren’t church members, nor have the girls been baptised.

Who are they?…………

One of my sons and family!

 

(It rather proves that I’m a lousy minister – when I failed to involve my off-spring in the kirk!)

 

Two surveys were published over the last two weeks.

The more recent of the two, from ComRes, found that only 6% of British adults are practicing Christians.

The other Survey suggests that 53% of people are explicitly non-religious.

Unfortunately for the church, the people who continue to claim that Britain is a Christian country, and claim to be Christian, are also those who show little compassion for people with disabilities, as the repeated failure of the Work Capability Assessments show.

 

However, the Rev Norman Smith, who is Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Mission and Discipleship council, has commented: “The Church of Scotland is well aware that formal church membership has declined, yet as our own research shows, the role of spirituality in people’s lives remains important. As a church we are not driven by numbers, although we are committed to sharing our faith through our words and our deeds.”

 

That’s an interesting word “spirituality”

It’s not religion – that, if anything else is spirituality in a formal & organised setting and context.

All of us have a spiritual dimension to us, whether we recognise or acknowledge it or not.

In general, it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all. People may describe it simply a deep sense of being in touch with the “inner me”

I believe my son and his family have that, without religious commitment- as is the case with many other people and families.

 

But….should there not be more? A farther step toward commitment?

 

I heard a deeply moving story last week.

It involves a retired servant of Queen Victoria. She had been a housemaid in the Royal Household for more than 40 years, but now was living in squalor and poverty in a insalubrious area in London….and she was dying from TB.

She was known as a woman of simple but deep faith.

John Wesley got to hear about her, and paid her a visit.

Talking to her, praying for her, comforting her, in her squalid slum, he noticed something pinned to one of the walls.

It was a banker’s draft (an old form of a cheque) – it was made out for hundreds of ££ – and was a personal payment from Queen Victoria herself!

The retired servant hadn’t realised what it was nor its worth, because she couldn’t read or write.

Here she was, living in abject poverty and squalor, when she could have been living in comfort during her final days.

So many people aren’t fulfilled, because of their religious and faith illiteracy.

 

In our New Testament reading today, Jesus tells his disciples – and remember they didn’t always fully understand what he was getting at – that true faith can be divisive…… that even amongst families (and we started hearing about mine, remember) there can be different outlooks and interpretations of life.

 

He’s effectively saying that some may stand apart from others because of their convictions and how their faith is articulated in how they treat others.

Jesus is telling us he demands a commitment that just might cut across families ties, that just might cut across at how others see us, a commitment that says as a Christian you are different in this world.

Jesus senses in his disciples as he is now headed for Jerusalem and the cross that altitude that they were not taking his claims seriously in their lives.

Jesus sensed an attitude of curiosity among his followers.

And that’s not nearly enough.

He wanted love, loyalty, obedience, a sense of commitment, but they were merely being curious, seeing what this poor country preacher was saying and doing.

So Jesus tells them about the obedience, the commitment, the loyalty, he demands from his followers. A commitment that could and does even cut across families lines.

 

Does he really want that kind of commitment from us?

Isn’t “spirituality” a good enough option?

Does it have to be so radical and decisive.??

 

Well, it certainly takes conviction.

Think, for example, of Paul:

In his letters, Paul uses the terms, “I know,… I am sure” many times. Paul had a conviction.

 

Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus by Peter Paul Rubens

 

We heard earlier the story of Daniel. He was forbidden to pray to Jehovah.

Violation would result in being thrown into the lion’s den.

It wasn’t a tough decision for Daniel to make for he had already made some strong convictions concerning his relationship to God.

He kept praying. He was thrown into that den.

 

 

Daniel in the Lions’ Den – Peter Paul Rubens

 

That takes courage – the inner strength that God provides – the fortitude that comes through trust in him.

The inner strength is available for every one who is willing to call upon the resources of God to give them the courage to stand by his or her convictions.

This is the kind of life Jesus is calling us to live: to react in the way that puts God first.

It is a life that even sometimes calls us to stand apart, to stand alone maybe even in a family.

Jesus calls us to live for Him. He calls us to a life of loyalty, a life of commitment.

That’s the major difference between the fashionable concept of spirituality and true faith

For we know that Jesus is truly the way, the truth and the life for us…..all of us….now and forever.

 

AMEN

 

 

 

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Sermon – Change & Decay?

The newly retired Moderator of a fellow Scottish Presbyterian Church has an Internet blog, written in his capacity as a Parish Minister in his particular denomination.

He seems to spend virtually every post, criticising, condemning, and commentating negatively on the Kirk.

According to this narrow minded bigoted view, the Church of Scotland has become apostate, heretical, unbiblical – because of recent decisions made by our General Assembly and by words spoken by individual ministerial colleagues. He has actually gone as far as to suggest that the Kirk deserves to die – an appalling and unsavoury remark from a fellow Christian minister.

In the immortal words of Dad’s Army’s Private Fraser (John Lawrie – from just down the road in Dumfries), “We’re doomed. Doomed, I tell ye!”

Certainly, there is a lot happening within the Kirk that is causing strain and stress.

Take for example, the Assembly’s discussion and debate on the Overture regarding Ministers in Same Sex Marriage. Although that comparatively brief discussion was, on the whole, conducted in a civilised manner, before this, there has been so much bile, unpleasantness, and a downright lack of Christian charity.

Several ministers and some congregations have left the Kirk as a result.

Last Saturday, at the Assembly, 215 commissioners voted against the Overture. 339 voted “for”.

Division, disagreement, disruption

Over the years, numerically, we are in decline….. for many different reasons – such as members becoming older and sadly being no longer with us; of younger people who have no interest; of some long term members who – for whatever the reason – have just given up.

The way we were – St Mary’s Church, 1901

 

I was ordained in 1974. Then Kirk membership was about a million. 42 years on – it’s standing at around 370,000.

I remember sometime around 1990, a member of staff from the Church Offices came to address my then Presbytery – Lothian.

He talked about church decline by way of membership numbers, and mentioned that if the trend continued, Edinburgh (our neighbouring Presbytery) would have no members by 2029 – and would effectively disappear.

Friendly rivalry caused many of us there at that evening’s meeting to guffaw – though it was no laughing matter.

He paused for a moment, then said: “I don’t know why you’re laughing; YOUR Presbytery will disappear the year after – in 2030!”

But – let’s say this…..

 

  • The Church still stands.

Despite knock backs, despite setbacks, despite the downward trajectory we seem to be on – we’re still here….. we always will be.

Do you remember the story of Christ arriving in Heaven, and being asked how many folk he’d left to carry on, and he answers “Twelve”

“Twelve!” comes the incredulous reply, “Is that all?”

And he answers, “It’s enough”.

Things may not get as few as that here, but think of how the Church is actually growing – in Africa, Russia, China…… that’s more than enough!

I read yesterday that in 1900, there were 8 million Christians in Africa. Now there are 335 million. And the growth rate continues to accelerate.

For Christianity the 20th century was numerically the most successful century since Christ was crucified. By 2010, there were 2.2 billion Christians in the world, 31% of its population.

 

  • And we stand for something.

Societal patterns are changing, as are attitudes, and as is need.

What is Church? It’s a group or congregation. Very often interpreted as people coming together on – usually a Sunday – to sing hymns, listen to the Minister say prayers (as to actually praying themselves) and listening to a sermon for ten/fifteen minutes…. then going home for lunch.

That may be “being” Church…. but “doing” Church involves more, so much more.

Helping, feeding, caring for those in need should be the ‘why’ of what we, if we truly want to “do”, not the how or the what. Following Christ’s teaching demands that we share the essentials of life unconditionally.

This is integral not peripheral, the beginning and not a side-line or optional extra. Jesus’ unequivocally states that we encounter ultimate meaning when we treat others as we would wish to be treated, love others as we love ourselves and meet the needs of the vulnerable, excluded and marginalised.

This is the imperative which drives and shapes the Church and its existence as a servant community, taking us back to Christ’s theology as found in his Parable of the Kingdom in Matthew 25

image

 

  • And the Church doesn’t stand still

If you cast your mind back to the short address I gave near the beginning of today’s service – about the dog and the rabbit……

Let me – as it were – turn it around a bit…… and remind you of that wonderful poem written by Francis Thomson – The Hound of Heaven…..

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him…”

Thomson’s story is punctuated by sorrow, failure and addiction. The squalor and self-medication of his age come through in every chapter of his life, ultimately ending in his death at age 48. But Thompson’s real legacy is not the opium that consumed his body, but the paw prints of a Hound he says relentlessly pursued his soul.

Thompson knew that Hound as the God Who draws sinners to Himself even as they flee from His voice, a dauntless Hunter of hearts.

 


In the 1930’s Stalin ordered a purge of all Bibles and all believers. In Stavropol, Russia, this order was carried out with vengeance. Thousands of Bibles were confiscated, and multitudes of believers were sent to the gulags-prison camps-where most died, unjustly condemned as “enemies of the state.”

An American missionary team were many years later to discover that there was a warehouse outside of town where these confiscated Bibles had been stored since Stalin’s day.

They got permission to remove them, helped by several Russians .

One helper was a young man-a skeptical, hostile agnostic who had come only for the day’s wages. As they were loading Bibles, one team member noticed that the young man had disappeared. Eventually they found him in a corner of the warehouse, weeping.

He had slipped away hoping to take a Bible for himself. What he did not know was that he was being pursued by the “Hound of Heaven.” What he found shook him to the core.

The inside page of the Bible he picked up had the handwritten signature of his own grandmother. It had been her personal Bible. Out of the thousands of Bibles still left in that warehouse, he stole the very one belonging to his grandmother-a woman, who throughout her entire life, was persecuted for her faith.

the “Hound of Heaven” who had tracked him down to that very warehouse with devastating effect.

Jesus is truly the ever-present, all-seeing “Hound of Heaven.” He can still track us down wherever we’re hiding!

He called that young Russian man and how many more like him will he seek and find!

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The Covenant (article in the Herald newspaper)

Church ministers to sign covenant against gay ordination

Brian Donnelly
Senior News Reporter
Thursday 18 December 2014
EVANGELICALS opposed to gay ordination are forming a protest movement against greater acceptance of homosexual and lesbian ministers in the Church of Scotland.

The group, to be launched in Glasgow today and to be called the Covenant Fellowship, will push for a traditionalist stance from within the Kirk, rather than leaving the main body of the Church.

It comes as the Kirk’s presbyteries this week returned a majority backing in the penultimate stage of acceptance of gay ordination, with local churches expected to be able to opt to appoint a gay minister in a same sex relationship.

The issue must still reach a vote at the General Assembly in May when same sex marriage among clergy is also expected to be raised.

The Kirk’s struggle with gay ordination has led to members leaving.

New figures show 18 out of 795 ministers have left the Church over the possibility of the Church eventually agreeing to allow individual congregations to choose a gay minister.

Rev Professor Andrew McGowan, minister of Inverness East Church of Scotland and one of those involved in the fellowship, said: “The Church of Scotland is in the midst of a severe crisis.

“If approved, this (overture) will extend even further the disruption of the Church of Scotland.

“Many well-known congregations (individual ministers and groups of worshippers) in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Stornoway and elsewhere have already left the Church, or been split in two.

“In addition, many individual members, elders and ministers have left.”

Professor of Theology at the University of the Highlands and Islands and Honorary Professor in Reformed Doctrine at the University of Aberdeen, Mr McGowan was Principal of the Highland Theological College from its inception in 1994 until 2009.

He will be joined by other Kirk members in Glasgow to sign the covenant.

He said: “Today, members and adherents of the Church of Scotland are being asked to express support for a Covenant Fellowship.

“We invite everyone in the Church who feels the same way to stand with us.

“The hope is that the Covenant Fellowship, which begins today as a protest against recent events, will grow to become an effective campaign group within the Church on behalf of those who believe in Christian orthodoxy.”

Official figures show 28 of the presbyteries in favour and 11 against with six still to lodge their returns with the Kirk. A total of 45 are eligible to vote.

The gay ordination debate was sparked by the appointment of Rev Scott Rennie, who is in a civil partnership, to a church in Aberdeen in 2009.

Rev Dr George Whyte, Acting Principal Clerk to the Kirk, said: “The Church of Scotland welcomes Professor McGowan’s continued commitment to remain within the Church but we disagree with his criticisms.

“The focus of complaint is legislation which has been painstakingly considered. For many the discussion has been difficult.

“Some say the Church is going too far and others that is going too slow. Yet the issue has to be discussed and we are a Church which recognises liberty of opinion.”

Mr Whyte added: “Our General Assembly has agreed that this proposal falls into that category and is not an attack on the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith.

“We share Professor McGowan’s abhorrence of further disruption and we hope that across Scotland Christians will continue to work together despite their varied opinions.”

Liberal group Affirmation Scotland said the current proposal is “not perfect as it still enshrines inequality and discriminatory treatment” but added “we feel it is important that it is supported as it will allow the Church to take a significant step forward”.

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The Archbishop of W****rbury! or Welby the w****er

Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage plan

3marcus-png

A furious row has erupted among members of the clergy after a Church of England priest branded the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, a “w****r” for resisting the government’s attempts to legalise gay marriage.

The attack, by the Revd Marcus Ranshaw, came after Archbishop Welby warned that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill would effectively “abolish” the traditional institution of marriage, the “cornerstone” of society.

In an angry posting on Facebook last night, the Revd Ramshaw, a supporter of gay marriage, wrote: “what really upsets me is nasty people such as Justin Welby robbing me of my faith in the church, he does not speak in my name and i think he is a wanker, but im not going to stop being a christian or a priest.”

But he was swiftly taken to task by the Revd Arun Arora, the Director of Communications for the Church of England, who posted: “Calling another Christian a w****r doesn’t work for me as a priestly response,” and went on to add: “I think any right-minded person would find a priest calling his archbishop an onanist to be utterly outrageous.”

The row has since escalated, with Revd Ramshaw accusing Archbishop Welby of having “a nasty, ill-judged opinion on homosexual relations” which has divided the church into “bitterness and anger.”

Regarding his choice of language, he admitted: “i accept that that term was wrong and for that i am sorry, but i hope he knows how much hurt he is doing to faithful, loyal christians who love the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In response, the Revd Arora accused his fellow priest of being “ungracious and a liar who breaks his promises” for not readily apologising.

Speaking to The Independent the Revd Ramshaw, a former associate vicar at St Edward King and Martyr Church in Cambridge, said: “I inadvertently said the Archbishop of Canterbury was a w****r in one single line…it was not a public platform, it was a personal post which I deleted at the request of the director of communications for the Church of England. I am genuinely sorry that I got cross for one second and just put in that one word.”

The priest added: “Why should I be so taken to task about this?…I have made a complaint to Facebook and reported him for threatening behaviour. I intend to make a complaint to Church House…this is not a way to treat any Christian…it is bullying, it’s nasty and it’s horrible and I will construct a complaint on that basis.”

Lambeth Palace would not comment on the row, but in a statement to The Independent, Revd Arora said: “The issue of same Sex Marriage is an emotive one. There are a variety of views within the Church and much of that debate takes place online.

“I don’t think calling someone a ‘w****r’ is the best way of engaging. Whilst I am sure this will be water off a duck’s back for Archbishop Justin, I think it was right to challenge Marcus’ approach.”

article from the “Independent” newspaper

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