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April 24, 2017 · 12:22

“I didn’t have a watch” “No, but there was a calendar on the wall beside you”

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April 27, 2016 · 10:45

Sermon – the Third of Easter, Year C

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Raphael – “Miraculous Draft of Fishes”

 

John 21 verses 1-19

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.

21:2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

21:4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

21:5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”

21:6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.

21:8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

21:9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.

21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

21:11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.

21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.

21:13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

21:14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

21:16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

21:18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

21:19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

 

THE SIGN OF THE FISH

I’m off on holiday – yes AGAIN! – next Saturday: to Rhodes this time.

Usually, I just throw an assortment of mismatched clothes in a suitcase about an hour before I leave. But the one constant that I take is a pair of Nike sneakers…. you know: the trainers with the “swoosh” symbol.

It’s a logo that is recognised world-wide – a sort of tick shaped emblem.

Actually, it is supposed to represent the wing from the legendary statue of the Greek goddess of victory, who was called Nike (not “Nyk” as many folk pronounce it)

It is supposed to bring to mind victory on today’s so-called “battlefields” like gyms, and running tracks.

The most I’ll be running next week will likely be a bath! So out of condition – but I like my red Nikes.

Nike’s legendary Swoosh logo is probably one of the most recognisable in the sports industry, enabling us to see swift movement in its simple design.

That’s the way with so many signs and symbols these days – simple but effective.

Think of a golden “M” shaped arch – you don’t have to guess for even a couple of seconds to work out that one.

A three pointed star in a circle – Mercedes Benz

An apple with a bite out of it – iPhones, iPads, iPods…. and I (sic) don’t know what else.

However, the most famous and instantly recognisable symbol of all is ……. the Cross.

Although the Cross is displayed in endless varieties – plain, crucifix, Celtic, wooden, metal, palm (as we often have in church on Palm Sunday), as jewelry, tattoos, atop church spires ….. it is immediately recognisable as a symbol of Christianity.

Yet, when the Church began, it would have been more likely that our forebears in the Faith would have been recognised by fellow believers through the sign of the FISH.

Sorry to return to talking about holidays again, but a few years ago, my late wife and I spent an amazing few hours at the wonderful site at Ephesus.

{Incidentally, there is there an ancient piece of graffito scratched into a rock with the Greek name “Nike”

The tour guide asked if anyone knew who Nike was, and an American in our group answered “Say, isn’t “he” (!) the god of sportswear?”}

Anyhow, in many other places, in the ancient walls and pavements, there are etched into the stone tiny simple cross shapes, as well as more elaborate chiselled almost Maltese-style ones.

But …. as common were engravings of the word ICHTHUS – the Greek for “fish”

For the early Church the fish logo was very prominent indeed. It appeared frequently in the early Christian world up until the end of the fourth century.

It would be logical at this point to explain why the fish symbol was important, but I’m going to put it to one side just now, and come back to it later.

I want us to think about this instead just now:

Have you noticed how many times there are references to fish in the Gospels?

Right at the beginning of the story, we find Jesus among fishermen, and from them he selects his first disciples…… to be “fishers of men”

When Christ wants to feed the crowd in the desert – through Andrew, a fisherman, of course – he finds a boy with five loaves and two fishes.

And the fish, along with bread, was associated with communion in the early days of the Faith.

(The symbol can be seen in the Sacraments Chapel of the Catacombs of St. Callistus. Because of the story of the miracle of the feeding of the 5000, the fish also symbolized the Eucharist.)

When Christ tells his disciples to have some trust in the Heavenly Father, he asks them, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?”

In addition, in Mediterranean countries, the fish was seen as the symbol of good luck, and it still is in some New Year customs.

Christ, of course, ushered in a New Age – would not the fish be an appropriate sign for what he represented?

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Let’s now look at our Resurrection narrative for this Sunday. It’s about fish and fishing.

Here are the disciples back to the old business – fishing. They’ve been out all night and have caught nothing. On the shore is someone whom they don’t recognise. He instructs them to cast out the net again starboard-side. And there follows an incredible catch.

Jesus, then, takes bread and fish, and – sacramentally? – feeds them.

Is it any wonder that the fish became an emblem of faith for these first believers?

Before we take this any further, let’s ask if the sign of the fish can speak to us in this day and age.

How about this? Perhaps it’s indicative of the sheer earthiness and practicality of the Gospel.

Fish was a vital part of the economy of Christ’s society. Jesus didn’t go down to the lakeside to find as his followers some romantic sportsmen. He went right into the heart of the community – right to the centre of local industry. He walked straight into the practicalities of life.

After the highs of Easter Day, we’re back to normality now; back to the everyday stuff of normal life.

But…. Christ is STILL with us – with us in all the experiences of life.

He’s with us in the hungry who need to be fed, with the homeless who need shelter, the sick and the marginalised who need our compassion. “as you did it for the least of these my brethren” he says, “you did it unto me”
Let’s think of this too – the fish represents vitality. Have you ever watched a trout, for example, darting from stone to stone in a rippling stream?

It’s so alive – in its natural environment. Could that not be an image of the Christian living in the grace of God?

New Christians were plunged into the waters of baptism, and they began to see their life from then on as one sustained and supported by this symbol of God’s grace.

{note: the Latin word for a baptismal font is “piscina” – literally a fish pond. Converts to the Faith were called “little fish” (Latin: “pisculi”)}

May we always live as if we are alive in God’s environment of love.

Now, to the main reason for Christianity and the symbol of the fish. Something, I guess, all of you have heard about before.

And, when I attended Church in February in Port of Spain in Trinidad, the minister preached for almost half an hour on the meaning and symbolism of the fish…… oh, dear – perhaps twenty minutes too long.

 

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But, fear not! This is it in condensed form:

In Greek, the word for “fish” is ICHTHUS. – it can be an acronym – each Greek initial letter spells out the word – translated – “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour”

{Iesus Christos, Theou Uios Soter}

A powerful and secret symbol shared between believers – and a reminder of their Creed.

This is the faith by which Christ’s Church has lived for some two thousand years.

Yet Jesus is never referred to as “The Great Fisherman”; rather as “The Shepherd of the Sheep”

And in today’s passage the Book of Revelation, he is called the Lamb.

And Peter, the big fisherman, is charged (in the second part of today’s Gospel passage) to be a pastor, to feed the sheep.

Peter, like Paul (in today’s Scripture Reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles) is changed by Christ into a new man. Both are given a new task and a new opportunity.

This was only possible because of the Cross, and the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The fish may be a fascinating sign, but the Cross is a much more potent symbol.

It speaks to us of grace, of love, of sacrifice, of forgiveness.

It is not in the symbol of the fish we glory, but in the Cross of Christ – towering o’er the wrecks of time.

Do we believe enough to identify with Christ’s Cross – through what we believe and do and say?

So that those with whom we interact, will not need any secret sign or veiled clue as to whose we are and whom we serve and who we are ………

……. followers and disciples of the great Shepherd of the Sheep, the Lamb of God, and the one who is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

 

 

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Holy Saturday

 

One Easter Saturday during my ministry in Trinidad, I conducted an evening service at our little church in Arouca (some 15 miles from Port of Spain).

As befitted the solemnity and seriousness of the day, the theme was muted and the closing hymn was “Abide With Me” – abide with me, fast falls the eventide,the darkness deepens…

….and then it was off home, driving through the hot and humid night…….. to a power cut (an electrical outage, as it was known there). Darkness everywhere and no power (no light,no air conditioning, and burglar alarms going off everywhere; and,of course, no chance of a shower).

Now, sometimes I can be a lazy fellow and this time, typically, I hadn’t prepared my sermon for Easter Day – and I was due back at Arouca for a sunrise service at dawn. And there was no light to see what I was doing. My electric typewriter, anyhow, was as useful as the proverbial ash-tray on a motor bike

It was to be a long, hot, uncomfortable night.

But then – about four in the morning – the lights flickered, the a/c came on.

Power, Light, new Hope – EASTER!

Sermon written, cuppas consumed, showered and dressed – eastward back toward Arouca and a rising sun

And the opening hymn, sung with gusto –

“Blest morning, whose first dawning rays

Beheld the Son of God

Arise triumphant from the grave

And leave his dark abode”

 

….. and then the lights went off again!

 

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A Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent

Luke 4:1-13

 

 
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  Jesus Temptation on the Mount by Satan Duccio di Buoninsegna

 

 Tomorrow, I’m off to Glasgow.

 Now, that’s exciting…. sort of!

 But, more exciting, is where I’m going to at 7.00 the next morning, leaving from the airport.

 I’m travelling to Trinidad where I used to work, way back in the late 70s/early 80s.  I haven’t been back since August 1983.

 This time, I return as a tourist… or do I?  I think that it’s more as a pilgrim. Seeing sights and places that had a profound affect on me as a young Minister in my early 30s.

A pilgrim.

 I know that probably makes more sense when one thinks of a visit to the Holy Land, and the experience of visiting, for example, Bethlehem… the birthplace of Jesus.

Or it could be a journey to the Spanish city and shrine of Santiago de Compostela.

The “Way of Saint James” has been a leading Catholic pilgrimage route from the 9th century, and a particular friend went there just last year, saying what a spiritually moving experience it was.

Some people whom I know, have travelled to Graceland, the home of Elvis, not so much as tourists, but as pilgrims to a musical legend’s “shrine”.

My late wife, Helen, visited Pella in Greece, effectively to pay homage at the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

 

I think that there’s a subtle difference between being a holiday-maker, and someone who is a pilgrim.

A pilgrim is someone who travels to a place of great personal importance; a tourist is someone who travels for pleasure, typically just sightseeing.

Usually, the pilgrim experiences something deeper, more profound, enlightening, life-enhancing on his or her journey.

I think the key word is “experience” – personal experience.

I travel a lot, and have been lucky enough to visit Buddhist Temples in Shanghai and in Kandy in Sri Lanka.  I’ve been sprayed by the waters of Niagara Falls, and have enjoyed seeing the glories of historic Istanbul …. and so on.

I enjoyed these trips… but that’s what they were: trips, holidays, excursions, tours.  I’ve got the memories, and the photos, but, they didn’t change my life for good or ill.

 

But…..

…. as the great 20th century theologian put it:

“Pilgrims are persons in motion passing through territories not their own, seeking something we might call completion, or perhaps the word clarity will do as well, a goal to which only the spirit’s compass points the way.”  (Richard Niebuhr)

 


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The tourist travels wanting the journey to be comfortable, safe, and, to a degree, familiar.

The pilgrim also sets out on a journey, but travels in search of something outside the cosy. At its core, pilgrimage is a journey into the unknown undertaken so that something new can happen.

 

Some years ago, I spent a wonderful time touring the amazing site of excavated Ephesus.

 

The tour-guide was excellent, but his pitch was aimed at the lowest common denominator

For example, at the entrance to the site are three pillars… “can anyone tell me what these are?”

Silence.

Me: “Corinthian, Doric and Ionic”

Later, a sign or symbol to Nike – “anyone know who Nike was?”

“God  of sneakers?”  (?????!!!!)

Me: “Goddess of Speed”

The sign of the fish – “Anyone?” 

Me: “ICHTHUS    etc”

By this time my better half was prodding me in the ribs and telling me to stop being such a show-off.

The Guide, now curious, asked if I’d been on this tour before – which I hadn’t

“So what do you do work at?”

“Clergyman”

“OK – we’re just about to reach the Amphitheatre where St. Paul preached – would you like to talk to the group about it?”

And I did – and it was one of the most moving experiences ever: to sit where the Apostle sat and to relate his story.  It was wonderful!

Ephesus 

That’s what I think I’m trying to get at…. the personal, intimate, enhancing experience.

 

I’m reading just now the autobiography of Richard Coles.

Now, I guess, that most of you won’t know who he is.  OK, he’s a broadcaster and writer, and a Church of England vicar.

But, in the 1980s, he was in a band – a very successful band with many hit records – named the Communards.

What a dissolute life he and Jimmy Somerville, the singer, lived: casual gay sex, drugs a plenty, and the louche rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of the time.

 

 Coles

 

Then something happened. A life-changing and personally enriching experience.  This wanderer through life, began a pilgrimage that was to have a profound influence on his life – in a church. ……

It was in 1990 at St Alban’s Church of England Church in Holburn, London.  At a Communion Service.

He writes of the profound experience he went through, “It was if iron bands, constricting my chest, broke and fell away and I could breathe; and a shutter was flung open, and light flooded in and I could see.  And i wept and wept…..

……in the first rush of conversion it was all about feeling, feeling with an intensity that took me by surprise……

……I prayed so intensely that I had a sensation of colour and movement rather than words or pictures……

…..Back then my experience of the mystery of God was as vivid as anything I have ever experienced.”

 

In the Old Testament, Moses, led a dispirited group of Hebrew slaves from slavery to freedom.

In following God into the wilderness, they were changed – they were now sanctified by the Lord.  They were pilgrims who were heading to a Promised Land.

 Today’s reading from Deuteronomy recounts this story, and says that the descendents of those who were part of the great Exodus were also  to live their lives as pilgrims, never satisfied with what is familiar, but moving out into the unknown where God waits to meet them.

 

Someone has said that the central event of the New Testament is also a pilgrimage, and Jesus is the pilgrim.

“He journeys through life, through suffering and death, and returns home to God with Good Friday scars and Easter glory. He travels not as a tourist, but as a pilgrim. Jesus returns home a changed person, because all of us return home with him.”

The story of his temptation emphasises that he’s a pilgrim.

A tourist doesn’t go into a desert for forty days to fast!. He trusts God enough to remain in a strange place, in strange circumstances, for a long time. He trusts God enough that the tempter’s seductive offers don’t interest him.

He leaves the wilderness a different person: he has been tested and found to be true.

Now he is strong enough and resolute enough to continue his pilgrimage into the unknown, even though suffering and death lie ahead.

He is ready to lead his people on their new and final Exodus

 

This season of Lent offers opportunities to follow Jesus on his journey. To follow the Saviour who was not afraid to live and die for us. He was not afraid to pass through strange places: his abandonment, crucifixion, death, and frightening his friends when he left the tomb.

Jesus did not try to evade transformation at the hands of God, and we are the heirs of his transformation.

Once the lone pilgrim, now Jesus is the pilgrimage path, the road we are asked to take–through Lent and through life.

 

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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”. 

 

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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!

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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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Preaching

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October 5, 2015 · 21:14

Unbelievable!

from “Addicting Info” blog

Conservative ‘Christian’ Pastor Openly Calls For Executing All Gay People By Christmas Day (VIDEO)
AUTHOR: STEPHEN D FOSTER JR DECEMBER 3, 2014 12:41 PM
It sounds like a sermon that would be delivered in Uganda, but it’s actually from the mouth of an American pastor in Arizona.

Conservative “Christian” Pastor Steven Anderson openly called for executing every gay person in America during a Sunday Sermon at his church in Tempe, Arizona. He claimed from the pulpit that gays need to be put to death in the name of God by Christams Day in an effort to wipe out AIDS, even though AIDS is not a virus exclusive to the LGBT community. Anderson opined:

Turn to Leviticus 20:13, because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS. If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. And that, my friend, is the cure for AIDS. It was right there in the Bible all along — and they’re out spending billions of dollars in research and testing. It’s curable — right there. Because if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant.

In addition, Anderson went on a hateful tirade about how gay people will never to allowed to step foot inside his church.

“No homos will ever be allowed in this church as long as I am pastor here,” Anderson declared. “Never! Say ‘You’re crazy.’ No, you’re crazy if you think that there’s something wrong with my ‘no homo’ policy.”

Here’s the video via YouTube.

Slowly but surely, conservatives are becoming more extreme in their anti-gay views. So much so, that some are now willing to endorse genocide in the name of God in a desperate bid to force their agenda of hate upon the nation. Despite the fact that the Constitution is the law of the land, conservative “Christians” like Anderson want to replace that document with the Bible.

The mass extermination of an entire group people is something the Nazis would be applauding. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, conservatives are acting just like the Nazis did in Germany, from claims that homosexuality is a sign of the decay of the nation, to claiming that it’s a disease that can be “cured,” to calling for killing gay people.

Many in Germany regarded the Weimar Republic’s toleration of homosexuals as a sign of Germany’s decadence. The Nazis posed as moral crusaders who wanted to stamp out the “vice” of homosexuality from Germany…

Because some Nazis believed homosexuality was a sickness that could be cured, they designed policies to “cure” homosexuals of their “disease” through humiliation and hard work.

Thousands of gay people died in concentration camps under Nazi rule.

It sounds like Anderson is one of those who are posing as a “moral crusader” to push their hateful anti-gay agenda. And yet, conservatives have the nerve to compare liberals to the Nazis. If we continue to stand by and allow conservatives to take power in the United States, we may discover to our horror that similar Nazi anti-gay policies have been established under the cloak of religion.

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unrecognised

It was Eastertide and, in this particular year (1999), I was the Minister at St Andrews in the Grange Church of Scotland in Guernsey, Channel Islands.

The beautiful Island of Guernsey attracts a very large number of visitors, and many from the UK.  Those who are Presbyterian, URC, and, of course, members of the Kirk are attracted to this beautiful Church of Scotland building on the edge of St Peter Port.

 

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So, there I was preaching about the Risen Christ not being recognised by Mary Magdelene, by the two companions walking to Emmaus, and the disciples not connecting initially with who He was.  There were various points made about this, including our sometimes not recognising the goodness and Godliness in people with whom we come in contact… that kind of thing.

In the congregation on that particular Sunday was a very distinguished looking gentleman, accompanied by his wife.  Obviously, visitors to the Island and our wee Kirk.

After the Service, as they came out, we shook hands.  He asked how long I’d been in Guernsey, and where I’d been Minister before.  To the latter question, I replied, “Musselburgh”

“Ah,” said he, “I know it well; in fact I used to be a Trustee of Carberry Tower”

Carberry Tower was a conference centre for, amongst other groups, the Church of Scotland.

It just so happened that it is in my old Parish, and I was a Trustee too – and my distinguish visitor was the Chairman.  We had been to many meetings together!

Oh, and he was a well kent figure – Lord MacKay of Clashfern, appointed by Prime Minister Thatcher as Lord Chancellor.

I didn’t say anything, except to wish them a pleasant holiday, and a safe trip home to the UK.

Oops!  Unrecognised, indeed!!!!!!

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Address – preached at Dumfries Northwest Church, Sunday, 23 November, 2014 (Christ the King)

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INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the last Sunday of the Christian year – a day traditionally referred to as the Festival of ’Christ the King’.

Now, I say ’traditionally’, but it’s actually only a practice that goes back just short of 90 years – to 1925, when the feast day was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX.

1925 was a very interesting time for our world. We had only just emerged from the war to end all wars, and the signs were everywhere that it was hurtling towards another. We were in the grip of a worldwide economic depression, and desperately looking for answers. 

And of course there were some outspoken leaders who believed that they had answers to those questions. One was the Italian leader, Mussolini, who had just celebrated his third year in office.

 Another was a young rabble-rouser by the name of Adolf Hitler, who had been out of jail for a year by that stage, and whose Nazi party was rapidly growing in popularity across Germany.

The world was watching, waiting for answers, and listening to these powerful men competing for the limelight, and so the then Pope felt that it was time to remind Christian people everywhere that our allegiance is to Christ and not to any of these worldly rulers. 

And so we have ’Christ the King’ Sunday, celebrating not a political power-monger, but one whose Kingdom has to do with truth, justice, mercy, love and service.

 

LET US PRAY

 Most holy God, by your Spirit encouraging us, and the love of Christ enabling us, may we worship you with the enthusiasm born of true love.

 We join our voices with the millions who this day praise the name of Jesus from every nation on earth, and with the great host of heavenly souls whose praise and love fills the universe and flows far beyond all time and space.

 Glory be to you forever!  Through Christ our King.

 AMEN

 

 –oooOOOooo–

SERMON – CHRIST THE KING (YEAR A).

The older you get, the quicker time seems to pass!

I’m amazed that we’ve come almost full circle in the Church’s liturgical year.  Next Sunday marks the beginning of Advent again.

Last Advent (as with every Advent) we look forward to and prepare for the coming of the holy child born in Bethlehem, and anticipate the King returning in judgement and in glory.

 Then Christmastide, with shepherds,  and Magi at Epiphany – soon to disappear from view, returning to their everyday tasks, but changed men, as we are changed folk, having glimpsed something of the divine breaking through to the humdrum routine of life.  Where “BC became AD”

Then we wondered how we were going to spread the light of God’s love made known to us….

But before we could catch our breath,  we were walking the road to Calvary once again.

We witnessed the King riding on the back of a donkey into the Holy City.  We heard Pilate asking Jesus, “So, you’re a King then?!”

And then a bleak and lonely Friday with a cross silhouetted against the sky, and a sign above it: “the King of the Jews”

And so we mourned – the King is dead!  But, wait!  On the third day….. the miracle of miracles…. Resurrection, joy, wonder – Long live the King!

we cannot explain it, but he rose again from the dead!  But then to leave, in a burst of glory – to reign at the right side of the Father, to use Biblical language and imagery.

But we were not orphaned, not bereft – for the Spirit came.  And still comes when perhaps we least expect it, and He teaches, guides, and binds us together and closer than breathing to the King of Kings.

The year continued to unfold, and we listen to, learn from, and struggled with what our faith meant for us in our day to day living.

What a journey! What a road to travel!

Now that journey has brought us to the place where we can sing the praises of the One who now reigns supreme.

 …….but we are still left with one nagging and all important question —- “How DO we worship and show devotion to this one who sits on the throne?!”

 

 The Gospel Reading for this Reign of Christ the King tells us…….

 Let’s listen now for God’s Word:

 

READING:  Matthew 25:31-46  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

  31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.

 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left

 . 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

  37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 

 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

  40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

  41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’

  45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

  .

 –oooOOOooo–

 

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Henry Van Dyke’s classic work, The Other Wise Man is a fictional story about a fourth wise man named Artaban.

This star-gazer & three of his friends plan to set out to find the promised King of Israel.

Selling his possessions, Artaban bought three jewels — a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl. He would “carry them as tribute to the King.”

He had only 10 days to meet up with his three companions, but was held up, when he came upon a very ill man lying in the road.  Artaban stops and helps him.

 He came upon a very ill man lying in the road & stops and he helps him.

 By the time he reaches the place where he and his friends were to rendezvous – they have already set off without him

 He was forced to sell his sapphire to buy a train of camels and provision for his journey. “I may never overtake my friends. Only God the merciful knows whether I shall not lose the sight of the King because I tarried to show mercy.”

 But once again, Artaban discovers he is a step behind. He arrives in Bethlehem just as the cruel soldiers of King Herod are killing the baby boys of Bethlehem.

  Guarding the doorway of a home where he has discovered a young mother and her baby son are hiding, Artaban confronts a soldier: “I am all alone in this place, and I am waiting to give this jewel to the prudent captain who will leave me in peace.”

 Artaban hands the soldier the ruby, “glistening in the hollow of his hand like a great drop of blood.” “March one!” the soldier cried to his men, “There is no child here. The house is empty.”

 For 33 years Artaban continued looking for the King — spending his years helping the poor and dying — before at last coming to Jerusalem during the season of the Passover. There was great commotion in Jerusalem.

 Suddenly a slave girl, being dragged by soldiers, breaks away from her tormentors and throws herself at Artaban’s feet. Taking the last of his treasures, the pearl, he gives it to the girl. “This is thy ransom, daughter! It is the last of my treasures which I kept for the king.”

 While Artaban spoke, a powerful earthquake shook the city. He was struck by a roof tile.

 Artaban knew he was dying. He would not find the King.

 The quest was over, and he had failed.

 But the ransomed slave girl, holding the old, dying man, heard a sweet voice and then saw Artaban’s lips slowly move. “Not so, my Lord! … When saw I thee sick or in prison, and came unto thee? Thirty-three years have I looked for thee, but I have never seen thy face, nor ministered to thee, my King.”

 But the unmistakable voice came again and the lass heard it clearly: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”

Van Dyke then ends his story: “A long breath of relief exhaled gently from Artaban’s lips. His journey was ended. His treasures were accepted. The Other Wise Man had found the King.”

 

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