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Sermon Notes 2015

Robin has written a series of sermon notes which are linked to worship services and other special occasions.

This page lists the notes from 2015 with notes from other years available via the links on the right. To read any of the notes in full simply click on the dates below:

Service Sermon Introduction
27th December As a biography it is not very good, is it! Moving quickly from what can only be described as a very strange birth event and a purification ceremony to a Passover story when Jesus was 12 years old. What happened in between? Why are we not told? If the child is so special. The incarnation of God, why is the story only really picked up, with the preaching of John the Baptist?

24th December In the midst of the busyness of Christmas, a child is born. To the vast majority of people it is an event that goes totally unnoticed. It is not important. The connection has been lost. People are going about their normal festive business. There are present to buy and wrap, the cash machines are working overtime, Christmas meals need to be prepared, there are parties to attend where you can pretend to be an angel.

6th December This moment of Advent is both past and future. We wait today for a story that we know the ending to. We call it Christmas. The details of the story are not so important as what it tells us about God. Advent immerses itself in the hope of incarnation. 'Immanuel', God among us. Jesus, who 'pitched his tent' in the midst of humanity.

22nd November To be a king, you need a Kingdom. But what if this Kingdom is not visible to the human eye nor tangible to our touch. Who would be king of an invisible Kingdom? If you cannot point to it, does its king have any power. If you cannot raise your standard on its land, where is its wealth, and its kings authority? How can you be a citizen of this place, with no borders? And in a place with no boundaries, how can you belong and say, this is my kingdom?

8th November A poet once said, " History repeats itself. It has to. No one ever listens". The nations of the world never listen to history. Empires rise and fall. Dictators come and go. Armies clash across open fields, years of stagnant warfare in the mud of trenches, fingers held on the nuclear button and the world on the brink of nuclear devastation holds its breath, there is the war against terror and now bombs are dropped remotely by drone aircraft, there is no longer eye contact across the open field. The means of war might have changed, but loss of life is a cry that is heard across the history of all mankind.

1st November I wonder if any of you have been watching any of the TV series on the Celts. It is done in a typical Neil Oliver style. One of the fascinating aspects of archaeological discovery of this period, is just how sophisticated the Celts were. They were not the barbarians of Roman history as depicted in the famous statue, the dying Gaul. The main reason we know this now is, what archaeologists have discovered in these Iron age burial sites. Fine, intricately fashioned jewellery - works of great skill and craftsman. Each one a work of art - often fashioned in gold or, great examples of British made swords - we manufactured something in those days - a design that eventually found its way onto the continent. In one grave, they found a great bronze couch for this man to recline on, a great cauldron to continue the feast in the afterlife and even gold decorated shoes.

25th October If you had all the money in the world I wonder what would you spend it on? Here is a great quote, I just wanna be rich enough to have Morgan Freeman read me bedtime stories.

Each year we focus on different aspects of stewardship and this year it is on our financial giving. Last Sunday we looked at part of the letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth where he was talking about the need to have a generosity of spirit, not just financial, but in our whole being, who we are, a generosity of faith and love that over flows in our response to the needs of others, as God has first loved us.

18th October I was listening to a debate recently on Radio Scotland where they talking about child poverty in Scotland. They said that we have one of the worst records of child poverty in the western world. It is not that Scotland as a nation is poor, far from it, but we live in a nation of inequality. That inequality is not just based on financial poverty but takes in all the other factors that go along with it. They commented that in other nations that are poorer than Scotland, people actually live longer.
11th October It's a bit like watching a member of your team having a fight on the pitch, except it is not with someone from the opposing team. It's one of their own players. Someone in your team has made a mistake and his team mates are not too pleased about it. The managers usual reaction is not to condemn them, but to say it is good to see some passion on the field. You see what it means to them! They want to win! Within the closest knit teams, feathers can be ruffled!
4th October Let me make a confession. I have absolutely no idea of what has just happened! I know that I placed water on a baby's head, but what did God do? Hold that thought.

Lets' travel back about 2000 years to another moment when parents, I am assuming it is parents, brought their children to God. They wanted Jesus of Nazareth to lay has hands on them and bless them. That is not far off what we have asked God to do this morning. The story does not tell us why or what they hoped to get out of it. For the point of this encounter that it not what is actually important.

27th September Not so much a sermon, but a reflection on a picture. This the Rublev icon. It was created in the 15th century by the Russian iconographer, Andrei Rublev, as you can see it depicts the three visitors who came to Abraham when he was camped under the tree at Mamre. (the story is in Gen. 18) Abraham greets the strangers with generosity and the warm hospitality of his home. The writer to the Hebrews makes reference to this story when encouraging faithfulness in the community to which he was writing: Let mutual love continue. Do not hesitate to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Heb 13:1-2) In the Ancient Near East, the guest is almost regarded as sacred, and any passing stranger, even the member of a hostile tribe, is entitled to hospitality. What Abraham did was entirely normal. He did not know how important his guests were. Here is God, mixing with his creation.
13th September It is your big moment. You are centre stage. Everyone has their eyes on you and you suffer from "makklecakkcleshik"? Amen. (sit down) Ever happened to you? "Makklecakkleshik". It means, words or sounds that may come out of your mouth when you are nervous or talking much too fast and you become 'tongue - tied'. The brain knows what you want to say, but the occasion gets to you and words don't come the right way.
6th September You will have heard the phrase "Talk is cheap". A phrase used to indicate an individual's inclination to verbalize their opinions and their subsequent reluctance to act. We do it all the time. We put the world to rights. It is so much easier to say what you think should be done. Putting it into practice, that is another matter entirely. Often there is more 'heat than light'. You know the kind of discussion, people get very passionate, but they don't provide any answers.
26th July What is more difficult, to forgive or to be forgiven? Two sides of the same coin in our relationship with God. But to really grasp this, and to put it into some perspective, we need to bring forgiveness into the realm of human life. If we cannot understand forgiveness and reconciliation at the level of human relationships, can we ever truly say we trust God, and have faith in him, to forgive us.
21st June The church in Corinth was a church divided and it seemed to be divided along fairly clear lines of social status and power.

Corinth was one of the major urban centres of the ancient Mediterranean. It was prosperous and one of the most culturally diverse cities in the Roman empire. By location, it was Greek, so in Corinth, Greek and Latin / Roman cultures coexisted and sometim es clashed. It was a sea port and its mercantile character, contributed to the presence of lots of foreign religions and much sexual promiscuity.

7th June The people of Israel wanted a king. They hadn't had one before and this wasn't exactly a democratic process. That is not how they did things in those days. Roughly 3000 years ago, the eventual king, King Saul, was chosen by the drawing of lots.

At the time we enter the story, it seems that Samuel the prophet is in charge of the commonwealth of the 12 tribes of Israel and their leaders did not want his sons to take over. Samuel had appointed them as 'hereditary' Judges over Israel, a bit like the hereditary high priesthood, but they not deemed worthy to be in charge. As a result, they called for a king. After all, that was how the other nations did things and that is a key point, in this otherwise momentous change in how Israel was to be governed.

31st May In some pieces of writing, words stand out. A phrase catches your attention and it sticks and lodges in your mind. One of those phrases for me comes from the prophecy of Isaiah, "Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger? I answered, "I will go! Send me!""
24th May They were devastated. The man who had offered them so much hope and a new future was dead. Betrayed by one of their own, Judas Iscariot. Put on trial by the Jewish authorities and executed by the Romans. They might have asked themselves, what was the point of all those miracles and demonstrations of power? What was the point of those stories of new Kingdoms, of loving neighbour, loving enemies and going the second mile? What was the point of all those promises of a new relationship with God? Had they not taken the risk of challenging the authorities and had they not just given up the last three years of their lives to follow him? Now he was gone. What now? Was it really worth all that sacrifice? And to crown it all, grieving women had told them his tomb was empty and Jesus promise was to meet them once again! Worried about the authorities, would they be next, so they meet behind locked doors, maybe to decide what to do next, devise a plan, but events overtake them. Suddenly he is there in the room. Jesus, who they believed to be dead, is with them. He says to them 'peace be with you' and 'receive the Holy spirit.'
10th May It is a life we cannot imagine. It is so far removed from our experience. Yet, there are millions of people for whom that is life. For Loko it is the daily search for wood to sell. No wood, no money, no food. That is how life revolves. It is an image of survival, more than life. Let's be honest, we would not wish to walk in her shoes.
26th April I suspect it would be the questions all of us would ask. In the face of miracle and mystery we would want to know, 'how did you do that'? You watch a magic trick; a man walks across the waters of the Thames, and naturally, you want to understand how it was done. You want him to take you aside and whisper in your ear how he did it. In the world of magic, knowledge is power. In the world of the ancients, secret words were the answer to mysteries and if you knew the words you held the power. And as human beings, we are also naturally curious and like a good joke (if you can remember it!) you want to share your knowledge and maybe even impress others.
12th April Roughly a month to go to the general election and I wonder if you are already suffering from political fatigue! You turn on the TV and there is yet another debate or political correspondent giving their opinion. I personally am a bit of a political animal, I will admit that, so I actually quite enjoy debates. Although I have to say, in the recent Scottish leaders debates they are just repeating themselves. Political manifestos and promises are all about how a particular party says to us, we can make life better for you. Vote for us and here are our promises for a better life.
5th April I don't understand the science of how a telephone works; you can explain it to me later, but I am always amazed, that from anywhere in the world, you pick up the phone and if it is someone you know, you recognise their voice! How does that happen! There are many things that give us away, and one of them is our voice. Our face is a visual fingerprint, our voice is a fingerprint of sound. If we don't wish to be recognised, and you see this all the time on TV, e.g. people going in and out of court, they will cover their face and they will stay silent. They don't want to be recognised.
29th March A cornerstone is a stone that forms the base of a corner of a building, joining two walls together. The cornerstone is therefore the wall' s source of strength. "The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all." (1st Peter2:7, quoting Psalm 118) And the writer of the book of Ephesians says this, the cornerstone of faith, is Jesus himself.

22nd March The language of scripture contains for us some alien concepts and some very hard contrasts. If God's love is wide, the words of Jesus do not make it easy to follow. If people wanted to see Jesus, and they did; he was after all a theological celebrity, a man of miracles, who spoke with great authority and challenged the religious establishment; what did they want to say to him? Put yourself in the hypothetical situation of being able to walk up to Jesus and say anything to him. Given that opportunity, what would you say? What would you ask? A burning question you needed the answer to, to discuss something you did not understand or to find out if all his claims were indeed true? What would you ask him?
15th March Was God really dead? When the Roman authorities executed Jesus of Nazareth did they kill God? If we believe in the Trinity of God, did part of God die at Easter? Can we unravel the Trinity of God and say, that while the Son of God died, God continued uninterrupted, as creator and Spirit? Maybe it is just the way my mind operates. Seeking the logical in the mystery that is the activity of God and the rational, in the realm of faith.
8th March There are people who like to rebel against authority and go against the flow. Authority comes in all shapes and sizes. Discipline in the home, rules to be followed at school, codes of conduct at work, the laws of the land and let me add to that list the commands of God.

People rebel for all sorts of reasons; the classic one are teenagers, expressing their individually as they seek to find their place in society. New identities emerging in the midst of hormones and life. Maybe you were not like that! The important thing about rebellion is it needs boundaries. It needs something to push against. The parent, the teacher, the boss, the state and even God. It is a balance of those boundaries which contain and the freedom to explore. If there were no boundaries, there would be chaos.

1st March The heartbreak of the broken promise. If we have experienced that we know how it feels. Hopes are dashed, that which is anticipated slips through our fingers and is lost. In words unfulfilled or actions incomplete, hope becomes despair and we say to ourselves, it is not my fault. I have been let down by another's broken promise. But if we have an honest reflection and look back over our lives, we will see a mixture of promises we have kept and promises, we have broken.
15th February There are two unusual and 'unexplained' deaths in the Old Testament. So if you are a fan of Silent Witness, let's do some digging, examine the facts and see out what we know. As detectives, watch for two things; the number of mountains involved in our stories, and the common numeral that runs though all these events.
1st February Who speaks a word to the nations of the world today? Who are the modern day prophets of our age ? It all depends on your definition of the word. The dictionary gives us four definitions of the word 'prophet':
  • A person who speaks by divine inspiration or as an interpreter through whom the will of God is expressed.
  • A person gifted with profound moral insight and exceptional powers of expression.
  • A predictor.
  • The chief spokesperson of a movement or cause.
25th January Who would you follow? If someone said to you, leave what you are doing and come follow me, who would you follow? I suppose it might depend on what you were being asked to do. What will I have to give up? How long will this take? Is there is risk involved in this for me? Can you imagine what the fishermen must have been thinking when they first heard the words of Jesus, in the midst of their everyday life? If we have been in their shoes (sandals) by the lakeside, how would we have responded? On his journeys, Jesus encountered lots of people and his words often challenged them. Think of the encounter between Jesus and a particular man, traditionally called the rich young ruler, all he had to do to follow Jesus, was to give up his wealth. Scripture implies that he failed the challenge, because we are told he went away very sad.
11th January Did you know that you can that you can get honey by crushing dates? I didn't. You need a lot of them, but you can do it. I found a recipe on line. Did you know that you can get flour for bread by grinding the bean of the locust tree? Did you know there was such a tree? I didn't. The seed pods of the Carob or "locust - tree" are 6 to 10 inches long, full of a sticky pulp and honey - like syrup when ripe a nd are used as food for livestock, as well as people. Those were the "husks" eaten by the prodigal son and probably the "locusts" eaten by John the Baptist.
4th January What we actually know about the so called 'wise men' who visited Bethlehem, is cloaked in the mists of history, myth and tradition. The one thing we can say for certain is this; they were probably men. However, we do have some clues, and if we do a bit of detective work, we can build up a partial picture, very hazy, of who these men might have been.

Click here to read sermon notes from 2014 ...