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Sermon Notes 2016

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

This page lists the notes from 2016 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
24th December If you were able to organise your ideal Christmas, what would you include in it? I suspect you would probably include many of your family traditions from childhood along with, some new traditions inherited from other family and friends. One of things about living with someone else, is adapting to other people's traditions. For example, when do you put the tree up? How close to Christmas? When do you open your presents - before or after the meal? If you are a child, that's tough! Having to wait till the afternoon. Do you go out for Christmas lunch, or have a family gathering at home?
18th December I want to take a moment this morning to think about the role of Herod in the birth story of Jesus. In Matthew chapter two we tend focus on the Magi and their visit to Bethlehem, following ancient prophecy and the wonder of a new star. But Herod is the 'dark side' of the Christmas event. This is 'black ops'. It is a story of interrogation, deception and violence. You do what you need to do, no matter the consequences and you call it patriotism. It is a story that rings with a certain truth about humanity. That those who hold the power, often exercise it with only one intention. To secure their own position. Ironically, they act, not out of strength, but out of a weakness, that contains no compassion for the vulnerable, nor justice for the innocent. It is today's Aleppo. It is today's Yemen. It is a side of Christmas, hidden deep in the shadows of one man's heart. For Herod, there could be no rival to his kingship. This is not about theology. It is all about politics. This not about worship. It is about power.
4th December If you lived in Aleppo in Syria, what would you want as a gift from God this Christmas? It is humanitarian disaster that unfolds day after day on the media, but it is one we will never experience. We can sympathise. We can condemn the people who have allowed this to happen. But we are left with a sense of hopelessness. Is there anything we can do to help alleviate their suffering? Is the gift they ask for, too big? The gift of a normal life. As a child, it is not normal to have to avoid snipers, bombs and artillery shells. Here is another question. Is God not strong enough to intervene? As people of faith, I think that a question we all struggle with?
27th November Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? I could stop there and just let you ponder that for a while and see what theology you come up with! So you can either think about that, or listen on. Which comes first, the prophecy, we read in Luke chapter one the prophecy, or as some describe it, the inspired praise of Zechariah, the father of John, or, the event being prophesied about? Which comes first? The answer is, both!
20th November We live in an era of failing trust. Relationships are based on trust. If we feel we cannot trust people, then relationships start to break down.

It was obvious, yet missed by the pollsters, when many 'blue collar' workers in the US voted for Donald Trump, as a vote against the political elite. The same thing happened in the European referendum. People were not just voting about Europe. It was a vote against the political establishment. People who felt left out and left behind.

13th November The need for remembrance has never been stronger. The great wars cast their shadow of loss upon us all, not just across recent history, but across what is happening in the world today in places like Mosel in Iraq and in Syria, and no doubt, will cast their shadow well into the future. It raises the question as to whether war is evitable, as the means by which we as humankind, solve our differences.
30th October I don't know what impression you get of Jesus and his priorities, but for me, he has some tough things to say about wealth. The man who builds bigger barns could be anyone today, who has the accumulation of wealth as the most important thing in life.
23rd October “The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.”

I am not sure how you responded to the passage from Luke 16, but for me my first reaction was, it sends out 'mixed messages'! Here is a dishonest man rewarded for using his initiative, but his motive, it is to protect himself, so that when he loses his job, and that is what was going to happen, he would have somewhere else to go..

2nd October "The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd." (Hebrews 11: 1-2, Message)

How do we make hope concrete and the invisible certain? It is easier to place our hope in that which we can touch and better still, control. It is easier to have certainly in that which we can see. The paradox of faith is the dilemma of our belief in God. For God is touched, not with hands, but hearts and God is seen in acts and words of love, compassion, and justice.

25th September Do you ever lament the state of the nation? It wasn't like that when I was young. We can all wear rose tinted glasses that says the past was better. We witness changing morality, ethics, priorities and we wonder if these changes are for the better. I suppose it is all about perspective. It depends on where you are standing and what you see. If someone stands in a different place from you, perhaps someone younger, their view, their perspective of life will be different from ours, even if they are looking at the same thing. I am not actually convinced that things are that much different today, but they are certainly less hidden than they were.
11th September I have recently started to watch a drama on TV called Someone knows my name. It is about the slave trade from Africa to America in the 18th century. As you might imagine some of it is a hard watch. It makes you wonder how people can be treated so badly. It is part of our history. As a nation, we were involved in the dehumanisation of others. To be a slave is not to be treated as human. One of the great challenges of scripture is that is does not directly condemn slavery. It was another world. One we have in some senses moved on from. But think of what happened in South Africa during apartheid, people were dehumanised and some denominations of the church there even gave apartheid scriptural support.
4th September I wonder how well you know yourself? It might seem a bit of a strange question to ask, but to not know ourselves gives us a problem, because if we do not know who we are, we will have no idea how we will react in any given situation that we face in life. Not knowing ourselves, will mean every experience of life will be brand new, met for the first time, with no history of how we dealt with things in the past. We cope with life and all its challenges, precisely because life itself has taught us lessons, and slowly, we begin to understand who we are. Our identity, formed in the crucible of our experience and our relationships, is one of life's coping mechanisms.
28th August Are you a list person? Not the composer! A list that you have created for the very purpose of ticking them off when that task has been completed. And in so doing, you feel better for it. You have accomplished something. Maybe you have a lot of ideas going through your head and you just need to get them down on a piece of paper and fast, before you forget. You might even keep a note pad on your bed side table for that very purpose. You scribble away furiously, to be left with is a list of seemingly unconnected statements. You look at your list and wonder, is there anything that connects this list of random thoughts? When I read Hebrews 13, that is what comes to my mind. A random list, in which the author has entitled it, How to please God.
21st August Some people believe that they were destined for greatness. From noble birth or plucked from obscurity and placed on the centre stage of history. For others, greatness finds them, and they became reluctant heroes. There are those whose names are etched across the annuals of history; names known from their exploits on the battle field, or the political or sporting arenas. Other heroes you need to dig deep to find, they are not famous, but their lives just as significant. History is remembered in people of action and people of words. What indeed is mightier, the swords or the pens of history?
7th August In the great myths and legends, like the journeys of Odysseus, heroes had to leave home, endure dangerous and sometimes mystical journeys and after overcoming everything that was thrown at them, they often returned home. But, home was not as they left it, and they themselves returned very different people.
10th July All aboard. Welcome to the journey. I hope you do not suffer from sea sickness! Our first stop is Antioch. What can you expect to see. Today it lies in ruins, part of Turkey, but, travel in your mind back to a place that was once part of the ancient trade routes. A city that once rivalled Alexandria as the chief city of the Near East. A cosmopolitan metropolis of half a million people. It was culturally pluralistic, religiously diverse and theologically, a bit liberal. Circumcision was not such a big issue here. In biblical times, a key location in the Roman empire, head quarters of Rome's Syrian legion and a centre of Hellenistic Judaism. Welcome to Antioch. We enter its port and we stand on its streets.
26th June Do you believe it? A man is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Do you believe that actually happened? These kind of passages, particularly from the Old Testament, challenge how we understand the bible. Are these events to be literally understood, or are they stories with meaning. The very fact that the miracle is foretold suggests that it is not the most important part of the story. For the reader the element of surprise had been removed.
19th June We have all been in the wilderness. Those tough and hard moments of life. Those times of despair, where we can't imagine how we will get through this, to get to the other side, when once again we will be able to laugh rather than cry. The journey of life is one of shades of light and dark, but there are times when we feel we have been plunged into a pit darkness, with very steep sides and seemingly no way out.
12th June I wonder if you can remember a time when you were totally shocked at what you were seeing. You stop. Your breath is literally taken away. You rub your eyes. You look again and it is still true. You say to yourself, 'This can't be happening to me.' Your reality is shaken and you wonder what is going to happen next. How is this going to all work itself out?
29th May It was for the very soul of the nation. At the heart of Israel there was a crisis of identity. The question in hearts and minds was this, who was the true God of Israel?

As a nation, who are we? What is the identity of Scotland after an independence referendum, in the midst of a campaign about our membership of the EU. How Scottish are we, how British? How nationalistic, how patriotic? How European? How Christian? For the church seeking to witness and worship in the midst of a secular society, what is its identity, in post Christian Scotland?

22nd May If you are a fan of Star trek, then you will know who commander Data is. He is an android officer on the USS Enterprise, who wants to be more human. His positronic net is capable of storing enormous amounts of information. He is not overwhelmed at receiving huge amount of data. Just plug him in, and he can do anything from playing the violin, to complex mathematics. Imagine, that God could give us all the data of the universe. Everything known and unknown. There is a medical myth, that we only use about 10% of the brains potential. But I suspect that even if we could harness 100%, we would be overwhelmed.
15th May We have all seen the difference. The change in people. It is a comparison, in life we make all the time. My, how you have grown! The difference exaggerated as the time span increases. There are markers in the sand of what was, those are our memories, and we constantly compare them to what we are experiencing in the here and now. We never stay fully in the present; we compare with the past and we look forward and wonder about the future. If you are polite, you say, you haven't changed a bit! If it is aid to you, you say to yourself, who's kidding who?
8th May The clue is in the name - Numbers. It is all about counting. For the people of Israel, who were on their way to the Promised Land, there is need of an army, for how else are they going to invade that territory and claim it for God? There were going to have to do it by force. There was no other way. This census, was in effect, God conscripting his army. All fit men over the age of twenty were being registered for military service.
1st May The song was called, There's something in the water. I am not a great fan of swimming and I am not a good swimmer. Imagine, swimming at a beach where you know there have been sharks spotted - Australia, South Africa. It would always be in the back of my mind, there could be something else in the water! Big, with teeth! In Scotland I suppose, the example might be the jelly fish.
24th April Here is a trivia question for you. Apart from Jesus, how many other people were said to be raised from death in the bible?

There are eight specific stores of resurrection: Elijah and the son of the widow of Zarephath, Elisha and the son of a Shunammite woman; a dead man who comes to life after touching the bones of Elisha, Jesus raised the widows son at Nain, Jarius's daughter and of courses Lazarus. Peter raised Tabitha, that is our story for today and Eutychus who fell asleep while Paul preached, and fell out of a third story window!

10th April If you are a politician, one of the things you will never admit to, is having to make a U turn on some piece of policy. They will bring the political spin doctor who will tell you, 'we've been listening'. Instead of admitting they are under pressure because an unpopular or badly thought out policy, they will want to take the credit for any change of direction. The other tactic is to hide bad news behind something else that is happening or, to try and change the agenda, by talking about something else. You have seen this happen. A politician is interviewed, and if they find themselves in difficulty, they won't answer the question, but they tell you, over and over again, what they want wish you to hear; even if it has nothing to do with the original question!
3rd April Here's a bit of a gruesome thought, but it is an experience that many have endured thought the centuries. If you were under the threat of death, what would you do, or what would you say. Would you keep quiet, no matter what might happen to you, or would you, to protect yourself, give up the information that others wanted? We are talking torture here. Would you stand up for what you believed, no matter the consequences, or would you deny your faith so that you might go free and have an easier life? We are talking persecution. A reality for many Christians today. I think the reality is, we would not know how we would react, until we were actually in that situation? We would like to think we are strong, but bold words in times of freedom and peace are easy. In the face of ridicule of pain, they might easily turn to denial.
27th March Anyone here heard of Jeff Markin? Let me tell you part of his story. These are not my words, they are taken from the internet:

Jeff Markin was a dead man. In fact, he was officially declared dead at 8:05 a.m. in a Florida hospital ER. The date was Oct. 20, 2006. By the time Dr. Crandall, cardiologist arrived at the ER, Markin's heart had already been shocked six times with the defibrillator. Just to make sure, his non-beating heart received a seventh shock, also to no avail. Rounds of medications and other efforts had all failed to revive the patient ...

20th March I wonder when you last cheered for someone? Ask the people round about you. Maybe it was a music concert (Bruce Davies), a sporting event, a member of your family was involved in something like a school or a youth event, a church service - Atlanta worship...when was the last time you gave the preacher a round of applause!
13th March I want you to imagine the scene. This is a dinner party like no other. It takes place in Bethany, in the home of no other than Lazarus. Just raised from the dead! Never mind it is just before the great feast of Passover. Never mind the fact that Jesus is there. At the table sits none other than Lazarus.
31st January In history people rise from obscurity to positions of power. It happens all the time. Greatness not coming through noble birth but sometimes it is just the hand that life has dealt you and whether or not the opportunity is grasped. Nehemiah was a man of position, cup bearer to the King of Persia. The greatest empire of its day. But in reality he was part of a slave nation, the people of Judah, the southern kingdom of the ancient nation of Israel, exiled decades earlier to Babylon. It is In this position of great weakness that he places a request before king Artaxerxes the 1st, and in spite of the fact that it could have cost him his life, he ends up as governor of the Persian province of Judah. He even gets a military escort, as he and other Babylonian Jews make the long journey, from Susa in Persia, to Jerusalem.
10th January It is frustrating when you don't get your monies worth! "For what I have paid that doesn't look a lot". "Could you top up the coffee a bit more". This little cameo from the book of Acts is about 'half measures'. The apostles Peter and John meet people in Samaria, who we are told, have been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus but, had not yet received the Holy Spirit. In the bible, this is a very unusual situation for people to find themselves in.
3rd January Have you wondered how warp drive works in Star Trek. In case you are wondering what that is, it is a propulsion system that allows them to travel faster than light. Einstein said it was impossible. It is also one of the possible means of time travel. As you approach the speed of light, the theory is, you would slow down relative to those who are not moving, therefore in effect you would begin to go backwards. Got it! I hear you wondering, what has that to do with Old Testament prophecy!

Click here to read sermon notes from 2015 ...