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Sermon Notes 2019

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

This page lists the notes from 2019 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
29th December The story has turned ugly. The Christmas card scene of the nativity, just a short time ago, has been replaced by one of violence and brutality. The homelessness, of 'no room at the Inn' , is now one of a refugee journey into exile. It's part of the Christmas story that we don't generally dwell on.
24th December Can we see past those perfect Christmas card scenes? Or the adverts telling us that if we want to have a really good Christmas, then we must spend more. What about those annoying Christmas songs in the stores that seem to begin earlier every year. We cover our homes in tinsel and decorations and say that 'Christmas is for the children'. Where did all that come from? Somewhere, hidden amongst all of these things, I want to say, there is a story to believe in.
22nd December "Are we there yet?" You left the house 5 minutes ago, and you know there are many hours of travel ahead of you. The voice comes from the back seat, wearing headphones, ready for the journey with her ipad, books and snacks. "Are we there yet?"
15th December I was talking earlier with the children about Christmas being a time of celebration. However, a few days ago, I saw another side of Christmas. On BBC breakfast TV, they interviewed an older gentleman, who after his mother died 20 years ago, had been alone every Christmas day since. Age Concern were highlighting the loneliness that many people feel, especially at Christmas. Where the image is one of family and celebration.
8th December I want to ask this; the prophecy of Isaiah 11, that was read earlier for us, is it simply an ideal vision of the world, a vision that can never be realised? Is the writer just hoping for something that is never ever going to happen. Is it just 'pie in the sky'? I wonder what you think?
10th November There are moments that will always stick in the memory. They will live with us for the rest of our lives. For many who have fought in war, these memories were rarely shared. They were just too painful. For in the sharing of a story, we only get a glimpse of what really happened. We might hear the facts, but we cannot stand in the shoes of another person's experience.
20th October The heart of the parable of the lost son, is actually all about money. Without demanding his inheritance, the son would never have left home. Without running out of money, remember he is feeding the pigs and eating their food, without that, the son would never have come home. It is his change of circumstance that brings remorse. That change of circumstance, is a distinct of, money. All his so called friends have disappeared, he is left in the company of pigs and he has only one option left, and that is to go home.
29th September Poverty has a huge impact on life expectancy. In Scotland, there is roughly a 10 year difference between the 20% most, and least deprived areas. I remember growing up in Bearsden. We lived in the poor part of Bearsden, and there was a field separating us from Drumchapel, and someone said in that the short distance, just the distance of the field, it represented a ten year gap in life expectancy. You could look across the field and see people whose life chances were to be very different from my own. Ironically, my gran, on my dad's side, actually lived in Drumchapel, until decanted out to literal heights of East Kilbride. It seems not a lot has changed.
22nd September We lose things all the time. Well at least I do. Anne will tell you what I normally loose - number one on the list, is... my mobile phone, closely followed by, my wallet or the car keys. What is on your list? What do you normally loose? Tell the people around you. "When did you last have them" , Anne says. "When did you last see them" If I knew that, they wouldn't be lost! Jacket and trouser pockets are searched. The stairs are climbed numerous times to check upstairs. Just in case. And there they are - just where I left them! Once they are found, if not rejoicing, there is great sense of relief.
1st September A picture of the cabinet table in 10 Downing Street, notice its shape to aid communication, from the centre out, but do you know who sits where? This is a picture of one of David Cameron's cabinet meetings, notice that the table is actually too small, and there are red stickers indicating who's who. It seems to me, having had a look of sits where, that the most important people, sit, either beside the PM, or, directly opposite. The Scottish secretary is right at the end. Almost out of sight. Where they sit, is an indication of their role in Government. They don't choose where they sit.
25th August It shouldn't really surprise us that the bible describes water as life giving. We literally cannot survive with it. The average person can survive without water for only 3 days, because 50- 75% of the human body, depending on our age, is made up of water. Water is life sustaining. Did you know that in Peru there is a Billboard that creates water? It captures air humidity, condenses it, and creates water.
18th August Have you ever thought, what the community is saying about Bennochy church? What are the rumours going around, being chatted across garden fences, "have you heard..." or in pubs and schools. When people sit to get their hair done, gather to get their prescriptions, meet in doctors surgeries and local shops, what is the gossip that is circulating about the church, "you'll never believe what I have heard...". It does not whether these rumours are true or not? The important thing is, what are people saying about us, and what we do as a church? If it is a deafening silence, then as a faith community we are invisible, and we are in big trouble.
11th August Today is the second of, what I am calling, the 'John Bell passages'. Last week I mentioned that he led a Presbytery retreat, where he chose three passages to look at. Last week we looked at the story of Lot's wife, in escaping from the city of Sodom, she looked back and was turned to salt. Apart from not looking back to the past, John raised the idea, that God uses old people, to do new things. This week, we have one of the healing miracles of Jesus.
4th August I think it was last year, the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy had a day retreat in St Margaret's church in Glenrothes and our speaker was John Bell. John has written and adapted many of the songs in CH4. He shared some passages with us. This was one of them. He asked us a similar question. His response, was not one I would have thought of.
28th July One of the passages that really fascinates me is Luke chapter 10. It is a laboratory experiment, literally 'in the field'. Here Jesus decides to send out 72, or some say 70 followers, to local villages where he is about to go, and he gives them the rules of engagement or, we might describe them as, the boundaries or the parameters of the experiment. Remember, they are going first. They do not know what to expect, and unlike in a true experiment, they cannot control all the factors involved. They don't know for example, how people are going to react to what they say or do . And when you hear what is involved; they are to offer the Kingdom of God , rather than the Pax Romana of the Roman empire. That goes against the emperor. This is dangerous, risky work, with a capital R! What could possibly go wrong!
30th June Jesus certainly doesn't make it easy, does he! Here we have three would be followers. The first says, it does not matter where you go, l'll be there. Jesus says, is that right? Do you know that accommodation, is not part of the terms and conditions of being a disciple. We don't know his response. Did he ever join the journey? If that is not hard, how about this. To a man recently bereaved, possibly, Jesus said, 'follow me'. Did he not know the man's situation? It seems a reasonable request to me, to allow him to go and bury his father, but Jesus in effect says, no. The dead, someone else can deal with that. You, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God. What choice did he make? We will never know. Finally, a man willing to follow, is not allowed to say good bye to his family. Jesus said, if you keep looking back, you are no use to me. It all seems a bit harsh, so what is going on here?
23rd June There are only about three instances in the bible where Jesus himself hosts a meal. There is the improvised feeding of the four or possibly five thousand, where a packed lunch shared, encourages others to do the same. There is the members-only upper room Passover over meal, and finally, there is the post resurrection breakfast on the beach, for a handful of frustrated fishermen. Other than that, Jesus does not host anyone at his table. He doesn't have a table! He is therefore mostly at someone else's. There is a lot in there about hospitality, especially to those who have no tables or no food to put on it. What does that say to the church today?
2nd June I don't always appreciate John's writing style. Some of his writing is akin to poetry. It is wonderful. Infused with a sense of creativity and imagination. The best example, is what is known as his 'Prologue'. Go back home and read the first 14 verses of his gospel. There, in describing the incarnation of God into the world in Christ, he is a genuine 'word smith'. He has also crafted his gospel around the "I am" sayings of Jesus, and in so doing, he then gathers other parts of the life of Christ around them. He builds pictures. This is John at his best.
26th May I don't always appreciate John's writing style. Some of his writing is akin to poetry. It is wonderful. Infused with a sense of creativity and imagination. The best example, is what is known as his 'Prologue'. Go back home and read the first 14 verses of his gospel. There, in describing the incarnation of God into the world in Christ, he is a genuine 'word smith'. He has also crafted his gospel around the "I am" sayings of Jesus, and in so doing, he then gathers other parts of the life of Christ around them. He builds pictures. This is John at his best.
19th May He disappeared into the night, to do what he had decided to do. It is seen as the ultimate act of betrayal. And we know that the emotions of betrayal are powerful, and at their most intense when you are betrayed by someone you know, a friend , or when someone is seen to betray their country. So was Judas a spy or a double agent for the religious authorities? Why did he do, what he did?
12th May People in suspense want to know the answer. The longer it goes on, the greater the desire, or, if something goes on too long, maybe people will begin to lose interest.
5th May You haven't seen someone for a while. They have changed a bit. You un-expectantly bump into them, and you need a second look to recognise who it is and then you say, you haven't changed a bit.
21st April The friends of Jesus did not make the connection. In spite of all that Jesus had said, they believed, that they would find Jesus body in the tomb. They were there to embalm his body. Nothing more. And remember, the disciples, well, they were a 'no show'! They had not even bothered to come to the tomb. Women's work? Maybe. I want to suggest, that there was no expectation, among the women, or the disciples, of resurrection. Even at this point, so late in the story. Their understanding was, Jesus is dead. Fact.
14th April Under pressure we can say things we later regret. The emotion of the moment takes over, and all our rational thinking processes just go out the window. We look back and we wonder, why did we react in the way we did. That heated meeting, the moment someone 'pushes our buttons' and before we know it, we have said what we promised yourselves, no matter the provocation, we would not say.
7th April For the church of Scotland, the next era, is going to be one of significant change. At this year's General Assembly a new radical action plan will be debated. At presbytery, there are conversations taking place about the creation of a Presbytery of Fife, bringing the three presbyteries of Dunfermline, St Andrews and Kirkcaldy together. And Kirkcaldy presbytery is in the midst of restructuring its own Presbytery plan, that will have direct implications for every charge in the Presbytery, including Bennochy. When so many ministers are soon to retire, where should the ministries of the church be placed, and what are the suitable, 'fit for purpose' buildings, that will take forward the mission of the church. Bennochy will not be immune to these changes, and nor should we.
31st March On Wednesday past, Louisa (our Development Worker) and I were in North primary doing some RME with p6. Each session we have been looking at a parable, and also a famous person. Wednesday's parable was the Good Samaritan, and we were getting the children to think about the 'unexpected helper', and how Jesus listeners would have been surprised and indeed shocked, that it was the Samaritan who helped the injured man. These were two nations who hated each other. That of course was the whole point of the story. In conversation, one of the girls said, 'don't judge a book by its cover'. It is not what is on the outside that is important.
24th March There are bible passages ,which at first glance, are ones I don't really want to preach on. In looking at 1st Corinthian chapter 10, that's today's reading on the lectionary, even with a second glance, some of it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. It is not that there are not truths in the passage, there are, it is how to relate them to the world around us, and not the world around it author, two thousand years ago. The title is about worshiping idols, but we don't actually get that far. We could talk about idols. There are always things that get in the way of our relationship with God. We can describe them as idols. For another day.
10th March In the mid 1990’s the movie Devil’s Advocate was released starring Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. Keanu plays Kevin Lomax, a happily married and very successful lawyer in America’s South. Down in the South he’s a man of integrity who’s focussed on what’s important in life. Then he’s offered a job in the Big Apple, New York, with a worldwide law firm. Kevin and his wife move to New York, only to find Kevin being seduced by the atmosphere of greed, sex and power that surrounds the firm, and more particularly its owner, John Milton, played by Al Pacino.
3rd March When does the ordinary become extra ordinary? When does it 'flip', from that we can understand, to that which is beyond our understanding. What is the moment, when, something that is very much part of this world, moves to something 'beyond' it?
24th February Jesus was a better fisherman than the fishermen! He knew where the fish were. Just go out a bit more and lower down your nets. That is where you will find them. So many fish, the nets nearly break and the boat nearly sinks. Or did Jesus just get lucky? As I said a few weeks ago, what better way to impress a fishermen, than a net full of fish! Now he is at it again! You would think that experienced fishermen would be able to cope with a storm, or at the very least, see it coming and stay at home. Who seems to cope best out on the lake? It is not the fishermen. It is Jesus.
17th February I remember reading a book that brought together some of the great sermons of Martin Luther King. There was a moment, when this book, that was very influential for me. There are collections of poems, essays and greatest hits albums. People bring together what they believe to be, the best bits of an artist's work. I wonder if something similar happened in the gospel accounts of Jesus. I am certain that not every word he spoke, or every miracle he performed, every conversation, discussion, debate and argument he had, was recorded, and those things that were written down, were written down for a reason. For a purpose. When you read the gospels, you find a significant portion of them, is about the last week of his life.
3rd February Can I come into your boat? What's that you say? Can I use your boat? I want to speak to the crowd. Is that OK?

I fancy , and it is pure speculation on my part, that Jesus and Peter, one of the many fishermen on the shores of Lake Galilee, had met before. This was not the request of a stranger. You see, the crowd were pushing in on all sides. At this particular gig, there was not much crowd control. Jesus needed space, and what better vantage point on a lake side, than a floating pulpit!

27th January One of the things we can say about the writers of the New Testament, people like Matthew, is this; they knew how to use their theological heritage. Matthew in particular, uses every opportunity to use the ancient scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, as evidence of what was happening in the life of Jesus. He is saying to his readers, it was all meant to be. And as his readers were primarily Jewish, that was hugely important.
20th January I wasn't around in 1955. But I have got the song book somewhere in the house. My mother was there at the Kelvin hall in Glasgow. Maybe some of you, or someone you know of, was there that evening to hear Billy Graham. It was part of what was known as the Tell Scotland moment, led by Revd. Tom Allan, a minister in Glasgow, first at North Kelvinside church and then at the Tron. It was the beginning of the era of the great mass crusades, led by people like Billy Graham, at a time when the great preachers of the day, at least this is what I have been told, could attract large crowds and fill churches. It was a different era. Did you know that there is a Scottish preachers hall of fame? I am not sure how you get on it! I had a look, and no, my name is not there!
13th January I wonder what was going on in the church in Corinth? And have you ever wondered, why did Paul bother to write all these letters, that take up so much room in the New testament? Think of how much shorter the New Testament would have been, if Paul had not written to the churches. 1st Kirkcaldy, chapter 4, verse 6, says.... If Paul was writing today to the churches in Kirkcaldy, what would he say? Well, I will leave to answer that.
6th January Did you notice what I did? Did you notice, that even though Christmas has passed, we still sang a Christmas carol, 'As with gladness men of old'. You might be thinking, has the story not finished? Is that not old news? Should we not be moving on to the next chapter of the story?

Click here to read sermon notes from 2018 ...