I wrote this sermon to be read out to the congregation by the Session Clerk in the traditional service, and the Sunday School Superintendent in the All Age Gathering. I couldn’t be there because I had a sore throat. What an interesting experience to write a sermon for other people to deliver!
Sunday 9th February 2014, Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Salt and light
As I’m writing this sermon to be read to you, I’m reminded of the way things used to work in the Church of Scotland a few centuries ago. In the 16th and 17th centuries there were few ministers available, so each minister had several churches under their supervision. This is also why many churches still have quarterly communions instead of monthly or weekly ones. The minister used to write a very lengthy sermon, and then send it on to the readers in each congregation. They stood in the pulpit and read the sermon, unless it was their congregation’s turn to have the minister in their pulpit. Some suggest that we may be going back to that model soon, albeit without the ‘lengthy’ part…
Last week we began a journey through the sermon on the mount. The passage known as ‘the beatitudes’ deserves a whole series of sermons, as each beatitude is so rich in meaning and implications for our daily lives. We should take time to reflect on each of them.
We were invited last week to look at happiness from God’s perspective, which is always surprising and counter-cultural. How can those who are persecuted be happy? How can one be happy when they are insulted, persecuted and slandered because they follow Jesus? The challenge was to look in our own lives at one issue or situation that we would rather do without, and reflect on the opportunity it could provide for us to deepen our faith, and to learn to live more fully in God’s grace. Continue reading
Sermon preached in Bishopton Parish Church, on 26th December 2010, First Sunday after Christmas
I don’t know how you spent your Christmas day, but I spent considerable time looking at historical accounts about the birth of Jesus. While most normal people I know spend Christmas day playing with the brand new toys and gadgets that they got for Christmas, I was reading historical articles. Sad, I know… You see, I was trying to figure out how to harmonize the birth account in Luke chapter 2, which we read on Christmas Eve, with the account in Matthew chapter 2, which we read today. The problem was a gap of at least 10 years between the two accounts.
Luke places the birth of Jesus at the time when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Luke writes: “When the first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria.” According to historical records, Quirinius became the governor of Syria after Herod’s son, Archelaus was deposed in 6 AD. The problem is that Matthew places the birth of Jesus at the time of Herod the Great, which is at least 10 years before that time, as he died around 4 BC. Do you feel a headache coming? I certainly did.
I love this quote I read today from Brian McLaren’s book, A New Kind of Christianity. I fully resonate with his opposition to reading the Bible as a constitution, and to the assumption that sola scriptura entails such an approach. Also, I agree with him that the Bible is not an answer compendium, but an invitation to conversation. Thus it is not designed to give answers, but rather to ask the questions we are not asking, or the questions we thought we answered:
“Does the Bible alone provide enough clarity to resolve all questions as a good constitution should? No. We have no reason to believe it was ever meant to do that, as much as we’ve tried to force it to do so. From all sides it becomes clear that the Bible, if it is truly inspired by God, wasn’t meant to end conversation and give the final word on controversies. If this were its purpose, it has failed miserably. (This fact must be faced.) But if instead it was inspired and intended to stimulate conversation, to keep people thinking and talking and arguing and seeking, across continents and centuries, it has succeeded and it is succeeding in a truly remarkable way.” (p. 120)
Watch this interesting video I found on youtube with Walter Brueggemann’s view on the Bible. I’m not sure I agree with everything he says on the ‘mutation’ in God from violence to sacrificial love, but it is something to consider and think about. Does God change? Hm…
I found this video on James McGrath’s blog and I found it very useful in understanding Bultmann’s demythologizing programme. I have to say, it made a lot of sense to me. Have a look and tell me what you think:
(Prof. David Fergusson was one of my professors at New College in Edinburgh. I took a course in Church Sacraments with him and enjoyed it tremendously!)
Quote from Walter Brueggemann, “Divine Presence Amid Violence. Contextualizing the Book of Joshua”, p. ix:
“The conviction that Scripture is revelatory literature is a constant, abiding conviction among the communities of Jews and Christians that gather around the book. But that conviction, constant and abiding as it is, is problematic and open to a variety of alternative and often contradictory or ambiguous meanings. Clearly that conviction is appropriated differently in various contexts and various cultural settings. Current attention to hermeneutics convinces many of us that there is no single, sure meaning for any text. The revelatory power of the text is discerned and given precisely through the action of interpretation which is always concrete, never universal, always contextualized, never ‘above the fray’, always filtered through vested interest, never in disinterested purity.”