Sermon for BBC Radio 4 – 1 July 2007

Not long ago, I took a walk with a friend along the riverside path from close to where we’re worshipping now, down the river Kelvin. We walked, we talked and suddenly, he said, “Look, what’s that?” It was a flash of blue darting over the water. We stared intently for a few moments. The river flowed by. There it was again. Swooping low. Blue. Stunning electric blue flashing this way and that.

It was a kingfisher. Smaller than you expect, but brilliant piercing blue against the slow brown waters. My friend and I went on our way, and talked of nothing else all day. A kingfisher, and at the heart of the city.

If we’re to believe the biblical writers, the city is one of the places where we can expect to be surprised by God. God is here all the time, like that bird by the river, and suddenly, perhaps when we least expect to see God, we can know that we are not alone, that God is with us.

The first reading we heard this morning is one that we used to announce the resurrection on Easter Day here in St Mary’s. It’s the voice of one of the lovers from the Song of Songs. “I will rise now, and go about the city, in the streets and the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.”

God is here. In the city. Waiting to be found.

So often, when people are looking for a spiritual experience, they go searching in lovely places. But if the Christian faith means anything, it means that God is with us in places which are less than lovely. We all know that as well as being places of colour and hope, cities have their dark and frightening places, and their corrupt and violent people. But faith says that God is still with us, even when we are challenged, frightened, lonely or unsettled. That means that God is with is in unexpected places. It means that God is with us in Glasgow, never less than today.

If God is not with us here now, then God is not with us at all.

Unavoidably today, the first thing we are thinking about in our city is yesterday’s incident at the airport. Events which were sudden and frightening. The vision of a confident city at ease with itself is not our first thought this morning as we think of finding God. Yet it is a vision that is more vital than ever for us today.

When a stranger is welcomed in this city, God is here.

When people work for peace and struggle for justice. God is there.

When we witness courage and bravery. God is here.

When someone is rescued from a flooded street, or when a bomb in the heart of the city is defused and made safe. God is there. And though it may be hard for us to accept, even when people are trapped and terrified in an airport, God is there too.

Even as I speak, I expect that the kingfisher is darting over the waters close to this cathedral church. Though I can’t see it, I know it’s there.

Even as I speak, I know that God is here, in our city and in every place where people are listening to this service. Though I cannot see God, I know that God is there.

The psalm we heard told us to pray for peace and quietness within the walls of the city. And we must pray for peace and security for those who live in places that frighten them.

For John the Divine, the city is an image of heaven. As he sees diverse peoples of the world gathering together, the light he sees gets brighter and brighter. God is here, amongst those people. And the glory of God shines.

Bidden or unbidden the glory of God shines forth in the diversity of the people as they meet and gather in cities in the summer. The music festivals, gay pride marches, Asian melas and arts festivals that draw people together for all kinds of different things all have the flash of bright colour that makes me know that the Holy Spirit is present. Darting about over the grey and drab. Swooping down to touch the dark and the dangerous. Bringing peace, healing, innovation and endlessly surprising flashes of love.

God is present. God is amongst us. God is here.

And for me? What is my vision? I have known God when I have stood at a riverbank and seen the stunning flash of blue that is the kingfisher swooping over the waters. Today in Glasgow, I believe that God is present. And I believe in a vision of cities at peace and of people united. Is my vision real? Is it worth working for? It is more real, more passionate, more focussed and more urgent than it has ever been before. Amen


  1. Bunny says

    alcedinidea rule OK!
    Good to speak of a flash of blue that isn’t a police car dashing off somewhere! Well done, I enjoyed the service, improved my getting up moments greatly!
    Greetings from the republic of Strathkinness.

  2. asphodeline says

    Thank you, that was a brilliant way to start the week and might I just say that that lovely, black footwear of yours was positively gleaming – I could sense it all the way through!!

  3. Zebadee says

    The sermon was mentioned in the RC service @ Tayport this morning. “The SEC can do what the RC Church is not allowed to do”. Information reached us early this afternoon by someone who said he was not asleep at the Tayport service.

  4. kelvin says

    Thanks for the comments.

    The bit of the broadcast I was most pleased with was the transition from the sermon to the hymn Jesus Christ is waiting. You can hear it on the listen again recording at about 24 minutes in.

    Miss Asphodeline, the shoes were exactly as you knew them to be.

  5. M Whitehead says

    In the sermon it was mentioned that ‘the glory of god shines forth in the gay pride march’. This is contrary to God’s word where there are many scriptures stating that God is against homosexual practice. god looks at these and any march or festivals etc that are in conflict with His word with sadness that they are not repentant and born again by His Spirit. In a lot of churches a sign should be put up outside, ‘ICHABOD’ the glory of the Lord has departed.

  6. kelvin says

    Hmm, I’m not sure whether the word ICHABOD would be that well understood by people.

    There might be other signs and symbols that we could use to proclaim to the world at large that St Mary’s is a place which is blessed by and is blessing all of God’s people.

    I’ve had quite a bit of correspondence from people this week about the broadcast service last Sunday – I’ll be pinning it up in the synod hall for people to see. The image of the Holy Spirit blessing the gay pride marches, Asian melas and so on with her presence seems to have struck rather a chord with rather a lot of people.


  1. […] the broadcast last Sunday, several people have been kind enough to send me this poem by Ann […]

  2. Hate Mail says:

    […] Then I get this letter today, from someone who looks back with some fondness upon the time when there would have been actual violence in the streets against gay people parading themselves about. It is in relation to the broadcast that we did from St Mary’s recently, and particularly my sermon. […]

  3. […] This picture was taken after the service as I did not want the shutter of the DSLR being heard live across the nation. You can read Kelvin’s sermon on his blog […]

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