Sermon for Corpus Christi

May I begin by thanking Fr Kevin for inviting me to preach tonight.

Fr Kevin told me that when he announced on Sunday that I would be preaching, he heard a distinct giggle in the congregation. I’ve no idea whether that is true, or whether it is just Fr Kevin knowing how to butter me up and telling me what I would like to hear.

I’ve been here at St Michael and All Saints for most Corpus Christi celebrations since I was an ordinand in training here in Edinburgh 12 years or so ago. I did an attachment right here in this church.

This kind of worship was a discovery on my Christian journey. An unexpected surprise.

Those who know me best will know that I did not in fact grow up as an anglo-catholic. Nor even any kind of Anglican at all. I grew up in a family that for several generations had worshipped in the Salvation Army. Not for us the gold and the glitz of a night like tonight at St Michael and All Saints. Though religion for me certainly did involve lots of dressing up and lots of processing around.

Indeed, marching around the worship space in celebration, delineating the sacred space around us and parading about in giddy joy and in obvious delight was what we did. And there is something about the procession that we keep here at Corpus Christi that is very close to what I remember from childhood. Our gladrags tonight are, well, a little more glamorous here, but the sentiments are remarkably similar.

There was a sense of fun about Salvation Army worship which I also recognise in the worship that I enjoy most today. For worship is best when it seems that heaven and earth are just about to laugh or even giggle together at the unexpected joy of the good news that Jesus brings.

For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, this service always reminds me of where I’ve come from and that is never a bad thing.

As I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve remembered a song that we sang with some gusto in my childhood. It went like this.

Stand-up and shout if you love my Jesus,
Stand-up and shout if you love my Lord,
I want to know, yes, I want to know,
if you love my Lord!

I thought about bringing copies for the choir to join in with.

And then I thought better of it.

But we really did it. We really did stand up and shout it out.

And then the second verse,

Sit down and whisper if you love my Jesus
sit down and whisper if you love my Lord,
I wasn’t to know, yes I want to know,
if you love my Lord.

You get the idea.

I never knew years ago where I would find myself now.

I never knew all those years ago what things I would be wanting to stand up and shout about in later life.

I never knew that the faith I knew then would lead me to a place like this tonight.

I never knew I would end up an Anglican, nor remain in Scotland, nor have the kind of life and ministry I have today.

But above all, I never knew what I would discover and find in the simple act of sharing bread and wine which is what we gather here to celebrate and give thanks for tonight.

You see, I grew up in a little corner of the Christian Church which though it celebrated in signs and symbols did not have the sacraments. I grew up unbaptised and without ever sharing in a Eucharist. We just didn’t have it. And what you have you don’t really miss at first.

And anyway, we did think about the bread and wine, even if we did not share them. I remember another line from another song from my childhood, which still holds true for the way I think about communion now – “My life must be Christ’s broken bread, my love his outpoured wine”.

For this meal is not supposed to leave us unchanged. Meeting God is not supposed to leave us just as we were. Encountering the Lord in the sacrament or in any other way means that we change, and change for good, forever. What we do tonight changes us.

I know that I have been changed since I encountered God in the service of Holy Communion. I have shared bread and wine in cathedral and mission hall, in High Mass and in quiet said communions early on Sabbath days. I have received the elements as just one member of a large crowd of the people of God and I have been dressed up like a Christmas tree and have presided over the most glorious celebrations in the highest and holiest of places.

And this one thing I have learned in all of these experiences – that we are loved and loved and loved by God.

For it is in this meal that I have found the most telling signs, the most potent symbols, the most pressing reminders and the most startling revelations of that simple love of God who came and mingled with us and walked among us.

In a few moments time, we will get to share the meal again. And when we receive the elements we get the very taste of heaven in our mouths.

And the reminder that God offers us the nourishment of faith and the intoxication of love, not just tonight but every day.

And after that, the Lord will come to us, brought down to us in procession. The Lord comes and mingles with his people. We will stand up and sing as he approaches. We will bow or kneel and adore him as he draws near.

And I ask you tonight, what is it about your faith that is worth standing up and shouting about, not only in here, but out in the world beyond?

I know the kind of world that I want to live in.

Whilst there are folk who are hungry or thirsty, I want to stand up and sing a hymn of justice.

Whilst there are people who know nothing about the faith that I have found as I’ve shared this holy meal, I want to stand up and shout about a God who loves us to distraction.

Whilst there is discrimination about sharing the bread and wine or any of the sacraments, against those who are old, or those who are young or those who are evangelical or those who are high church, or those who are men or those who are women, against those who are straight or those who are gay, against those who are divorced or those who are single, don’t expect me to shut up.

I will stand up and I will shout.

As the blessed sacrament comes near to you this night, remember that God is closer than you could ever guess.

As the Lord approaches, you are invited to do, as you are able, with your body what you are invited to do with your life after we part this night.

As he comes to you, will you stand up and sing, if you love my Jesus?

As he comes closer, will you kneel and adore him, if you love my Lord?

I want to know, yes I want to know. If you love, my Lord.


  1. Michael Fuller says

    I found that very, very helpful. Thank you

  2. ah, but you should have heard him sing…

  3. Marion Reid says

    Your father suggested I read this because of my involvement in those early days. How did you know that “My life must be Christ’s broken bread” is my favourite because of the communion connection?

  4. Ruth Horsley says

    Kelvin, as I read this, I re-lived the joyous worship of childhood with you, for I too learnt the same refrain in the same way in a different Salvation Army setting. Today, I choose to live out my faith still without the communion table, and use Albert Osbornes words often in my own devotion, for truly, they express Christ present and challenge us to shout about all that we are because of Him. The occasional opportunities to share in communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ are welcomed and appreciated, and always, because of that spasmodic practice are deeply meaningful. Thank you for your ministry to me through this sermon.

  5. Mary Bishop says

    Kelvin, I want to thank you for your very interesting comments linking your early days in the Salvation Army Sunday school – for which I was responsible for ten years – to your present faith and experience. Howard and I now live in the IOM and attend the parish church for which I am the organist. We now partake of the sacraments on a regular basis and have found the physical act helps to cement and strengthen our deepest and long held faith and beliefs.

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